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The GIST's Guide to Baseball

Contrary to popular belief, baseball isn’t just about drinking beer, having a hot dog and eating peanuts.

GIF - Houston pitcher looking confused and swearing

The GIST

Baseball is America’s national pastime. Why? Well it quite literally passes time. An average length of a baseball game is just under three hours of continuous fun.

Baseball is played on a field, aka a diamond, in a stadium. There are four bases in a square (diamond) and a team scores a run when one of their players is able to get to all four bases in order, including touching home plate (base #4). The point of the game is to have the most runs at the end of nine innings. If the game is tied at the end of nine innings, it goes into what’s called extra innings.

Each team gets to come up to bat each inning, while the nine players of the opposing team field (play defence). The home team starts off the game playing outfield, while the away team bats first. It’s an advantage to be the last team up to bat as you have the final chance for a comeback win.

An inning ends after three outs (player strikes out, is thrown out, pops out, etc.). Our fave part baseball? The 7th inning stretch.

How is baseball organized?

Baseball is a global sport; however, the most popular league in the world is in North America and is called the MLB aka Major League Baseball. There are 30 teams in the MLB, with only one Canadian team, the Toronto Blue Jays (shout out!). The league is divided into the National (NL) League and the American League (AL) which are further divided into three divisions: the Central, East, and the West.

Now, what’s a little bit confusing is that each league has a slightly different set of rules they follow. For instance, in the NL, pitchers also come up to the plate to bat, but in the AL, they don’t. In the AL, there is a DH, or a “Designated Hitter” that comes up.

There are 162 regular season games (that’s not a typo… these athletes really do play 162 games in a season!), followed by the playoffs. All of the players’ blood, sweat, tears and bat flips go into winning the World Series.

Ten teams, five from each league, make it into the postseason with the goal of winning the World Series (MLB Championship). Each team with the best winning record from the Central, East, and West divisions from the AL and NL make the playoffs. The MLB also has wildcard spots where the next best two teams in each league also make the playoffs.

The wild card playoff is not a series. It’s a one game do or die, with the winner moving onto the divisional playoff round. The division playoff series is a best of five games (meaning winner must win three games). The league championships (NL & DL) as well as the World Series are best of seven series (meaning the winner must win four games).


The best of the best

Since joining the MLB in 1962, the Houston Astros won their first EVER World Series defeating the LA Dodgers in game seven in the 2017 season. This World Series was one for the books as the teams combined for a record-setting 25 home runs in World Series. Talk about powa’. The 2018 season welcomed the Boston Red Sox back as their World Series champs for the first time since 2013. They did this with the help of star pitcher David Price (a former Blue Jay) and dominant players like Steve Pearce. They beat the returning LA Dodgers 4-1 in the series.

Looking at 2019…

Looking at the 2019 season, the players to keep an eye on are: Bryce Harper (Philadelphia Phillies right field), Mike Trout (LA Angels centerfield and the highest paid athlete in sports), Manny Machado (San Diego Padres third baseman and short-stop) and Klayton Kershaw (LA Dodgers pitcher).

The teams that are speculated to have the best season are: the reigning Champions Boston Red-Sox, the two-time runner ups LA Dodgers, the NY Yankees, the Houston Astros and the Milwaukee Brewers.

How about Them Jays?

The Blue Jays were founded back in 1977 and have won two World Series: back-to-back in ‘92 and ‘93. Since the glory days, the Jays haven’t had that much luck. Recently, our boys had some nice playoff runs in 2015 (when they were AL East Champions) and 2016 but it’s hasn’t been looking good since then. And, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s highly unlikely the Jays are going to make the playoffs this year, sorry (we really hope we’re wrong). They’re in what’s called a “rebuild” where they’re looking for young potential and up and coming talent to build the squad up to what it used to be.

In terms of players, you should keep and eye on: Kevin Pillar (center fielder aka Superman), Marcus Stroman (pitcher), and Aaron Sanchez (pitcher). Up and coming talent include shortstop Bo Bichete and third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Guerrero Jr. is lovingly known as “Vladdy Jr” and you might recognize his name thanks to his superstar father (same name) who played the majority of his MLB career with the Montreal Expos (when Montreal used to have a team).

So, while the Jays might not be the best this year, we wouldn’t be surprised that with this impressive young talent, the Blue Birds make it back into the playoffs in two or three seasons.

GO JAYS GO!

Women who bat

For whatever reason, women do not have a pro league for “hardball” (another name for baseball). Instead, women pay softball professionally. WTF is the difference? The most major differences include pitching underhand (fastpitch), and bigger ball. Softball is huge in the US with the National Pro Fastpitch League. What should you know? Our Canadian sweetheart, Hayley Wickensheiser is not only arguably the best female hockey player in history, BUT ALSO played for the Canadian softball team in the Olympics as well. What can’t this woman do? The answer is nothing.


Channel your inner fan!

Baseball is a statistician’s dream. We seriously invite you to watch Moneyball to see what we’re talking about. Otherwise, here are some fun stats:

  • The lifespan of a MLB baseball is only 5-7 pitches, meaning about 70 baseballs are used during a game. Why someone has been keeping track of these stats and why it matters, we truly don’t know.

  • The baseball team with the most World Series wins is the New York Yankees with 27 titles.

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Glossary

Top of the INNING:

Okay. So. Each team gets a chance to bat (hit the ball), and a chance to field (play defence). The top of the inning is when the visiting team is up to bat.

Bottom of the INNING:

...and the bottom of the inning is when the home team is up to bat.

Runs:

When a player is able to get around all four of the bases to touch home plate to score. This doesn’t have to happen after 1 hit. The player can gradually get around the bases. Similar to IRL, sometimes you have to take your time before you can score (cheeky we know).

Extra Innings:

There are nine innings (where each team gets a turn to bat and a turn to field) in a baseball game. If it’s tied at the end of the 9 innings, they play more innings until there is a winner.

Up to bat:

A players turn to hit the ball.

ERA:

Stands for earned runs average and is used to determine how effective a pitcher is. Basically, you count up the amount of runs a team gets per inning, and average that amount out over the nine innings. The lower the better.

RBI:

AKA Runs Batted In. An RBI occurs when another one of your teammates is already on base. You get a hit, and they’re able to make it all the way to home plate for a run. This means that you “batted” them in to the home plate. RBIs count even if you get out (e.g., SAC fly - see below).

Outs:

To end an inning, a team must get three players “out”. You get people out by catching balls before they bounce, by getting the baseball to the base before the player runs to the base, or when pitches throws three strikes.

Double Play:

Getting two players out at the same time. You’ll hear commentators say “inning ending 6, 4, 3 double play”. In this instance, it means that the baseball was hit to the shortstop, who threw it to the second baseman, who stepped on the base to get the runner from first to second out. Then, the second baseman throws it to the first baseman who has his foot on the bag (base) to get the running from home to first out. Click here for a visual of the numbers in correlation with the positions in baseball.

SAC Fly:

SAC is the short form for SACrifice. This means that the man up to bat literally “sacrifices” himself for the good of the team by hitting the ball as high and as far away from the infield as he can. He does this so that the player on base can advance to the next. The player on base can only run once the ball is caught, which is why these balls have to be hit v far (see ‘Tag Up’ below). This is done a lot when a player is on third base to get him home for a run.

Vs. Pop Fly:

Contrary to SAC fly, a pop fly is by accident. Woopsy. It’s when the ball gets hit up into the air and the fielder catches it.

Tag Up:

After a SAC or Pop Fly, if a player wants to run, they can BUT they must tag up to the base first. This means they have to have a foot on the base until the player in the field catches it, and then they’re able to sprint their lil’ hearts out to the next base.

Strike Zone:

The strike zone is anywhere over home plate and anywhere between the knees and in the middle of the torso (technically halfway between the hips and the shoulders). This is what the strike zone is supposed to be but many pitchers think the “umps are blind” and don’t call the pitch correctly.

Umpire:

AKA umps. He’s the big guy or gal in charge. He stands behind the catcher calling all the balls, strikes, fouls and outs. The ump has three supporting umps at each base (up to 6 total in important games), but ultimately, he gets to make the final decision.

Strike:

SSTTTTEEE-RIKE - this is when a player doesn’t swing at the ball when it’s in the strike zone OR when a player swings at the ball but misses OR when they hit a ball foul (only for 1st and 2nd strikes). And remember “for it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out at the ollllll’ balllll game” 

Ball:

When the pitcher throws it outside of the strike zone and the player doesn’t hit it. Once the pitcher throws 4 balls, the player automatically get to go to first base. This is called a walk.

Foul:

The playing field is essentially within a big triangle with the tip starting at home plate and goes to the outfield. The foul lines are the lines that are the outside of that triangle. All balls have to be hit within the foul posts in order to be considered in play. A ball can still be caught in foul territory (area outside of the triangle) to get a player out.

Single:

When the player hits the ball and is able to run to first base before the ball gets there. See guys, being single isn’t so bad!!

Double:

Similar to above, a double is when the player hits the ball and is able to bust his chops to get to first AND second base. A double is also awarded when the ball bounces and then goes over the back wall in the outfield. This is called a ground ruled double.

Triple:

A triple is a rarity on the diamond. This happens when the player his the ball and runs THREE bases. Getting to third base is also a rarity IRL. *sigh*

Home Run:

A home run usually happens when a player hits the ball out of the park. This means they hit it beyond the wall/fence/marking of the diamond. A home run means they touch all four bases all the way to home plate. On very special occasions, there are in the park home runs, meaning the ball doesn’t leave the playing field. These normally happen because of errors made by the fielding team.

Walk Off:

Ok so picture this: you’re in the bottom of the 9th inning tied with the other team. You’re super nervous heading up to bat, because you know you represent the winning run. You absolutely smash the baseball and get a hit, home run, or grand slam, and are able to win the game!! So exciting!!! A “walk off” is basically the term used to describe that final action to win the game, so that you can ‘walk off’ of that field. You get it?

Errors:

The player dun goofed costing his team to give up a base/run.

IP:

Innings Pitched. Another v simple acronym.

Steal:

This is when a player is super sneaky and runs from first to second, second to third or RARELY third to home behind the pitchers back. A player has to be exceptionally fast to get to the next base without getting out. A steal is also finding anything at Club Monaco for under $50.

Balk:

When a pitcher pretends like he’s going to pitch but then goes “JK dun feel like it” and stops his pitching motion. If the ump determines it’s a balk every player gets to advance 1 base.

Challenge:

When the coach/ general managers (GMs) don’t agree with a play on the field they to challenge the play. They get 1 challenge over the first 6 innings, and then two from the 7th inning until the end of the game. There are some MLB employees in an office in NYC that review the video with the ump and help decide what the call should be. Ruling on the field stands if there’s not enough evidence to change it.

Ejected:

Sometimes coaches, GMs and players simply get fired up after what they think is a poor call by the ump, or if they get chirping against the other team. It’s standard practice to get right up in the umps grill and tell him what he got wrong. Normally in those circumstances, they get thrown out of the game.

Batting average:

How many times you go up to bat divided by how many runs multiplied by 100. The higher the batting average the better.

Dinger:

Baseball “beauty’s” love their vocab. This term literally just means a well hit baseball (usually a home run).

Dish:

Up to the “dish” is a phrase you’ll hear a lot. This also means up to the “plate”, which means it’s a players turn to bat.

Field:

“to field” the ball or “fielding” the ball just means that you’re the team playing defence. Your goal is to catch/ get the ball to the base the player is going to, to get the other team out.

Infield:

The area of the field from the base-path inwards. If you picture a baseball diamond, the infield is the sandy part (the base path) inward.

Outfield:

Beyond the infield diamond. The 3 players in the outfield are responsible for catching those long balls and for throwing the ball back to the infield as fast as humanly possible.

7th Inning Stretch:

A sweet little point in the game in between the top and the bottom of the 7th inning where you literally get to have a stretch. The entire stadium generally sings the classic “take me out to the ball game” and then normally each home team also has their own lil’ diddy to get the fans singing. “Okay (okay) Blue Jays (blue jays) - LET’S PLAY BALL!”

Softball:

Basically softball is a modified form of baseball. It’s played on a smaller field, but with a bigger ball and the pitcher throws underhand. It’s also only played over 7 innings...which is kind of sad b/c that means no 7th inning stretch!! :(

Fastpitch:

Softball where the pitch is thrown with some nice HEAT and you’re allowed to steal bases.

Slow Pitch:

Instead of throwing a pitch fast you throw it nice and slllooooowwwww with an arc 3 to 10 feet high. Also you’re not a allowed to be “mr steal your girl” and steal any bases.
 

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FAQs

What do sports announcers mean when they say “stand-up triple”?

Great question. Similar to IRL, getting to third base is very hard to do. It’s even harder when a player does it at one at bat to get a triple. Normally players feel like they need to (cha-cha) slide into third base in order to beat the throw to the base. But, a stand-up triple means that a player didn’t have to slide and they could comfortably run “standing up” to third-base.

Why are numbers used when discussing a play a baseball? Like, what an announcer says, 5, 4, 3, inning ending double play”?

Wow. Another v good q. Each position in baseball is associated with a different “number”. You can check out the positions and the associated numbers here. A part of the reason why announcers use the numbers to call a play is because the ball moves SO FAST in baseball that there’s a zero percent chance that the announcer would be able to say “third-baseman, to shortstop to second baseman.  

Why do people say there’s a track in baseball fields? Isn’t that just in track and field?

Okay. So the track that I think you’re talking about is the “warning track” in the outfield. This track is basically an area that tells the outfielder they are closer to the end wall. This means they may need to jump high in order to save a home run, or gives the a warning that they may end up crashing into the back wall when trying to make the grab.

Why do pitchers walk batters on purpose (intentionally walk)?

Alright so this one kind of depends on the pitcher’s and the team’s strategy BUT for the most part the main reason is:

  1. The batter that’s coming up to bat is on FIRE and the pitcher doesn’t want to risk them getting more than a single. Sometimes, they’ll walk that player so that they can have a more favourable next at bat.

  2. This ALSO means, that a team can have a better chance at “turning a double play”. Think about it. Let’s say there’s already one out. To end the inning there needs to be two more outs. When a player is on first, they have no choice but to run to second when the player behind them gets a hit. Therefore, the idea is that they’ll have a better shot at getting the “lead runner” out.

Does that make sense?

What does “threw out” the first pitch mean?

At the beginning of every game, before the actual game starts, there’s always a ceremonial first pitch. These pitches can be thrown out by really anyone that the team chooses. From a regular joe all the way to a celeb.

What is a 3-run shot?

A three-run shot is basically a fancy way of the announcer saying that it was a three-run homerun which means that the batter, and two other players are base, all made it home thanks to the home run.  

Why does baseball sometimes take sooo long?

Well!! Baseball’s a nine-inning game with NO set timeline. It’s all base on outs. SO if those outs are taking a while to get, the games gonna take a long-time to get through. Seriously though, that’s why baseball is called America’s favourite past-time...because it literally passes time.

Remember the movie Moneyball? Does every team take that statistical approach these days?

Baseball is truly a statisticians dream. The game is all about stats, and finally teams are recognizing that math and statistics can actually help them on the diamond. It’s changed the way teams play defensively, changed the way pitchers throw a pitch, changed the way players baserun, and really all for the better.

Why do baseball players always grab their crotch?

LMFAO. We dunno! We wish they would stop though.

What’s a bunt?

A bunt, not be confused with blunt (which is only legal come October people), is when a batter takes a short swing so that the baseball normally stays within the infield. A bunt is normally a lot easier to control because a batter actually holds the bat differently so that they can place it to where they want it. They hold the bottom of the bat AND the top of the bat. A bunt is normally use as somewhat as a “sacrifice” so that a player already on base can easily advance. If you’re more of a visual person check them out here.

What’s up with the walk-up songs in baseball?

We love the walk-up songs! When each player comes up to bat, there tends to be a little clip of music that plays to get them “pumped up”. That is, this music is played for the home team. Normally a team gets to choose their walk up song, so you can learn more about the players style.

What’s a ‘save’ in baseball?

Throughout a baseball game, there’s generally more than one pitcher. Generally, when it gets into the 8th/9th innings and a team is up by a couple of runs, they call on their bullpen to bring out the closer. The closer are the pitchers who literally just “close” the game. These pitchers normally don’t have the stamina and/or consistency to pitch a full game or to start a game, but are great at getting players to strike out. When a closer comes in and successfully maintains a win, they call it a “save” in baseball. Sound good?!

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