Baseball 101: Everything you need to know
Known as "America's Game", baseball has a long and rich history in the US and in more recent years, there's been an explosion of baseball fans all over the world. Countries such as Japan, Canada, Mexico. Cuba, Puerto Rico and many more have seen a huge surge in baseball fandom and the numbers continue to grow.
Whether you're looking to play in your baseball team's debut game, buy tickets to the playoffs or simply make your first ever bet, we're going to run through all the baseball basics you'll need.
First, we'll give a brief intro to the sport and the basic rules, then we'll deep dive into the key concepts.
Introduction to the game
Baseball is a game played between two teams containing nine players each. The game itself is divided into nine innings, which are each divided further into two halves. The first half of an inning sees one team batting and the other fielding. In the second half, the teams swap.
Batters are trying to score runs - a run is achieved by touching all four bases, where touching the final base (Home Plate) equals one run. Fielders are trying to stop batters from scoring, by either catching them out or tagging them before they get to a base - this sends the batter back to the dugout and they therefore lose their chance to score a run.
One member of the fielding team is the pitcher, who throws the ball from the centre of the diamond-shaped four bases. The pitcher is attempting to reduce the chance of the batter hitting the ball as much as they can. They will either throw the ball fast or with spin to deliver good pitchers that can result in a batter striking-out, which is missing three well delivered pitchers in a row.
At the end of the nine innings, the team with the most runs will win the game.
Now we've got the basics down, lets move onto the key concepts...
For the offensive team, there will only be two positions and players at a time - the batter and the runner.
The batter becomes a runner once they hit the ball. You can have multiple batters on the field at each time - if you have previous batters at a base who are therefore yet to reach home plate, a new batter will step up to try and hit a pitch.
For the fielding team, there are 9 positions: the pitcher, catcher, 1st baseman, 2nd baseman, 3rd baseman, shortstop, left fielder, right fielder and centre fielder. Sometimes there may also be a 10th man that is substituted in for the starting pitcher when it is his turn to bat - this player is called the 'Designated Hitter'.
Fielding is one of the most important parts of the game. The team fielding can almost be considered the defence - trying their best to stop the opposition scoring points throughout the nine innings.
The outfielders will position themselves in various places, to cover as much of the open field as possible and give themselves the best chance to catch the batter out. Infielders tend to field ground balls, which are most often thrown to first base in an attempt to beat the batter who will be running to touch the plate. Once the fielding team achieves three outs, the inning is over.
The pitcher stands in the centre of the four bases and throws toward home plate where the batter stands, attempting to connect with one of the throws. Pitchers and catchers work in a team, where the pitcher will receive a signal from the catcher on which type of pitch to throw next.
Pitcher's are required to use two motions when throwing a pitch - 'the set' and 'the wind up'. These rules are used to make sure pitches are legally and safely thrown. A pitcher can throw an illegal pitch when they don't follow these rules, which is otherwise known as a 'balk'.
The Strike Zone
The strike zone is the area in which the pitcher has to throw the ball for the pitch to count as a strike if it is missed by the batter. It is measured as the width of home plate and the height follows the batter's elbow and knee positions. This means that the strike zone is unique to each player and therefore the pitcher has to alter their pitch height depending on which batter is at the plate.
The team that is batting or 'at-bat' are on offence. The offensive team will sequentially bring players up to bat in order of the lineup card, as each batter frees up home plate by either running, scoring or getting caught/striked-out.
If the batter connects with a pitch and hits the ball into fair territory (an area represented by the 90 degree lines that run away from home plate) then they become a runner and must reach first base before being tagged out.
A batter can achieve a home run by hitting the ball out of the field and into the stands without it touching the ground. When this happens, the batter automatically earns a run for his team and has to touch all four bases to complete the home run - but this will come with no challenge from the fielding team. Home runs also mean that any other batters who are on bases, can also score runs by reaching home plate unchallenged.
Single, double or triples can also be earned by a batter, which indicates how many bases the runner reaches before stopping. The last thing is a walk, which is when the batter earns an automatic first base. This happens when the batter is either unfairly hit with a pitch at home plate, or they receive four foul balls.
Likely a baseball player's favourite moment - scoring. A score is achieved by a batter when they have successfully touched all four bases in order. If they miss a base or do not touch the bases in the correct order (1 to 4) then no point is awarded.
There are various ways that a batter can be called out.
A strikeout: the pitcher throws three strikes.
A fielder catches a ball hit in the air that hasn't touched the ground.
A runner is tagged when they are not touching a base.
A runner illegally passes another runner.
A force out: a fielder touches a base with the ball in possession before the runner gets there.
A baseball game consists of nine innings. An inning has two halves - a top half and a bottom half. Between the halves, teams swap roles from offence (batting) to defence (fielding). Each team plays on both offence and defence, but home teams will always bat in the bottom half, while away teams bat first. This could be considered an advantage for home teams when it comes to the final inning, as they get the last opportunities to score while they know what score they need to beat.
An inning comes to an end when three outs are achieved by the fielding team. An inning tends to have an average of 15 pitches before the three outs are achieved, which means roughly 135 pitches per game.
The team with the most runs at the end of the final inning is the victor. If the score is tied, there will be extra innings played. There is officially no cap on the amount of extra innings that can be played for a winner to be crowned. Technically baseball games could last forever while a winner is being sought out.
Unlike other sports, there are only a few instances where a penalty may be called against a player during a game. These are a couple of key penalties to look out for in a game.
Firstly, fighting is not permitted at any time - this isn't hockey. (although we have seen more than our fair share of baseball bust-ups from the major league teams, even during the world series - why not check out our list of the biggest brawls in MLB history??).
Another penalty type is called 'interference', which can come in various forms. One example is when the catcher interferes with a batters ability to hit a ball from the pitcher. Another example would be when a fielder interferes with a runner's ability to get on base.
So, that concludes our beginners guide to baseball. Why not put all this knowledge to use? There's plenty of baseball to play and watch, especially in the United States with Major League Baseball being the most popular league in the world. Or you could try and turn all this info into some cold hard cash, by placing your first bets on the MLB right here at BestSportsOdds, where you can find all the greatest odds and information all in one place.