How Baseball Works (a guide to the game of Baseball) (2024)

ThePitching Rotation and the Bullpen

MajorLeague Baseball teams will normally carry eleven or twelve pitchers on theirroster (elevenpitchers, and thirteen "position players" are considered the minimum,with the twenty fifth position normally being down to managerial preference).

Thepitchers can normally be divided into three distinct roles:- the startingrotation, the middle-relief and the late-innings relievers. The middle-reliefand late-innings relievers form what is known as the "bullpen".

Aswith the hitters, pitchers can be substituted at any time by another pitcher.Again, if pitcher is replaced, he cannot thenreturn to the game.

TheStarting Rotation

Inmodern day baseball, teams generally have five starting pitchers, and they takeit in turn to start a game every fifth day (hence the phrase"rotation"). Sometimes, if the schedule pans out, a team can get awaywith a four man rotation, and in the distant past some teams managed a three manrotation. However, in modern Baseball it is generally accepted that a startingpitcher needs four days of rest before he can take his next turn to start.

Thestarting pitcher will generally throw between 90 and 120 pitches before he isremoved from a game by his manager (unless he gets battered early on and"chased from the game"). The expectation is that this will get himthrough anything from 5 to 8 innings, and the further he goes the better.

Eachteam will have an "Ace", who is the no.1 pitcher in the rotation. Heis expected to win most of his games, and also pitch "deep" intomost of his games, not requiring much support from the bullpen. A good team will have a no.2 pitcher almost as good as the ace, but thefurther down the rotation you go the lesser the pitcher. The no.5 pitcher isoften an up-and-coming youngster, who if the schedule allows will miss his spotin the rotation. Ideally, the no.5 pitcher never gets used - you hope he'll winhis start, you don't expect it.

Managerswill often try and match up rotations. Sometimes it's a case of beingaggressive, and matching up your no.1 with their no.1, your no.2 with their no.2and so forth. However, equally a team can benefit from getting rotations out ofkilter, throw your no.5 at their no.1 (expecting him to get beaten), then yourno.1 at their no.2, your no.2 at their no.3 and so forth. Effectively byconceding one major mismatch you may get the advantage in the other two (ormore) games of a series. Each game only counts as one win!


Themodern day focus on "pitch counts" places even more of a premium on"patient hitting". If a hitter can face 10 pitches before finallygetting out, he's done a good job of getting the pitcher towards his pitch count(usually a team will allow a pitcher so many pitches, and will remove him, evenif he says he feels OK), so even though the hitter hasn't got on base, he's helped the team by shorteningthe starting pitcher's time on the mound.

Startingpitchers are generally most vulnerable in the first inning (whilst they'regetting into the rhythm of the game) and then towardsthe end of their stint. One of the key decisions of a manager is when to removea starting pitcher and bring in a replacement - you don't want to do it whilsthe's still throwing well, but you don't want to leave him in too long either.Judging when he's "starting to toast" but not waiting for him to"burn completely" is critical.

TheLate Innings Relievers

Mostteams have a specialist "closer", who generally only pitches in theninth inning, when the team has a short lead. This is the most pressurisedpitching position, as the game is on the line and the opposition will use anypinch hitter available and take any risk to try and score arun.

Manyteams also have a "setup pitcher" (or two) who will pitch the eighthinning(or if the closer is unavailable, does the closer's job that night). Theposition is similar in many aspects to the closer, but the pressure isn't quiteas great. He's only pitching in the "last-but-one chance saloon"!

Thecloser and setup pitchers generally won't pitch more than one inning per game,so it's quite common that a closer or setup pitcher can pitch in two or threeconsecutive games before they have to take a day off to rest. However,managers will generally only use them in close games - you want to have themavailable in a tight game and not fatigued from the day before.

TheMiddle Relief

Inan ideal game the starting pitcher goes seven innings, hands over to the setupman who pitches the eighth, the closer closes out the ninth, and a team goeshome victorious. Actually, in an ideal world the starter pitches so well thathe's able to pitch into the eighth or even the ninth (a "completegame") and the team's bullpen don't have to pitch at all and get a day'srest.

Idealgames aren't very common.

Moreoften than not, the starter won't get as far as the end of the seventh inning,and will come out some time in the sixth, or the seventh. Or he'll simply not bepitching well that night and get pulled from the game very early to give theteam some chance of staying in touch in the game. In all of these circ*mstances,the teams remaining four or five pitchers have to come in and hold the fort.These are the "middle relief".

Thenormal job of the middle relief is to get from the startingpitching to the setup man and closer, but teams will usually have a "longreliever" within the bullpen. This is by far the most soul destroyingposition on the team, as this pitcher will usually only come in when a starterhas been chased from a game early, so effectively his manager has given up onwinning the game already (but someone has to come in and pitch six or seveninnings to get them to the end - you don't want to use up the rest of thebullpen on a lost cause).

The rest of themiddle relief have a high pressured job, andvery little glory to be gained. Normally they'll come in because the starter hasjust shown that he's starting to get tired (often by putting his last couple ofhitters on base), so the middle reliever often comes in with runners already onbase (and in the past, were consequently referred to as "firemen").

Ateam's weakest pitchers tend to play in middle relief, because the hope is theywon't play at all. Quite often the highest scoring innings come in the phasewhen the starter has gone, but the late-innings relievers haven't been reachedyet.


Themiddle and late-innings relievers don't sit on the bench with the rest of theirteam, but normally sit in a warm-up area known as the "bullpen". Itgenerally takes a pitcher five to ten minutes to get warm, so when the managerthinks he may need a pitcher out of the bullpen, you'll see a telephone callmade to the bullpen to get a pitcher warming up.

Quiteoften a pitcher will warm up in the bullpen because the pitcher on themound is getting into trouble and may need replacing. Then the pitcher getshimself out of the jam and the bullpen pitcher sits down again. There's only somany times a pitcher can warm up without risking injury though, and it may bethat after a couple of false alarms he's no longer available to pitch in thatgame.

Whichpitchers a manager will use from the bullpen is a decision made on the spot.Sometimes he may be restricted by fatigue (if a bullpen pitcher pitched two orthree innings the day before, he may not be available for that game), sometimesit may be dependent on the hitter coming up (a left handed pitcher is brought into face a key left handed hitter), sometimes it may depend on how many inningsit's hoped he'll be able to cover.

Replacinga Pitcher

Apitcher can be replaced at any time, though it's generally considered pooretiquette to do it in the middle of an at-bat (unless the pitcher is injured).To replace a pitcher the manager (or sometimes the pitching coach) will walk outas if to talk to him (he is also allowed, once per inning, to simply visit thepitcher and talk to him - perhaps to calm him down or simply see if he's gettingtired), and then ask him to hand him the ball. The pitcher then walks off(perhaps to applause from the fans, perhaps not!) and the new pitcher comes infrom the bullpen.

Thenew pitcher should be ready to pitch straight away (hence you'll sometimes seethe pitching coach come to the mound beforehand, simply to buy some time for thereplacement to get warm) but if the pitcher on the mound is being replacedbecause of injury, the new pitcher is allowed to warm up on the mound.


Thereare no ties in baseball, so if the score is level extra innings are played.Sooner or later the bullpen may be exhausted and there's no-one left. Most teamswill normally have one or two position players (i.e. hitters) who have someexperience of pitching, perhaps in high school, perhaps in warmups, andeventually they may get a turn on the mound. Look at a box score of a game thatwent to 14, 15, 16 innings and you'll see some very unlikely pitchers at theend!

PinchHitters and Double Switches

Onekey difference in the Major Leagues is the use of the designated hitter. In theAmerican League, where the designated hitter (DH) bats instead of the pitcher, lifeis much simpler. There's no decision to be made in late innings when thepitcher's turn to bat comes due.

However,in the National League, where there is no DH, managers have decisions to make.If a team is tied or losing in a close game, in the late innings, and the pitcher is due up tohit, then the manager may decide he cannot "waste" an at-bat byallowing the pitcher to hit for himself, and he'll bring in a pinch hitter tohit for the pitcher, and then at the start of the next inning replace the pinchhitter with a new pitcher from the bullpen. Often a starting pitcher in theNational League won't go as deep into games as an American League counterpartbecause he is removed for tactical reasons.

Analternative strategy in the National League is to make a "doubleswitch". If the team are changing pitcher anyway and the pitcher's spot isdue up to hit in the next inning, they may make two substitutions at the sametime. A position player replaces the pitcher (in the batting order) but at thesame time a pitcher replaces a position player (presumably one who has recentlyhit) so the team still has a pitcher on the mound, but he won't have to hit shortly.

Example:at the bottom of the 7th inning, the pitcher is due to "lead off" asthe 9th hitter. In the top of the 7th the current pitcher is replaced by areserve outfielder (who therefore now hits in the 9th spot) and an outfielder(who has just hit 8th in the order) is replaced by a pitcher from the bullpen(who pitches, but now has eight hitters ahead of him before he is due up). Thisis a double switch.

Managerialstrategy without the Designated Hitter is often much more complicated!

Junkinga Game

Withthe regular season being 162 games, there comes a point when a manager maydecide that a game is a lost cause, and instead of bringing in his best bullpenpitchers, he'll leave a lesser pitcher out there to finish the job, and keep thebetter pitchers fresh for the next few games. For a pitcher designated for"long relief" this is his job, and to a lesser extent for the lowerpitchers in the rotation. You hope your no.5 starter will win some games, butyou don't always hang your hat on it (and if you do, expect to lose it).

Everyteam always tries to win every game, but any manager will concede there are somehe expects to win more than others, even if he won't say so.

Shutouts,Complete Games, No-Hitters and Perfect Games

Ifa pitcher manages to complete all nine innings then he's said to have pitched acomplete game. If he doesn't concede a run it's a complete game shutout.

Ifa pitcher manages to complete all nine innings without allowing a single basehit then it's known as a "no hitter". Even more rare is a"perfect game", in which no base runners at all (so no hits, no baseon balls, no hit batters) are allowed. There have been about twenty perfectgames in the history of Major League Baseball, depending on how you count them!On two occasions a pitcher has pitched a perfect nine innings, but the score hasremained tied at zero, and he's lost the perfect game in extra innings.

How Baseball Works (a guide to the game of Baseball) (2024)


How does baseball work step by step? ›

Baseball Game Setup

Each team takes turns playing defense in the field and offense via batting. The pitcher throws the ball to the batter. Defensive players field the ball when it's hit and try to get the runner out. The goal is to hit the ball with the bat and run around the bases.

How does a baseball game work? ›

The game is divided into nine innings, each divided into two halves. In the top half of the inning, the players of one team successively come to bat and attempt to score runs, while the other team plays in the field and attempts to stop the offensive team from scoring.

How to explain baseball to a child? ›

The two teams in a baseball game take turns being batters (playing offense) and fielders (playing defense). The batting team, also called the team at bat, tries to score runs. It does this by advancing its players around the bases. The fielding team tries to prevent the batting team from scoring.

How to explain baseball rules? ›

If the ball is hit between the base lines, it's in play. If a ball is hit outside of the base lines, it's called a foul. If a batter hits a foul on the first or second pitch, it counts as a strike. If a batter hits a foul on the third pitch, it counts as a foul, and the batter is allowed another pitch.

How to play baseball summary? ›

Teams alternate positions as batters (offense) and fielders (defense), exchanging places when three members of the batting team are “put out.” As batters, players try to hit the ball out of the reach of the fielding team and make a complete circuit around the bases for a “run.” The team that scores the most runs in ...

What is a baseball short explanation? ›

baseball. noun. base·​ball ˈbās-ˌbȯl. : a game played with a bat and ball by two teams of nine players each on a field with four bases that mark the course a runner must take to score. also : the ball used in this game.

What is the 10 rule in baseball? ›

If at the end of a regulation game one team has a lead of ten (10) runs or more, the manager of the team with the least runs shall concede the victory to the opponent. NOTE: If the visiting team has a lead of fifteen (15) or ten (10) or more runs respectively, the home team must bat in its half of the inning.

Can a girl play baseball? ›

2003 – Pawtucket Slaterettes all-girls' baseball league celebrated its 30th season of all-girls' baseball. 2003 – Women's baseball became an official sport (39th) of the AAU; this marked the first time in United States history that a U.S. national organization began sanctioning and supporting women's baseball.

What is baseball answer? ›

In America, baseball is a game played by two teams of nine players. Each player from one team hits a ball with a bat and then tries to run around three bases and get to the home base before the other team can get the ball back. 2. countable noun. A baseball is a small hard ball which is used in the game of baseball.

How to teach a 2 year old baseball? ›

Start by using a soft, lightweight ball that is easy for the child to handle. Show them how to place their glove in front of them with the pocket facing up. Encourage the child to use two hands to catch the ball, which can help increase their confidence and control.

What is Rule 5 in baseball? ›

Definition. Held each December, the Rule 5 Draft allows clubs without a full 40-man roster to select certain non-40-man roster players from other clubs. Clubs draft in reverse order of the standings from the previous season.

How is math in baseball? ›

Mathematics is used to calculate run expectancy, which helps teams make strategic decisions on defensive positioning and game management. Defensive metrics: Advanced defensive metrics, such as Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), use mathematical models to quantify a player's defensive value.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: The Hon. Margery Christiansen

Last Updated:

Views: 5659

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: The Hon. Margery Christiansen

Birthday: 2000-07-07

Address: 5050 Breitenberg Knoll, New Robert, MI 45409

Phone: +2556892639372

Job: Investor Mining Engineer

Hobby: Sketching, Cosplaying, Glassblowing, Genealogy, Crocheting, Archery, Skateboarding

Introduction: My name is The Hon. Margery Christiansen, I am a bright, adorable, precious, inexpensive, gorgeous, comfortable, happy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.