Baseball weirdness
July 30, 2005 9:10 PM   Subscribe

I have three baseball questions that have been bugging me for awhile and I am hoping that I can get answers here.

Question #1: What is the logic behind the rule that a pop-foul with two strikes doesn't count, but a bunt foul with two strikes is strike 3?

Question #2: What is the logic behind the rule that says that a player can attempt to take 1st base on strike 3 if the catcher fails to hold onto the ball?

Question #3: Why do Major League Baseball games begin at times like 5:05 or 7:35, instead of 5 or 7:30? What's with the extra 5 minutes?
posted by robhuddles to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total)
For question 1, I think it is because it's relatively easy to make contact when trying to bunt, so a batter could attempt to bunt forever, fouling off pitches that weren't quite right until they found a good one to bunt.
posted by true at 9:19 PM on July 30, 2005

#1: A foul bunt with two strikes is called a strike because otherwise it would be too easy for a batter to purposely bunt balls foul continuously, delaying the game and tiring out the pitcher.

#2: Don't know.

#3: Baseball games start at 5 minutes after the hour because television broadcasters want it that way. It allows 5 minutes of pre-game chatter and lineup introduction before the actual game starts.
posted by rocket88 at 9:25 PM on July 30, 2005

Question #1: true & rocket88 pretty much have it.

Question #2: I think if you go back to the earliest days of baseball, on the third strike the catcher had to tag the runner out. They pretty much give it to him all the time now, unless he drops the ball. By not requiring him to do it every time, the game can be sped up a bit.

Question #3: The :05 time is the time of the first pitch. This leaves time at the top of the hour for roster intros and the national anthem. This is mostly for the broadcasters, as rocket88 said.
posted by Doohickie at 9:29 PM on July 30, 2005

1. This is to prevent a hitter from continually bunting foul with a two-strike count in order to prolong the at-bat. It is pretty easy to bunt foul compared to intentionally hitting foul with a full swing. So the logic is that it prevents the hitter from having the ability to indefinitely wait for the "right" pitch.

2. The catcher failing to hold on to the ball is an error, and in the rules of the game the batter becomes a runner in such a situation provided that first base is open or if there are two out.

3. TV and radio - time for ads.
posted by mikel at 9:36 PM on July 30, 2005

The internal logic of #2 is that the credit for the putout on a strikeout goes to the catcher. If the catcher fails to hold onto the ball the batter is safe, in the same way that a runner would be if a baseman drops the ball before completing a force play.
posted by tiny purple fishes at 9:45 PM on July 30, 2005

I think another element of #2 is that a batter could swing at a wild pitch/passed ball for strike 3. The catcher doesn't technically "drop" the ball, but he certainly doesn't catch it. I think in that case the pitcher would get the K, but the batter could also run to first on the error.
posted by stopgap at 10:27 PM on July 30, 2005

#2 The real reason for this is as follows. A pitcher has a plan for every situation he encounters on the mound. In 2 strike situations, specifically with 1 or no balls, he is wanting to through specific pitch. This is a pitch that is not in the strike-zone and the batter will chase. Common pitches are a curve-ball in the dirt, or a climb the ladder pitch (Chest-high fastball right down the middle). If the catcher did not have to catch the ball, it would make it much to easy for the pitcher. It would give the pitcher the freedom to through any pitch without any concern for whether or not his catcher can handle it. It is really just there to balance out the game.

The pitcher must be able to through pitches in the dirt with 100% trust that his catcher can handle it.

Not sure about the 5 minutes though. Maybe that 5 minutes is the pitchers warm up on the mound before the game starts?
posted by meta87 at 10:30 PM on July 30, 2005

[imagines the batter shouting something surreal at the catcher as he tears ass down the baseline, hoping to confuse him long enough to make it to first base...]
posted by five fresh fish at 10:31 PM on July 30, 2005

meta87, that's not "the real reason," that's an after-the-fact rationalization. The rule has been there since long before pitchers had a plan for every situation. Until relatively recently in the long history of baseball, pitchers just got up there and flang the ball; most batters weren't good enough to have to get fancy with. (The average level of skill in major-league baseball has risen astonishingly in the last century; most players of Ty Cobb's day wouldn't be able to make even the worst team today. Which is why pitchers pitch only every fifth day now, and why their arms still get scrrewed up so frequently. They have to pitch to every batter rather than just the cleanup hitters. But I digress.)
posted by languagehat at 6:34 AM on July 31, 2005

Yah you are right about that "real reason" part. That was a dumb way to put it. Although I would disagree with your analysis of recent pitching development. If anything pitchers through a less variety of pitches now, then they did in the early 20th century. Back then there were many more knuckleball pitchers and pitchers throughing spit-balls. Of course you are correct about steady increase in talent.
posted by meta87 at 7:11 AM on July 31, 2005

Well, we're getting off-topic, but I didn't say pitchers had less variety then, I said they didn't pitch as carefully, choosing a pitch for each situation, as they do now. But I do think there's more variety now; check out this list of baseball pitches and ask yourself what Cy Young would have said if you'd asked him to throw a four-seam fastball, cutter, or slurve. And not only was there less variety in general, each pitcher generally stuck to a couple of pitches he was comfortable with. The disappearance of the spitball (well, "disappearance" may be too strong a word...) is, of course, due to a rule change, but I regret the loss of interest in the knuckleball, which is a wonderfully effective pitch (if hard on catchers); the Senators at one point (1950?) had an entire rotation of knuckleballers, and now they're a vanishing species. Let me also put in a good word for Terry Leach, whose sidearm throw won ten straight games for the Mets in the summer of '87 and saved the team's season, but who got little respect for it then and was quickly forgotten. I remember, Terry!
posted by languagehat at 8:09 AM on July 31, 2005

Re #3: There's a rule in the MLB book that says the home team has control over whether or not the game gets played up until when the teams hand over their lineup cards to the umpire - which is to occur 5 minutes before the stated start of the game, so that would be 7:00, 7:30, etc. These sort of odd start times are in even short-season single A ball and the Arizona Fall League, so I'd be genuinely surprised if the reason was advertising and broadcasting. The start times for playoff games are usually kind of weird and I'd assume that's to include time budgeted for pageantry.
posted by milkrate at 4:18 PM on July 31, 2005

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