The beauty of baseball: A game of mystery and variables

April 19, 2023

Baseball. America’s Pastime. One of the original American sports that grew up along with the very citizens it was created by. The game has become a larger phenomenon than its creators ever would have thought it could or would be. From stadiums that hold upwards of 60,000 people to the strategy of the pitcher vs. batter matchup, the game of baseball has just as much, if not more to offer than any other sport could imagine.

One of the most beautiful parts about baseball, in my opinion, is the different range of people that are capable of being an intricate member of the team. Whether they’re young or middle-aged, there are players in the game today that still dominate, and body type doesn’t necessarily matter either. Take the infamous Dominican-American MLB player, Bartolo Colón, for example.

Colón, nicknamed “Big Sexy,” was a former pitcher that played for 11 separate MLB teams across his 21 year professional career. Colón was of the stockier body type (285lbs) and wasn’t very tall compared to some other players either (5 feet 11 inches). However, because of his excellent pitch location, Colón kept his career going well into his late 40s and did it at an exceptional level. He led the league in shutouts in 2013 at age 40, made the all-star game that same year and played in it again three years later.


Because of the nature of the game of baseball, a player like Colón needs not to worry about his speed, fielding, or hitting, only that darn good location. And he excelled at that. But there are many players just like Colón that managed to defy the odds of age, body type, or even both, and do it at a legendary level.

Baseball is also unique compared to other sports in the distinctiveness of each ballpark. Have you ever heard a baseball fan say that they wanted to go to every major league ballpark? It’s mostly because of the different shapes, sizes, colors and features of each one.

Want to see a home run hit into a river? Head over to Oracle Park in San Francisco, located right behind the McCovey Cove. A view of the gateway arch? Get an upper-deck seat at Busch Stadium in St Louis. Or what about the famous outfield ivy at Wrigley Field (which also happens to be a designated federal landmark)?

Even the indoor ballparks have something different to offer that no other ballpark has. The Diamondbacks in Arizona have a swimming pool by right field that homers sometimes splash into. The Brewers have their famous home-run slide that their mascot, Bernie the Brewer, goes down during all their home runs. Perhaps most infamously, the Houston Astros have a train that blows its bells and whistles after every run and makes a 40-second trek along the outfield line after every home-run.

Each ballpark also has its own different dimensions, unlike football that needs to have a designated length of 100 yards, plus 20 more yards for each endzone. Baseball parks can range from as short as 302 feet, measuring from home plate down one of the foul lines, to 435 feet, measuring from home to the outfield wall in center. No two ballpark’s dimensions are the same, and this can be said for most of high school, collegiate and minor league levels as well.

The uniqueness of each ballpark’s dimensions brings a much different aspect to the game’s strategy that managers and players have begun to take advantage of. When playing in a ballpark like Fenway in Boston, where it’s ridiculously hard to smash a homer over the 37 foot tall “Green Monster” in left field, maybe the Red Sox and opposing team’s would begin to favor right-handed hitters in their lineup for the series there, to avoid a home run missing the wall. This is because right-handed hitters tend to pull their balls out to right field more often than not.

Speaking of the uniqueness of matchups, there seems to be a misunderstood element of strategy that many forget happens in baseball. The element of the matchup between a hitter and a pitcher has a lot of different things going for it that ultimately help make up the outcome of a baseball game. There’s a lot of variables that change as a new batter steps into the box and a new pitcher comes to the mount.


For instance, a fundamental fact about baseball is that left-handed hitters do much better against right-handed pitchers and right-handed hitters do much better against left-handed pitching. This is due to the movement of the pitcher’s offspeed pitches. These are all much easier to hit when they’re coming toward the batter, compared to away.

So for a righty batter, the offspeed pitches would break down and away coming from a right-handed pitcher. However, those same offspeed pitches break down and inside when coming from a left-handed pitcher. For lefty batters, offspeed pitches coming from a righty pitcher actually break towards the batter.

But this is where the strategy comes in. Lefties have always been more valuable than righties due to the sheer amount of righties compared to lefties in the league, on both the pitching side and the batting side. So it’s important for a manager to gear in a couple left-handed bats into the lineup to gain that advantage over the pitcher. Even better, some players are willing to bat from both sides of the plate, meaning they can switch it up on any given day based on what pitcher they might be facing.

The variables don’t stop with just being a lefty or a righty for an at-bat. With the advancement of statistics within the game, there are loads of data teams have on each hitter and can even see a hitter’s history with that specific pitcher for the given day. There’s also a pitch count on each pitcher that many managers don’t want to go beyond unless they really have to. Therefore, many starting pitchers leave the game in favor of “relievers” with the idea that they would do much better with more rest than your starter.

Managers have to consider these couple of things with pitch count: who’s in the lineup for the day and the history each of his hitters have against the starter for that day. This isn’t even to mention that managers have a lot to work with in terms of who they want to play at what defensive position, or whether to even play the Designated Hitter for that day, which means they would hit in place of the pitcher.

Hitters have to look out for variables themselves. They think about timing so much and what the pitcher’s tendencies are generally. Are they a hard-throwing slinger that relies mostly on their fastball? Or what if they tend to use their curveball mostly? How much does their curveball curve and how slow will it be compared to their fastball? What is this specific pitcher’s pattern when winding up and are they giving any clues as to what pitches they might be throwing?

And perhaps even more overlooked, because it’s harder to conceptualize, a pitcher has many variables to think about on how to approach a hitter. Where do I want to try to place this pitch and what movement do I want to try to put on it to throw off the hitter’s timing? Are they somebody who tends to swing at pitches outside the zone? Or even swing for the fences most of the time? Or maybe they’re a more patient hitter and take a lot of walks and hit a lot of singles.

The game has always been evolving from the day it was created to play around with some of these strategic plays within it. It’s hard to believe that, at one point in baseball’s history, walks were considered hits, pitchers threw underhand and ground-rule doubles were considered home-runs. But such evolution is still part of the game.

Perhaps the biggest change this year at the professional level is the addition of the pitch clock. Pitchers now are limited to 15 seconds between pitches to begin their windup; 20 if there are runners on base, and batters need to be in the box at the eight second mark on this clock. This is supposed to speed up the game, create a higher pace of play and lower the average total time of a baseball game.

Along with this, came the ban of the shift, which is a strategy of most of the infielders moving to a side of the field that a hitter tends to hit towards. This one is made to create more scoring during a baseball game and create more excitement. Both of these seem to be very controversial to some of those that have favored the traditional sense of how baseball was played, but nevertheless, the effects of these rule changes are already being felt. With the average time of opening week games being almost 25 minutes less than 2022’s average length of an MLB game.

Nevertheless, the game of baseball is an extremely well-oiled machine that took a lot of different ideas mixed into one to create the aura that we know as America’s pastime today. There’s something for everyone to love and appreciate in a game of baseball. For those that aren’t hardcore about the sophistications, they can appreciate the stories of players and teams defying all odds, and those that enjoy the strategy part of it can dive deep into the decisions each manager makes throughout an average baseball game.

One thing for certain though, whether one likes the new rule changes or not, baseball is beautiful…

Sports editor Joseph Bernard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Jojobernard2001. 

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