Some things I wonder about while watching 9-year-olds play Little League Baseball

Do they steal bases in the Major Leagues?

9 year olds are not good at catching balls and tossing balls.  There is a lot of room for base stealing as the tiny catcher, laden with gear, scrambles to pick up and forward a ball that slipped through his grasp.  So: Do they steal bases in the Major Leagues?  The answer?  Yes they can, but not so much.  The players are just too good for there to be much opportunity.  They are a long way from being 9-year-olds, and their precision is just too great.

Does anybody try to bat at bad pitches?

The most common play in the game I watched was a walk.  This is the first year in their Little League progression that the kids do the pitching.  When they are younger, a machine pitches, which is dull, but the ability is just not there yet in a kid younger than 9.  Of course, with no training, it is barely there when they are 9, and they tend to throw a lot of pitches that are too high, too low, aimed at the batter, or way away from the batter.

The batter has some constraints too, I think.  He must stay in the batter’s box.  The pitch, not to count as a ball, must be in the strike zone.  So the question is, are there any well known baseball players who have trained to hit balls which are pitched outside of the strike zone, and do so with regularity?  I’ve just never heard of it, and now I need to know.  Just finding the right question to ask is hard: “Hitting a pitch outside of the strike zone”.  Luckily, asking that exact question gets you to the right place.  Here’s the answer:

  • Batters do it all the time, because pitchers are trained to make pitches which are just outside of the strike zone, but otherwise plausible.  It’s legal to swing at one, and you’ll get a strike if you miss.
  • Batters often connect with these bad pitches, but generally do not get good solid hits off of them.  The weak hits they get lower their overall performance.
  • Because bad pitches are hard to make into good hits, there are no professional players that spend time trying to learn how to make good hits out of bad pitches. Which is kind of sad, because it looks like a good arbitrage, because it’s the kind of thing that nobody would expect you to spend time on.

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