MLB 14: The Show is due to arrive in just over a month (a little longer if you’re looking to pick it up on PS4), and looks to continue the series’ tradition of being an excellent translation of the sport. Sony San Diego designer Ramon Russell has promised fans the game will offer 1080p, 60 FPS on next-gen, as well as a whole host of new features across all versions of the game.
But for those who don’t know a thing about baseball, the overwhelming list of stats and abbreviations can over-complicate the whole thing. Thankfully, Sportra has put together a guide to introduce you to the basics of the sport. Once we get closer to the launch of The Show, we’ll also be bringing you introductory guides to the game, so stay tuned.
Two teams of nine players take turns pitching and batting. Runs are scored by a batter reaching home base, having run through first, second and third. Each team has nine innings at bat, if the game is tied at the end of the ninth, it will go into extra innings to determine a winner. The home team bats second.
Batters face a pitcher, who must try and “strike out ” three separate hitters in order for the inning to come to a close, and for teams to swap sides. The batter stands at home plate, while the pitcher stands on the ‘mound’ over 60 feet away.
The in-field of a baseball pitch looks like a diamond. Home plate being the bottom point, the three bases are what the batsmen must run past in order to score a run. Unlike cricket, once a batter hits the ball, he has to run, unless the hit is foul. The runner can stop at any of the bases, though, and doesn’t have to make it all the way back to home plate.
As you can see from the image above, the pitching team has nine players on the field: a pitcher (1), a catcher (2), four infielders and three in the outfield (7, 8, 9). The edge of the outfield is usually several hundred feet away from home plate, which is why home runs are so rare.
A home run is scored when a slugger hits a pitch over the outfield fence without it bouncing. Considering the outfield fence can be over eight feet high, and 450 feet away, it’s no small task to achieve. The batter can then stroll around the bases and score the run, as can any previous hitters who are currently ‘on base’.
There are many ways to get a slugger out in baseball, but these examples are some of the most common:
When a hitter swings and misses on a pitch, it’s a strike. Simple, right? Not quite, there’s also another way for a pitcher to get a strike. There’s an invisible “strike zone” to aim for when pitching. This square box is over the plate, and roughly from a batter’s knees to his shoulders. If a pitcher throws the ball into this strike zone, even if the hitter doesn’t move, it’s a strike. Pitchers will use specific throws to trick batsman to swing even when the ball is out of the strike zone, or leave pitches that are right in the middle of the strike zone, but we’ll come to that in a later guide.
Pitches which are thrown out of the strike zone and not swung on are called “balls”. If a pitcher throws four balls at one batsmen, this hitter gets a “walk” to first base”.
If a fielder catches a ball that’s been hit by the batsman without it touching the ground, he’s out.
If a fielder catches the ball with his feet on base before the batsman gets to it, he’s out.
Touching a runner with the ball (even if the ball is in a fielder’s glove) while he is not on a base will put him out. This is what causes many of the infamous clashes between batters and catchers at home plate as they charge the mound, of which you can see some fine examples below: