Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Working the Count

On the off chance you are also struggling with a self-imposed requirement to watch every Sox game this season and keep your day job, I've got the dirt. This weeks' games against the Minnesota Twins are all day games, as are all the Twins' home games for the first month, because of the new domeless Target Field and concerns about extended winter weather. For the record, today's gametime temp was 73 degrees.

I caught a few minutes of the game live on the radio, but watched the full-length replay on NESN at 7pm tonight. After Umpire Joe West's hissy-fit* about the length of Red Sox and Yankee games, both radio and television commentary has been focused on length of play.

Many funny things have been said about the issue, including a suggestion by Tim Keown (ESPN) that Jonathan Papelbon bring a sandwich to the mound to avoid hypoglecmia. There have also been a lot of good points justifying why Sox and Yankee games just take longer. One reason named is that the Sox stress on-base percentage so their batters take a lot of pitches.

Don't know what on-base percentage is? Me neither, but it's my job to learn, so here goes. Whereas batting average describes successful hits (look back a few posts), on-base percentage includes hits, walks, and times hit by a pitch... basically anytime a player gets on base and in scoring position.

I'm also not familiar with "working the count", but again duty calls. The goal of working the count is to get to a pitch you can hit. The batter is trying to get to a 2-0 or 3-1 count, where the pitcher has incentive to throw a more conservative pitch. With a 2-0 count the pitcher is trying to get the quick out, and in the 3-1 count the pitcher is trying to avoid walking the batter. The batter might also foul off (hit pitches that could be strikes into foul territory, which doesn't matter to the count**) to get to a pitch he likes.

It also doesn't hurt that in the process a batter gets the pitcher to waste a bunch of good pitches. This worked against the Red Sox on Monday's game when the Twins got Jon Lester to throw 107 pitches in just five innings. Compare this to John Lackey who threw 107 pitches through two outs in the seventh inning during today's game.***

Tomorrow's game is at 1:10pm, so I guess I'll be watching the replay again. I used to threaten pain if anyone told me who got kicked off Project Runway. Now I warn people not to spoil the final score of the Sox game.

Plus I know what working the count means. Wow!

*This might be the baseball equivalent of Jon Gosselin whining about Kate's rules for their sextuplets. Who really cares?
**Unless the batter is bunting and there are two strikes.
***107 is not a magic number... or the number of pitches every starting pitcher reaches. But pitch count (not to be confused with THE count) is a topic for another night.


  1. I think you are going to know more about the Sox than Dave after this experience!

  2. Doubtful Laura...

    Alli, I like the post but you are a little off in the way you described OBP. You are basically right, except that your definition got a little confusing when you used the term "scoring position." It was a harmless error, but because that term has a specific meaning in baseball, it muddles your definition of OBP a bit. I'll let you discover what "scoring position" means on your own.