silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
I welcome all of the following types of comments on ANY of my entries:
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  • Talking amongst yourselves in the comments is fine. I like creating a place where people get to interact!

I also welcome:

  • Comments on older entries, access-locked or public.
  • Comments on VERY OLD entries, access-locked or public. I have many years of archives.
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My great anxiety is that there's nobody out there and I'm shouting into the wind. If you’re feeling like you want to comment with something, feel free to comment with what feels good and comfortable to you, whether that’s leaving a !!! or an essay. If you don't have the spoons for any comment, that's okay, too. No pressure, no obligations.

How I reply to comments:
  • I mostly try to reply to comments.
  • I normally try to reply to comments as soon after they arrive as I can.
  • My comments will probably try to elicit more discussion and longer-form commentary. Part of it is my professional training, part of it is because I like discussions.
  • You are never obligated to reply to a reply, nor to write longer-form than you wish.
  • If you would like a response to a comment, I encourage you to let me know. “I would appreciate a response to this if possible,” etc. is totally fine with me.
  • Absentminded. If I have forgotten to reply to something you want a reply to, a poke is totally okay.

Linking to my entries:
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Transformative works:

As of the time of writing this (02013-09-09), the content of my blog is licensed CC-BY-SA (3.0 Unported), which says that if you use my work for something, your work should attribute me (the user name and a link back to my blog is usually sufficient) and your work should also be licensed under a license similar to the Attribution-Sharealike license. The stuff I link to is not governed under this license and may have additional requirements for you to use.

Adding and access:

If you want to add me, go ahead! Please feel encouraged to do so.

I like new subscribers. I also respect access-locks - if something you created is That Awesome, I'll ask for permission before excerpting or posting elsewhere.

I may not add you back - I tend to evaluate based on what's available on your entries page. If you're mostly access only, it may take some comments or a conversation in a third space before I have an idea of whether I want to subscribe. If your journal is a repository for your fiction efforts, I may not add you back, because I do not have near enough time to properly read anyone's fiction as a part of my daily list crawl. I would probably enjoy it, if I had the time.

I don't give access, generally. For one, nearly everything posted is public, so you're not missing out on anything by not having that access. If I do post something under access-lock, it is probably something intensely personal, and so I'd be hand-selecting who I want to see it.

(This idea stolen and modified from [personal profile] trascendenza, who first broached it in their own journal when talking about commenting culture and their own anxieties.)
silveradept: Charles Schulz's Charlie Brown lays on Snoopy's doghouse, sighing. (Charlie Brown Sighs)
So. This is a bit awkward to write, not just because there's a whole cultural Thing involved here, but because, y'know, we try so hard to put up a front of invincibility, or at least competence, that it's difficult to say that you've basically Failed.

I've bought into the myth of the American Dream, where it should be possible for any person to enjoy a middle-class lifestyle with a family (or at least a significant other and yourself) on a single income, especially one of a government functionary with a reasonably good college degree. Perhaps in another economy, this might be possible.

I knew that this was basically impossible for someone at a minimum wage job, even providing for themselves. For a while, living by myself, it seemed like I could pull it off - at least for living by myself. Then, well, relationships, and pets, and unexpected expenses, and let's just say that the budget is not looking healthy. And continues to not look healthy.

This is not, unfortunately, the kind of thing where I can say "I just need a little money to take care of those unexpected expenses and all will be well." I would rather not be a charitable burden on someone for an indefinite amount of time, until my salary catches up or the budget gap gets filled with work from my significant other. So, to try and fill the budgetary gap, at least until my S.O. can find steady work, I present the following offer:

I Want Work.

I have various and sundry skills - I can write, read, edit, create ePUBs, make simple static web pages, research, simply edit audio, images, and video, and and other things. I have various oracles that may be helpful to you. Programming, unfortunately, is beyond my ken. I'm pretty good at looking at something and being able to adaptit with some examples and a lot of thinking, but creating stuff out of whole cloth? Not my thing right now.

There are a few caveats:
  1. Obviously, whatever Work you have to offer will have to be something done electronically (or that you're willing to pay for the postage cost to and back for). I cannot travel, nor do I expect you to be willing to travel for the Work
  2. This must be Work that you are willing to pay for. I can't take much in trade (unless it's a Really Cool Trade) because the bills still have to be paid.

Prices are to be negotiated based on the Work you would like me to do. Payment method will have to be negotiated, as I do not have PayPal or other electronic methods. You can leave a comment or use the private messaging system to contact me. Any comment threads will be screened upon request.

So, yeah, I need work. And lots of it.

Please pass the message along to your contacts and others who might have some money to spare and Work they are willing to pay someone to do. I know, in this economy, that this is unlikely, but it never hurts to ask.

Please link to this post so that I can be sure that everything is in one place.
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
[personal profile] itsamellama is raising money to try and get out of an extremely abusive living situation. There are several ways to help, including Paypal, Patreon, Gumroad, buying crafts like jewellery and journals, and commissions. They've also opened up an Icon Day to help raise funds.

[personal profile] killing_rose is trying to raise money to pay for things like medical bills, health insurance premiums, and other sudden, unexpected expenses. 

[personal profile] yohjideranged is looking for  help with bills owing to some sudden medical expenses.

Any support you can give is appreciated.
silveradept: A head shot of Firefox-ko, a kitsune representation of Mozilla's browser, with a stern, taking-no-crap look on her face. (Firefox-ko)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

This is for [personal profile] strangecharm, who we wish a happy birthday to today.

The running score for any given baseball game contains three columns - the number of runs each team has scored, the number of hits each team has, and the number of errors each team has commited. RHE is one of those things you start to not need to see the markers for to know, at a glance, how the game has gone for each team. Unsurprisingly, number of hits doesn't always correspond with the number of runs, but if there's a positive value in the E column, there's almost a guarantee that a run or a big run threat came from that.

Baseball is a game where there are errors all over the place. A hitter that swings at a pitch that turns out not to be a strike, or takes one that does (assuming they haven't received signs that say to take the next pitch and not swing) generally commits an error of judgment. Which makes another strike, or sometimes, an out. Pitchers can commit errors, too - sometimes a pitcher isn't able to execute the requested pitch, or they balk. Pitcher errors can be damaging - a hanging curveball or other breaking ball that's left in a hittable place can be tagged for home runs and hits - a bad pitch can make a four-run defecit in the worst case scenario. Those don't get qualified as errors, though - they're hits and runs, even if it was a mistake that produced them.

Generally, though, things that are officially scored as errors are fielding errors. The kinds of things that happen when a ground ball gets booted instead of gloved, or a ball goes right between the legs of the fielder, right underneath the glove they thought they had down on the ground. Or wild throws that go well past the fielder they were intended for into somewhere else, and the bases that result from those throws. Errors are a thing in baseball, and their commission can change the tenor and the momentum of any game, giving the offense free batters that they wouldn't otherwise have, and runs they wouldn't otherwise be able to collect. In some cases, games are won, including World Series games, when a defensive error occurs at the worst possible time.

The statistics, at least, are kinder - runs that cross the plate because of an error that would have otherwise finished a half-inning are considered unearned and do not count toward a pitcher's ERA (Earned Run Average). They will affect the fielding percentage of the player that committed the error, lowering it usually a few fractions of a point - the opportunities accorded to fielders to make plays are great, and so in the end, an error here and there doesn't affect their percentages all that much.

Being able to take a long view toward errors is essential to being able to continue playing. Dwelling on a single thing after it happens can pull mental focus and lead to other errors. This is much more prevalent in Little League, because the experience of life hasn't yet hardened the players against the effects of errors. Mistakes are much more important when you're younger, or when they're related to things like work or schooling. And young children being who they are, it can be easy for their teammates to continue to harp on their mistake (until something great happens and they've forgotten it) instead of being supportive to their teammate and helping them get beyond it. (It is often up to Coach to re-orient the team and help the player forget about the past and focus on the next at-bat.)

That said, for each error, there are consequences. Being able to accept them, deal with them, learn what is needed, and then moe on makes you valuable to a lot of people, and means you can see the opportunity that often follows from a mistake.

If the error shows up in your reading, it means there are mistakes being made. Often mistakes that come from a lack of mental focus. Figuring out whether you're the one making the errors or having to deal with them is not always easy, regrettably, until the consequences of the error show up. You might be able to get help from someone you trust to take an outside perspective on things. If it's you who is making errors, then re-focus, fix what you can, and be willing to deal with the consequences of those mistakes. The next at-bat might have the opportunity to fix the error and put your team back in a good position - you can still double-up someone on first with the next ground ball, even if you punted the first one that put them on. Dwelling too much on the past will make it harder for you to engage with the future. Some errors might repeat themselves - those are generally trying to tell you that their is an important thing in your life to learn from these mistakes. Pay attention!

If you have someone in your life who insists on rehashing your old mistakes and holding them over you, then the error card may be pointing out that your error of judgment is keeping that weight in your life. If you can't ditch them, because they're your boss, consider a career change. Or reporting them to HR or their supervisors once you have the documentation you'll need to prove their error. Nobody should be forced to suffer punishment for mistakes long in the past.

If you're the person that will have to deal with someone else's errors, recall that "to err is human, to forgive, divine" is a saying that has lasted for some time. Everyone makes mistakes, and yes, they might have big consequences associated with them, but hopefully you have failsafes in place so that mistakes don't have domino effects. Making mistakes is one of the best ways that people learn, so not only be willing to forgive them for their mistakes, try to make sure that the environment you are in encourages people to take risks - there will be more mistakes, sure, but there will also be spectacular successes that can more than make up for the mistakes that get made to learn in the process. Talk to the people when they make mistakes, and gauge what they're learning from it and how they plan to go forward by listening to them. Don't just file things away and then spring past mistakes on someone with a disciplinary notice. You might find out that you're making mistakes from untrue assumptions, or that you're scaring the absolute shit out of someone without offering them any way of knowing how they can avoid further seeming caprice from you. Finally, grudges are a pain in the ass for everyone, whether you're holding them or receiving them. Let it go. Really. Learn, figure out what you can trust, protect yourself as necessary, but let the grudges go.

It's easier to learn and forget mistakes in baseball or other games and pursuits, because the worst thing that can happen is that you lose the game and can try again later. In life, it's a little bit harder, but life consequences hopefully mean you only make certain mistakes once...or can learn from other people's errors in life so as not to make them in the first place.
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

There are four main calls from the umpire in baseball - ball, strike, out, safe. Evenly balanced between helping the defense and helping the offense, these calls drive the game of baseball forward. Safe helps the offense, and is a call delivered by spreading the arms out from the chest, palms down, usually in a quick motion, and then holding that pose until everyone understands the call or a request for time is granted.

Safe indicates that the batter or runner has successfully and legally arrived at the base they are attempting to reach, whether by batted ball, attempted steal, retreat to beat a pickoff throw, or through the use of tag-avoidance measures designed to allow them to make contact with a base and deny the defense their body for touching. Generally, to be safe, a part of the body of the runner must be in contact with the intended base before the ball arrives to that base and a tag or force is applied. Some part of the body must also remain in contact with the base (excepting home plate) while a tag is applied - woe to those runners who overslide their bases, as any break in the contact results in the runner being out if there is a tag applied to them.

The safe gesture, like the out gesture, is designed to be visible from very far away, and so has developed into the method by which an umpire indicates a no answer to questions. This is most commonly seen in appeals made from home plate to ask whether a batter's partial swing was complete enough to be called an attempted swing, and therefore a strike. Other appeals, such as whether a runner legally touched a base, are also usually answered in this manner.

Safe is usually a gratifying call to the offense, an indication of success in their difficult endeavors. When it shows up in a reading, it's always an indication that your efforts have succeeded. There are, however, varying degrees of success, and all of them are indicated by the safe call without distinction. Just barely getting there (or back) may earn you a talking-to from the coaches or the manager about the need to play the game smarter and to leave yourself more room for safety, or the need to train harder so that you can go faster and not have so many close plays. How you get there may earn you congratulations if your method was particularly effective at avoiding the defense. In any case, safe is safe, but the context around it will need to be analyzed to figure out whether your "playing it safe" is something to be rewarded and replicated, or whether it's being frowned upon for being too conservative and you need to open up your game so as to have the possibility of scoring more runs.
silveradept: A representation of the green 1up mushroom iconic to the Super Mario Brothers video game series. (One-up Mushroom!)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

The pitcher is accorded a special place among the defense. Position 1 on scorekeeping systems, they are the only position in the entire game who will be guaranteed to touch the ball for all outs. And, for that matter, all the parts of any at-bat. They are physically elevated above all the other positions in the defense, bit receive a corresponding increased share of the danger of being struck by a batted ball while defenseless, as human reflexes can only go so quickly. The delivery methods and mechanics for their pitches are wide and varied, and their personalities often come through in their pitching. They are the only players of the defense that can be "perfect" for a game, even though such perfection is a result of teamwork.

They are the only position about which the is a dispute as to whether they should bat in the batting order or whether another player should be designated to do the hitting for them. When the interleague experiment first started, much hay was made that American League pitchers would finally have to bat, and that a good time would be had by all watching them do so. Some pitchers that year recorded their first hits, RBI, and home runs of their career, which revealed to many a secret of baseball they hadn't been considering - most of the work involved in determining how far a ball will fly when stuck is done by the pitcher, not the batter. Even when they bat, they are more likely to be used to perform a sacrifice hit (usually a bunt) than others, with the intention of keeping them rested and off the basepaths.

The statistics kept for pitchers are an entirely separate category, involving how many runs, on average, other teams collect against them, not counting runs scored due to defensive errors that should have resulted in outs, how many times they have been penalized with bases on balls, how many times they have recorded outs through a third strike, and how many times they have won or lost their game. Pitchers who do not start the game often have a mark of how many times they have been able to "save" (preserve) close leads into victories for their team. Determining which pitcher is the winner or the loser, and whether a save has occurred uses its own set of rules. Generally, to be eligible for a win in today's game, a starting pitcher must not be substituted for before they have recorded fifteen outs (five innings), their team must be ahead when the pitcher is substituted for, and their team must stay ahead for the ready of the game. With many teams on a five-pitcher rotation for starters, that gives each pitcher approximately thirty-two starts every year - which is why any pitcher that can make twenty wins is both a good pitcher and has a good team behind them that can score runs early and often. Other pitchers may receive wins, as the winning pitcher is otherwise the pitcher when the winning team goes ahead and stays ahead until the end if the game, but closers (pitchers that specialise in high-velocity pitching at the end of a game to prevent the offense from getting the rhythm of the pitching) are often rated on their saves, which say that a game has to be close, their team to be leading while they are pitching, and for the lead to be preserved to the end of the game while they are pitching. Closers can mount impressive streaks of their own - Eric Gagne of the Los Angeles Dodgers currently holds the record for consecutive saves with eighty-four - and are an effective weapon in the pitching arsenal.

Television cameras focus on the pitcher because of their unique role in the defense - all things, all plays, all action in a baseball game begins with the pitcher's delivery to somewhere, whether the plate or a base in a pickoff attempt. The variety of pitches at the command of the pitcher provide variance and deception in the modern game, and many pitches other than the fastball make the pitch move ("break") from one place to another, in addition to variations on pitch speed during the delivery, to make them harder to hit, with some pitchers breaking more than others. The manner of the break determines the pitch (curveballs generally break down, sliders break side-to-side, the slurve does both, the knuckleball is...random), and all pitchers at the Major League level will have at least one of these pitches at their disposal. Many good pitchers will have more, even if they are known more for one of them than the others. Pitching is one of the reasons that three out of ten is fantastic in baseball - a hitter has to hit a moving round ball with a round bat somewhere where nine people cannot catch it in the air nor collect it off the ground and throw to the base ahead of you before you get there. It's hard!

A pitcher that is firing on all cylinders can retire batters quickly and with few pitches, which is the ideal situation for a defense. Pitching takes a lot of energy and stresses the body in unique ways. The current rotation system among starting pitchers is meant to give their bodies sufficient rest in between throwing up to 100 pitches (between 80 and 100 MPH) on their outings. Many pitchers in their lives will undergo reconstructive surgery on their pitching arm to prolong their career (Tommy John surgery), which is a commonplace and routine operation in these modern times. The stresses of pitching are so well-acknowledged that the Little League system instituted hard rules about rest time required in between pitching outings and a maximum pitch cap, 65 + the at-bat where the pitcher reached 65, as a protective measure for the bodies and arms of their players.

The Tarot equivalent of the Pitcher is the Sun, completing the dyad with the Moon that the Pitcher does with the Catcher to comprise the battery. The Sun and the pitcher are both regularly thought of as the animating force for their respective institutions. Their positive aspects are things like performing consistently at a high level, being able to do what's needed without problems, having the necessary creativity to handle new scenarios as they arrive, being illuminating and warm, and taking initiative at the right times to produce results.

The is a big danger associated with the Pitcher, though, and it's one that's not always easy to see coming. A lot of people will readily proclaim that without the sun, life as we know it would not exist on Terra. Which is true - we need the radiation of the sun to warm us and brighten our days, as well as to provide the energy for several organisms, mostly plants, to start the food chain going. But in giving praise to the sun so much, we sometimes forget that we also need the moon to provide its gravity so that the tidal forces work, moving the waves and cycling the water to prevent it from stagnating too much. The pitcher needs a catcher to receive their work, to provide targets and guidance and to help the umpire with their calls.

It's easy, with the television cameras as the stardom potential and the way that sports writing and statistics tends to talk about pitching a lot, for a pitcher to start believing they are in charge of the defense, or that they are the star of the defense. The pitcher's greatest danger is hubris. Star pitchers are usually lauded for their velocity and control, and the ways in which they get batters to strike out (because, like the long ball to a hitter, a strikeout is the most exciting-for-TV thing a pitcher can deliver). If you don't have that kind of stuff, it's not likely you're going to rise in the ranks of fame. The sobering thing to remember is that a pitcher cannot win a ball game by themselves, from the mound. At some point, they have to get help from someone in the batter's box scoring a run. Pitching can only prevent runs from scoring - it can't actually score runs on its own. A pitcher that forgets that their wins are inherently a team effort risks being traded...or benched.

In my summer ball days, when I was able to pitch, I was usually one of two pitchers. The other part I most clearly remember was someone with speed and a few off-speed pitches that was quite good at getting people out. I thought of him as a good pitcher. Since I didn't have that stuff, I didn't think of myself as all that good of a pitcher, even though I wanted to do it as a relief from the tedium of the outfield. My dad pointed out something to me at the time, though, that has stuck with me and that I think is a better metric by which to measure the pitcher's effectiveness. As a pitcher, he said, my best asset was that I would throw strikes for most of my pitches. Batters would not be able to just wait me out and draw walks - they would have to swing the bat to get on base. What that meant in practical terms was that, as a pitcher, I was really only as good as the fielders I was playing with. With time and perspective, I realize that an awful lot of the pitches where contact was made resulted in a ground ball of some sort. Very few people hit my pitches in the air to the outfield. If I had a good set of infielders, I could produce a lot of outs fast by forcing hitters to hit balls. (Many of my pitching years, this was not the case.)

Evaluating pitchers by their ability to get outs quickly, and their percentage of ground ball outs, seems like a better metric for figuring out who is a good pitcher than just strikeouts. The WHIP calculation, ((Walks + Hits) / Innings Pitched) hints at this kind of metric, as each out recorded while a pitcher is on the mound counts as a third of an inning. Many pitchers will not become famous, but will be in demand for their ability to throw few pitches and collect many outs by using the field behind them. It's Boring, But Practical to do things this way. Which may describe many of the people in your life and your workplace. If you have one of those kinds of pitchers, be sure to thank them and recognise them for the consistent high quality work they do. If you don't, they might sign with another team, or they might decide they don't need to give you full-quality work any more, since you're not recognizing them or paying them enough for it.

Pitchers are unique entities on the field. Treat them with care, and they'll help you win lots of games.
silveradept: A representation of the green 1up mushroom iconic to the Super Mario Brothers video game series. (One-up Mushroom!)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

If you look at a newspaper, or various sports reporting on the standings of a sports team, among the more common statistics such as the number of wins and losses, the standing of the team in terms of the number of "games back" or "games behind" the leader of the division (and as the playoffs approach, the leaders of the wild card race) a team is, and the number of wins and losses in the last ten games, there's a curious bit that refers to the "streak" the team is on. The streak just refers to the number of times a team has had the same result, whether win or loss. So, you could call it a measure of improbability, as these days, especially in Major League Baseball, any team in the league can beat any other team. Much to the chagrin of the fans of the New York Yankees and other big market teams that tend to have payroll well past the luxury tax (and the eternal delight of those who root against them), having the highest-paid players on your team is no guarantee of success.

We've already seen what a losing streak looks like when we took a look at the slump, as that's generally what a losing streak is called in baseball. By doing so, fans and players remind themselves that such things are only temporary and at some point in time, perhaps soon, perhaps later, they will win a game again. Those games may be few and far between, as there have been teams that lose 100 or more of their regular season games in a single year. It's a little bit harder for fans to remember that winning streaks also do this if your team tends to win more than they lose, but those are usually passed off as bad luck or other flukes. Cognitive biases at work, ladies and gentleness.

That said, a long winning streak, like the one the Washington Nationals put on this year (ten games!) is something to behold, as rarely does a team win the same way twice. The Nationals ended up winning half of those games with timely hitting in the bottom of the ninth, which is a thrill for their fans, and proof that a team that can stay close can sometimes win games they had no business winning on paper. So long as the winning continues, mistakes are forgiven, decisions unquestioned, and everybody has a good time. Even the most drama-filled team looks like a cohesive unit when they're winning more often than not.

The team is the most important part of a winning streak, because baseball can't consistently put the outcome of the game always on a quarterback or point guard or star forward. Each player has to contribute at their appointed time in the batting order, and field and throw what balls come their way. Which is why the meaning of the card, when it appears, talks about teamwork and everyone doing their assigned roles. If you're on the winning streak, it's meant to be both a celebration of your successes, but also a reminder that those successes are not accomplished in a vacuum, so acknowledging and recognizing the contributions of your teammates in addition to yourself is the way to go.

For example, yesterday I received notification that a person in my cohort at another work site nominated me and a couple others for the highest award our organization gives for helping sort and process the entries in our annual teen writing, drawing, and photography contest, especially the work day where all the entries are checked for completeness and then bundled off to their preliminary judges. It takes a significant amount of time to complete for the crew. This year, things went seamlessly and we finished well ahead of schedule. A team effort is necessary to make the contest work as well as it does. The acknowledgement helps ensure those team members are lonely to come back again next year.

That said, the organization as a whole doesn't have a lot if ways of acknowledging the team effort, and it can sometimes seem like lip service from the top when they talk about how excellent we are on one hand but rarely follow through on finding ways to reward that excellence. It can be dangerous to think that the winning streak is primarily because of you, because if you engender that idea, it's going to be you they come after when the winning streak stops. And you they get mad at if you can't immediately start another streak right after the last one. Many a person's job has been removed when the company that expects them to win all the time has to deal with the fact that winning all the time is inherently highly improbable.

After all, if you could do it like that, casinos, gaming houses, and shysters playing three-card monte wouldn't be able to make enough money on your losses to keep themselves in business.
silveradept: The letters of the name Silver Adept, arranged in the shape of a lily pad (SA-Name-Small)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

For [personal profile] cxcvi, who has had bad associations with the Tarot equivalent, the three of swords.

There are two pairings in baseball that tends to get mentioned a lot in combination - the shortstop and second baseman, who have to be synchronized well to perform the first leg of the double play, and to know who is going to receive the catcher's throw to apply a tag during a steal, and the battery, composed of the pitcher and catcher. The catcher gives the signals to the pitcher, and the pitcher attempts to deliver the ball the way the catcher requested.

Except, that is, when the pitcher disagrees. Sometimes the pitcher has their own idea about what pitch should be thrown, based on their confidence in the called pitch, how the game has gone, or something they have noticed about the hitter on this at-bat. A pitcher disagreeing like this will usually indicate their non-agreement by shaking their head from side to side a bit. The catcher may move down their list of possible pitches to the next option and present that one, which can either be accepted with a nod, or another shake-off. Very patient catchers may have a third possible pitch in mind to present, but after the third shake-off, it's pretty well inevitable that the catcher will call for time and have a jog or to the pitching mound to see what's wrong and try to get the pitcher back on the same page as the plan. After a discussion, where pitchers will talk until their mitts to avoid having their lips read, everyone returns to their positions and play resumes. Long conferences will be broken up by the umpire, whose patience is discretionary on these matters.

So, at its core, the shake-off is a disagreement. In a game, though, where the nine players of the defense all need to be following the same playbook, disagreements have to be handled swiftly and completely, as outstanding disagreements lead to fielding errors, or worse, extra-base hits. Bad things generally happen when everyone isn't working from the same book from the start.

Now, this seems not all that bad, mostly because in baseball, you always have a team around to help with support, and most people know that baseball is an abstraction, where the worst consequences are "if they don't win, it's a shame." Outside of baseball, though, the team isn't always there. And the consequences can be or feel a lot worse. And to be fair, the Rider-Waite imagery for this card is pretty scary and memorable - on the field of a lightning rainstorm, a heart pierced by three swords. It's pretty iconic, and most people will remember that type of imagery when it appears in their readings. As one might guess, that card generally signals the appearance or presence of pain of the heart, sometimes very strong pain of the heart. And most of us get our worst heart pains by people we know and are friends with, often over disagreements that explode if handled poorly or left to fester. We tend to use the imagery of being stabbed, either as a betrayal or as how acutely the pain is felt, so there's a good reason that imagery has swords through the heart. The translation to the baseball concept softens things somewhat, but inside that context, things like giving up a double or a home run are bad, heart-hurting things - just look at a pitcher that's just been tagged for that, and try to tell me they're not hurting. Especially if this isn't the first time this game or they've been having trouble with their stuff and struggling the whole time.

So, if this card shows up in your reading, figure out whether you're giving the shake-off or whether you're receiving it. If you're giving the shake-off, what's your problem with the signal? Are you not confident in that pitch? Is the something you think you're seeing about the batter that would make a different pitch better? Can you articulate this to the catcher if they come up to the mound? The thing is, you'll probably get blamed for bad pitch selection or execution by the TV audience no matter what pitch you throw, but they aren't important, so if you're concerned about what others think in this situation, you probably shouldn't be. More important is what your team thinks about it. If you can't put your finger on the why, you're going to frustrate everyone, so be ready to articulate or to go along with the signs. There's still more players behind you that can save your butt if it turns out the pitch call was wrong. In a relationship, if you're giving the signs and your partners ask, you'll probably have to be completely open and forthright if you want to fix the problems. If you're already in a situation where honesty doesn't produce reconciliation or a lessening of the problems, it's probably time to think about dissolving the relationship. It's going to hurt a lot, but it will likely be better for your emotional and mental health (and possibly your physical health) in the long term.

If you're getting a shake-off, try to figure out why. Discomfort is a very real thing and impacts performance, so spend some time figuring out what the problem is. See if any alternatives will work out, or if you can find out the core of the disagreement. This is going to require listening, but also doing the prep work or having done the prep work so that you are perceived as someone who actually listens and cares about what the other people around you have to say. If you're seen as the bully that always gets their way because they don't move or listen, people will find a way to route the workflow around you, or will not open up and be intimate with you about their feelings and perceptions. If you're in a managerial position or tasked with responsibility, being routed around makes your job infinitely more difficult, because you're robbing you're team of the resources you can bring to bear, because nobody wants to work with you. This is a bad situation and needs to be fixed immediately. If you're in a relationship and getting these signs, if you want to keep the relationship, you're going to have to be willing to work through the disagreement and be able to compromise if necessary. Otherwise, it's probably time to stop the relationship.

It's not the cheeriest card, but all cards are not universally good or bad, but context and question dependent. This, too, is something that must be learned.
silveradept: A star of David (black lightning bolt over red, blue, and purple), surrounded by a circle of Elvish (M-Div Logo)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

If you want to learn about the complexities and subtleties of baseball, watch baseball games. In person. Accept no substitutes nor television broadcasts. And keep score. If there isn't a Major League team in your area, or tickets for those games are ridiculously expensive, many areas have minor league teams that are much more affordably priced, or a local university or college team may play regularly.

Television focuses on the things it considers exciting - the pitcher-hitter duel, runners on the basepaths, and the action that happens after the ball is put into play. In doing so, however, television misses out on the major strategic portions of the game, and it denies the savvy baseball watcher the understanding of what is about to happen. TV makes the pitcher out to be the leader of the defense as the person that sets everything in motion. In reality, much of the material that makes the highlight reel in terms of defensive catches and plays has been carefully orchestrated before the batter even steps into the box, while television is doing promotions or nattering on about sponsors and upcoming broadcasts. There is, in fact, a conspiracy among the defense to make sure they are precisely in the correct spot to make plays based on the tendencies of the hitter approaching the plate. Much of this information is in the dugout with the manager, and needs to be relayed to the players on the field. Since even the mightiest lungs will not reach all the players, and the time in between batters is too short to relay all instructions verbally, a system of shorthand and signs are used to communicate from dugout to fielders.

The responsibility of signaling falls to the field general of the defense - the catcher. As the only player blessed with the ability to see the entire field, the catcher can position the defense correctly for maximum effectiveness against batted balls. As a member of the battery (the pitcher and catcher, so named because their roles during pitching resemble that of spotter and shooter in an artillery unit), the catcher is also able to indicate to the pitcher where the most effective place to throw a pitch will be, as well as the type of pitch that will be most effective in achieving an out, or at the very least, a strike. Television cameras do occasionally catch this part of the catcher's responsibility, so when you see a series of gestures delivered at crotch level before a pitch is delivered or hear a commentator talking about "the signs", those are generally the signals involved in pitch placement and selection. The other signs have long since already gone by, and TV broadcasts are not usually in the habit of showing the defensive alignment created before the batter begins their at-bat, unless the alignment had been seriously wrenched out of a normal configuration (also called "the shift", where sometimes a hitter hits so much to one side of the field that a player who would normally be playing on the other side of the field crosses over to provide an extra fielder on that side). So an important part of the game of baseball doesn't get covered when you don't see it live.

As an aside: While it is not expressly forbidden by the rules to steal and relay the defensive signs to the offensive batter and coaches, as a runner, if the defense catches you at it, you can expect an extra-hard tag, an "accidental" spikes-up slide, or a catcher that chooses to block the plate and apply a full-body tag, the kind that reminds players of running full-force into an immovable object, on a close-ish play, as a reminder that there are things one does not do, even if the rules don't expressly forbid it. Similarly, disrespecting others, taunting, or showboating while you are on the field may earn an "accidental" headhunter from the pitcher the next time once is at bat. The umpires are instructed to punish deliberate retaliation, usually with immediate ejection from the game, but one can usually get away with sending a message once.

The Tarot deck, for this card, emphasises the fact that the catcher is the one who receives the pitch, always ready to collect whatever comes to him. There's a little mention of the fact that the catcher both receives and delivers signs, ever-changing signs that the catcher always knows, but mostly, the catcher hews more toward their Tarot equivalent, the Moon, which has the domain of secret knowledge, of intuition, psychic power, and of being okay with and working through emotions. The presence of the card is supposed to indicate being receptive to signs, your intuition, and to not overthinking things to find your solutions. Which is nice and dandy, but it's also misleading - sometimes being an effective catcher is directing the action with the signs, putting things into their correct places, and providing targets for the pitchers in your life to try and hit, in the support role instead of a passive one. As well as throwing the ball to the base ahead of anyone trying to steal on you, picking off those who stray too far, backing up fielders on throws, and occasionally using the fact that you're the only armored player on the field to physically prevent someone from scoring a run on you, which are much more active roles than just receiving. Catchers are also traditionally deceptively strong and fast hitters - wearing the armor can lull the opposition into thinking you're slow without the armor on, to their surprise. Another thing the television cameras don't usually show is that on many throws to first base, the catcher is the fielder backing up the play, having hustled their way down the line from the plate. While wearing armor.

The catcher has to have the wisdom of a sage so as to pull the strings and set everything up. They are dependent on everyone else to execute the plan, so they have to be good team players. A good catcher relieves the manager of a lot of the burden of managing the game by being an effective field commander and making decisions. Many of those decisions will seem magical or intuitive, but they are the product of experience and expertise, just not always consciously thought about.
silveradept: A dragon librarian, wearing a floral print shirt and pince-nez glasses, carrying a book in the left paw. Red and white. (Dragon Librarian)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

For [personal profile] onyxlynx, whom I suspect is actually much more qualified to do these than I am.

Unlike goddesses of wisdom, neither humans nor baseball players spring forth fully formed from the dirt of the infield and the grass of the outfield. Baseball knowledge is both gained by experience and imparted by those who have gone before. Many successful players go on from their playing days to jobs in the organisation's front office, as commentators for the team, or they stay with the team and become teachers of the next generation of baseball players. Some of them ascend to the managers of the team, whether the one they played professionally for or a local Little League team in the place they have retired from. Some help run workshops for fans to get an approximation of the training that professional players engage in on a daily basis.

Essentially, every player can be a coach, and only a few get to do so officially. (And there are people who aren't baseball players who get coaching and training jobs with teams, too.) Most teams have several coaches, each with their own specialty of practice for training and ensuring sound mechanics (hitting, pitching, fielding, etc.) and two coaches who are allowed on the field during games to direct runners and relay signals and signs to them regarding the execution of the offense (for example, to indicate when a runner should steal on the upcoming pitch, the presence of a hit-and-run on the next pitch, or a directive to the batter to square and bunt the pitch), positioned in foul territory to the right of first base and the left of third base.

And then there is the manager of the team, who is the coach above all, studying, analyzing, and using their vast expanse of baseball knowledge to try and win the game with the players they have. (I am perpetually in favor of the manager that prefers to manufacture runs through singles, walks, bunts, and timely hitting and stealing than one that relies on big power hits to drive in runs, because they can make just about any team competitive.) For most amateur players, and many of the Little League players, all those jobs above are rolled into one person, who not only does the maintenance work, but also teaches the game of baseball and all of its norms and practices to the players - Coach. Many baseball players remember Coach, whomever it was, for their wisdom and advice, and for believing that they can play baseball when they were a lot younger than they are now. Coach is often a parent taking on the responsibility of teaching and managing the team, which is a role that they should always be thanked for - it's not easy at all.

The Baseball Tarot deck actually has five coaches in it - one for each of the suits, where they take the place of the Queen of the suit. One could grouse about the symbolism of putting the coach into the only female characters in the regular deck, and the stereotype of women taking on the caring and nurturing role, but Little League does not exclude gender now, so it is entirely possible to have all these roles gender-swapped, at least at that level. Anyway, each coach's card is about "learning new ways of [primary focus of the suit]", which is what the specialist coaches are there for in baseball - to stop bad habits and engender good ones, and to teach players new ways of dealing with the novel scenarios that different pitchers and hitters will present to them. Being a Tarot deck, it's about action, the heart and spirit, thinking, and new ways of the world, rather than the practical matters that much of baseball is about - fielding, hitting, pitching, running, throwing. Coaches are there for the mental issues, too, though, and sometimes those are the more difficult things to get through, because mechanics can't necessarily beat the yips. More often than not, when the coaches appear in a reading, it's either a sign that you need to go see the coach most associated with that aspect (for hopefully, you all have people who serve as coaches for those aspects), or that you're going to be the coach of that aspect for someone in your life. (Which could be you - occasionally the coach you need to see is you so you can kick yourself in the backside and get going on freaking with the issues of that category)

There's also the major card, II, the Coach, who is not just a coach of one aspect of the game, or who has only one domain or function - this is the one who teaches all that come, who gets some people started on their career, and who introduces others to the game, with its layers and complexities abstracted to be understandable. This coach paints in broad strokes, teaching the way things go instead of refining the things already known to greater expertise. (This particular card is all girls and women, drawing plays in the sand, so there's your gender equality?) Coach can be consulted about anything, because they are knowledgeable and wise. Even though many of the players Coach sees will not go on to any sort of serious competition, and fewer still will join the collegiate ranks and the professional ones, Coach does what they do because they want to keep the game alive and because they said yes to the request for a coach. If this coach appears in your reading, it's not about changing or adjusting, it's about learning and teaching entirely new things. It may be time for you to find a coach to learn a new set of skills that will help you on your journey, to find a mentor, or if might be the calling to teach what you have learned and pass your knowledge on to someone else who needs it. The game continues not because the rules exist, not because the game itself is intrinsically interesting or because it serves as a convenient sport to teach and learn broader concepts (even though it is both of those things), but because someone takes time out of their life to teach the next generation of players, who will eventually play, coach, or officiate themselves later on in life (and not necessarily in baseball). Without those who are willing to be Coach, knowledge is lost.

You know how sports and after school activities and other structured programs are supposed to help teenagers not make bad decisions? I suspect the program itself has very little to do with whether or not kids and teenagers stay out of trouble while they participate, unless it's something they're passionate about and want to stay out of trouble to stay eligible for. The real trick, it seems, is that kids need a stable base from which to explore and create their own identity, and that base needs caring adults in it to be successful. It's not the program, necessarily - it's the coach. And if you listen to the stories of the kids who are doing well and staying away from making trouble, it's almost always about the coach. The Coach has the power to change lives. How wonderful are those people who accept this responsibility and live up to its demands.
silveradept: A cartoon-stylized picture of Gamera, the giant turtle, in a fighting pose, with Japanese characters. (Gamera!)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

Every now and then, something weird happens in a baseball game. Maybe someone took an aggressive turn off of a single, and the artillery gunner in the outfield takes a shot at getting him before he gets back to the bag. Or there's what looks like an error in progress, only for a fielder to recover faster than expected and fire the ball to the next base well ahead of the runner. Or the pitcher is right about a runner trying to steal on their first motion, so that when they move to throw back instead, the runner is caught between two bases. Or a ball defined for home plate gets cut off and then sent to the base ahead of the runner thought they could get an extra base while the action was elsewhere.

What happens next is a rundown. To an outside eye, it looks a bit comical, as fielders take turns throwing the ball back and forth between each other, advancing closer to the runner with each exchange, forcing the runner to reverse their direction on each toss, switching players on each exchange until one fielder can tag the runner for an out. It's a game of monkey-in-the-middle that breaks out in a baseball game.

More often than not, rundowns are the result of a mental mistake by a runner - taking their turn too far toward second on a single, being fooled by a pickoff, trying to take a base they really shouldn't, or not realizing that what looks like an opportunity is going to be a trap if they try to take advantage of it. And rundowns usually start when the runner realises, too late, that they can't actually get where they want to go in time. The rundown then starts when they find out that can't get back, either. On some occasions, though, the attempt to create a rundown is intentional, a ploy to keep the defense distracted with their guaranteed out that they don't notice another runner attempting to take an extra base or score. In that case, if the rundown can be prolonged enough to get the run to score before the out is recorded, it will count toward their total of runs. This does not always work, especially if the other fielders are paying attention, but it does sometimes get tried.

So, in all of this comedy, why is the the runner making the defense go through with the whole thing? Well, because there's plenty of failure points all along the way. It only takes one botched throw to give the runner an opportunity to get out of the situation unharmed. Which is one of the reasons for the multiple fielders running the exchanges - they can help collect any loose or errant theirs and either continue the rundown, or throw to a fielder covering the badge to apply a tag. The multiple fielders also help contain the runner and keep them from beating a fielder in a foot race to a base - the ball can be thrown a lot faster than it can be run.

So why doesn't the runner try to run around the fielders? The rules say that runners have to stay within a particular corridor that is the direct lines from one base to another (with some wiggle room) and that leaving such a corridor makes the runner out, so that the fielders do not have to chase him all about the infield if they wish to tag her.

If this card shows up in a reading, you have to figure out whether you're the person in the middle or one of the defensive players. If you're in the middle, well, your job is to prolong things as much as possible, and look for any escape that you can get, but the odds are against you and you're probably going to be tagged out. Figure out what went wrong this time and learn from it so that you don't do it again. If you're in a decoy rundown, then your job is to sell it hard while someone else does the work.

If you're a fielder in the cavalcade, your plan worked and you have what you want in your sight. Sick to the plan and reel it in, using the help of others to make sure that it doesn't get away. Don't get excited and throw the ball away, and what you want will come to you. That said, be on the lookout for something else going on that is more important that you're not paying attention to right now, and you may have to shift gears quickly to get what would be best for you, or abandon the rundown entirely.
silveradept: The logo for the Dragon Illuminati from Ozy and Millie, modified to add a second horn on the dragon. (Dragon Bomb)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

[personal profile] redsnake05 wanted to know about the Page of Wands, which translates into the Switch Hitter, the Eleven of Bats in the Baseball Tarot.

Most people have a dominant hand in their life. As Ned Flanders has pointed out, most people are right-handed, and about one in six or so is left-handed. The dominant hand is usually stronger in life, and tends to be the hand that moves first in new situations or to pick up objects. It also tends to be the hand that learns how to write in any language.

So it is in baseball - so much so that on someone's trading card, it will mention what hand they throw the ball with and from which side of home plate they bat. Baserunners do different things in relation to whether the pitcher throws with their right hand or their left. Leads tend to be larger against right-handed pitchers because it takes them longer to throw a ball to a base and they can't disguise their pickoff attempts as easily. While skill trumps all, you might find the shortstop is left-handed and the second baseman is right-handed because it allows them to avoid throwing across their body when relaying the second throw if a double play ball to first base, shaving a small amount of precious time off the exchange, which could mean the difference between success at getting two outs or having to settle for one against a fast batter.

Now, some people are blessed with the ability to use each hand equally well in their scenarios, and others work hard and train at being able to do the same - they may never achieve the ability to write Latin on one hand and Greek on the other, but they can make it possible to use whatever hand happens to be free to handle new possibilities. Someone who can be equally effective with both hands will be marveled at by a lot of people, and possibly take up hobbies and professions where that ability will be useful.

Statistically speaking, players that bat from the opposite side of the plate as the arm the pitcher throws from do better, both in terms of batting average and in batting power. Seeing the pitches come from the outside part of the plate names it easier to tell which pitches are going to be good ones to lay off of and which ones will make Ben Grimm very happy. It also removes much of the instinct to want to get out of the way of pitches that look like they are going to hit the batter, which has to be fought off to tag balls that start inside and then move out over the plate for called strikes. So with the majority of hitting and throwing from the right, anybody who can hit from the left, whether as their natural state, or from training, can try and collect their statistical advantage. (Against good pitching, though, batting from the other side won't help. And even then, the difference is sometimes a very small addition to the batting average - significant over time, and possibly in clutch situations, if a hitter is lucky, but not always a big benefit easily realisable. And all of this is still in the context that success three times out of every ten official at-bats is a really good season.)

Which makes the switch-hitter, someone who can hit from either side of the plate, depending on where the pitcher is throwing from, the closest thing to a unicorn baseball has. They have the magic power of making the statistics as favorable as they can, of being able to beat any defensive shift intended to take advantage of their hitting tendencies, of being able to bunt from the short side as needed, and aim themselves to hit toward the part of the field that will advance the offense in the best possible way. They can basically arrange every trip to the plate to have the maximum potential for success, according to the statistics.

That's not to say a great career can't be made by hitting from just one side of the plate - switch-hitting is still a relatively rare skillset, much like ambidexterity, and to learn it takes a lot of practice and retraining the brain to be able to just swing the bat the other way, and then a lot more in development of mechanics and raw strength to be able to actually swing the bat well from both sides. For someone who may not be commanding superstardom or is otherwise a hitter of professional caliber but not a marquee player, picking up the ability to switch-hit could improve their salary prospects, playing time, and might make them more valuable to the team they are playing for (or will be playing for in the future). It's an investment for the player and the coaching staff, but one that will likely pay good returns.

When this card shows up, much like the Page of Wands, it represents someone with skills and a mental outlook that allows them to be flexible in how they approach situations. By approaching the situation from multiple possible angles, they can choose one with a high likelihood of success. They're not set enough in the ways of how things are done to keep hammering at a problem and hoping it will work this time. They may not always have the best solution to any problem or situation, but their flexibility means they may be the ones who discover the better solution than the current best.

If you're the switch-hitter, take pride in your abilities and keep them sharp so that you can continue to blaze trails that others thought were impassable. Be careful of being contrary just to be contrary, and remember that switch-hitting is supposed to result in delivery of more hits for your team - if your production isn't up to par, you may not be able to continue switch-hitting.

If you manage switch-hitters, one of the more important things to do with them is give them running room and to take advantage of their skill sets. By letting them explore and engage with things on their own terms, you may make discoveries that turn out to be very useful later on. Plus, they'll feel happier that you're using all of their potential, instead of restricting them to using only a small part of it. It wouldn't hurt to also have an idea box or feedback system in place so that you can capture their observations and ideas when they arise.
silveradept: A green cartoon dragon in the style of the Kenya animation, in a dancing pose. (Dragon)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

"Hey, battah battah, hey battah hey battah, SWING!"

"No batter, no batter. Easy out, easy out!"

"Check two, go one! One down, here we go now!"

"I got! I got!"

Communication is a vital part of baseball. Selecting pitches, positioning the defense, reminders of the number of outs in this half-inning, relaying a steal decision, or a bunt attempt, all of these things and more must be communicated across the defense and offense, usually without tipping off the other team. Some of these bits are more important than others, and some of them are better said audibly than not, like who thinks they can catch a fly ball.

The chatter, then, generally refers to the near-constant amount of talking that comes from the infield as the players remind each other of the right procedure should they be hit a ball ("check two, go one" = "Check to see if the runner on second base is running for third. If so, throw the ball to the fielder at that base to apply a tag. If not, and the runner on second isn't too far off that they could be conceivably traded out by throwing to an arriving fielder at second, throw the ball to first to get the batter out." Baseball engages in a lot of shorthand in its audible communication. And in scorekeeping, too.), how many outs there are, and any runners ("two down, two ducks on the pond" = "Two outs in this half inning, and there are two runners on the basepaths to be accounted for."), as well as confidence talk to the pitcher ("no batter" = "Relax and throw pitches as if there were no hitter and you are at practice trying to hit your locations." Pitchers that try to force the ball to go places, instead of following their mechanics, tend to end up without control or throwing very hittable balls that professional players do not miss often.) and attempts at psychologically rattling the batter or goading them into bad decisions. This, the chatter is also there as a reminder to the pitcher that there are seven fielders behind them who are capable of making outs, so the pitcher doesn't have to try and strike out every batter.

At the professional level, there's considerably less ability to intimidate the batter with massive voices, not that it necessarily stops the chatter, just that everyone acknowledges that it stopped working sometime soon after it started. Much more likely to work is the conversation between catcher and batter, but the umpires trend to squash those before they can get started.

That same chatter continues as the ball is put in play. If you have the advantage of seeing live play without television intermediation, you will hear the infield explode with noise the minute the batter squares (turns their body for greater control of the bat) to bunt the ball, as the fielders charging the bunt from the positions closest to each foul line need to know before they pick up the ball where it needs to go. Fly balls are usually punctuated with the negotiations of who gets the privilege of catching the ball, and then infielders will direct where the ball should be going as the outfield prepares to make the catch (usually which base to throw to and whether to hit the "cutoff" person, whose job it is to catch throws cooking in from the outfield if they're trying to collect an out but aren't going to make it in time, so that they can then fire to another base if another runner is lazy in their baserunning and leaves a vulnerability), and ground balls have other players informing the fielder collecting the ball as to where it should go. It's a lot of communication and teamwork going on between players, as even those not directly involved in the play can relay vital information through observation of the situation unfolding. After every play, an out count and shorthand about where the baseball goes is usually passed along the players of the defense to make sure everyone is working with the same information when the pitcher starts in again. There's a lot of talking going on before each pitch.

What it means for someone drawing it from the deck depends on what position the question-giver is in. If they're the batter, it's a paper tiger of sorts, meant to try and be intimidating, but often ending up harmless. Let the chatter roll off like water and focus on the pitch being thrown. If you're a fielder, think about your situation and whether or not everyone is on the same page. If not, communicate. Lots, and loudly and visibly/audibly. If you're the pitcher, remember that there's an entire defense behind you that will assist you in getting outs. You lead the play, but you do not have to do everything by yourself. You do not have to strike out the side for this half-inning. (And frankly, it's much less tiring and stressful for you and your defense if you become a pitcher that can consistently get hitters to hit ground balls to your infielders. If they're competent, they'll record a lot of outs for the team and you'll be able to save your arm and go longer into games.) As with all advice for pitchers, relax and throw strikes. The managers and coaches, if they're competent, will notice if a fielder isn't contributing as much as needed and will talk with them about how to improve performance.
silveradept: The letters of the name Silver Adept, arranged in the shape of a lily pad (SA-Name-Small)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

There are four ways to leave a baseball game before the end: substitution (as in a pitching change our a pinch hitter or runner), getting benched (same action as substitution, but with the implication of poor performance, whether physically or mentally), getting ejected (most commonly for arguing with the umpire over things that are not appealable, but also for fighting, for pitching to strike the batter intentionally or too often, for using a bat that is not regulation weight, and other offenses the umpire or the rule book demand ejection for), and getting hurt.

Injury is a common thing in baseball just from playing the game. Players routinely put stresses on their bodies that are not in the range of normal human behavior, like diving for balls, accelerating and decelerating quickly, sometimes with very sharp turns or contact with reasonably solid bases... or players. (A takeout slide, designed to disrupt a double play by forcing the relay fielder to jump or dodge the sliding runner, is legal, but if you slide spikes up, with the rather dangerous and sharp parts of the cleat pointing at a player instead of the base or the dirt, if the umpire doesn't get you, the other team will do so, much less politely. Also, it is sometimes the decision of a runner that the only way they will be able to be safe at home is by deliberately initiating a collision with the catcher in the hope that they will lose control of the ball and thus not provide a legal tag.

Players get hit by pitches in all sorts of sensitive areas. The worst ones are usually protected by helmets, supporters, and guards, but batters get hit on the hands, back, knees, and other parts of the body. With pitch velocity for fastballs staying, on average, in the 90s of miles per hour, "That's gonna leave a mark." is an understatement. Catches wear extra protection because slight contact with the bat can redirect a pitch into their face or groin (or that of the plate umpire) when it was headed for their mitt. Pitchers must deal with their own balls being batted back at them at higher velocity (and with less protection - a head injury would potentially be fatal), as well as broken bat bits, should the bat shatter on contract. Players can also strike the outfield fences at their own full velocity if not careful. (The dirt that extends several feet in front of the fence is called the warning track because a player that has been feeling grass underneath their feet as they track a fly ball needs advance notice that their full-tilt run is about to hit an object that will not move when they strike it. Many players take advantage of the warning to time jumps into the wall to make catches.)

Pitchers suffer repetitive motion injuries, often electing surgery to graft a tendon to their throwing arm from another area after the first wears out (Tommy John surgery). Players play 162 games in the season, plus pre-season and, possibly post-season games, often in blocks of three or four consecutive days. And, eventually, age comes for us all, such that even Cal Ripken, Jr., who currently holds the streak of longest consecutive games played, must eventually retire, preferably before the career-ending injury.

Injury is so common in baseball that there are various lists where a player can be placed that inactivates them for a specified number of days. The 15-day DL, the 90-day DL, and so forth. It is important to take care of the body when playing professional or amateur sport - the professionals all have trainers to help them with this. Otherwise, you end up sidelined, having to sit out games due to injury.

When you're sidelined, you get to do two things: cheer and heal. The card for this in the Baseball Tarot depicts a player on the steps of the dugout, all by himself, watching the game, with his left arm in a sling. Being sidelined indicates all is not healthy with you, and that you are much better suited to staying out of the action for now and letting yourself heal up to strength. An injured player may feel better after a week on the DL, but if they push it, it's even more likely they'll hurt themselves and worse than the initial injury. This is a time of forced waiting - it would be a good time to examine yourself and reflect on other practices while you wait to come back to full strength. Thinking about it now could prevent you from re-injuring yourself. So cheer, and analyze, and mentor, and help yourself understand. (Keep score, too.) Learn some new stuff while you wait. But most importantly, remember to heal. And to wait until you're fully healed before returning.
silveradept: The emblem of the Heartless, a heart with an X of thorns and a fleur-de-lis at the bottom instead of the normal point. (Heartless)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

A balk is bad mojo. Very rarely seen, very bad mojo. Because a balk is a mistake. Not the kind of thing where a batted ball hits a stone on the infield and a fielder can't react fast enough to change, or a player looks up and loses the ball in the lights, or an errant throw sails wide of its intended target, which are still errors, but they can be explained as physical situations or accidents. A balk is a mental error with the consequences of every runner on a base being advanced one base, which can score a run in the same groaning fashion that walking them in does.

The balk is a penalty that can only be charged to a pitcher, and it happens when a pitcher tries to do anything other than deliver the pitch to the plate once they are committed to the pitch, or if the manner of delivery of the pitch is illegal. If a runner tries to steal or look like they are and the pitcher throws anywhere but the batter while a foot is in contact with the pitching rubber, it's a balk. (Which is why great pickoff moves quickly move the foot away from the rubber as their first act.) If the pitcher's non-planted foot crosses over the rubber during the windup and the ball is thrown anywhere but to the batter, it's a balk. (Left-handed pitchers try to use this to their advantage by lifting their foot as they would for a windup, but consciously not crossing their feet, which allows them to set the foot down, move the other foot off the rubber, and throw over to the base, trying to catch a runner who is supposed to be trying to steal once the pitch starts. (Or just move the other foot and then throw.) Any pitch thrown to the plate where the ball is released while the is no contact with the pitching rubber is a balk. A pitcher that fails to get to a set (nonmoving) position and hold it for at least a second before delivering the pitch commits a balk. And so forth.

It's rare in the professional game because by that level, most pitchers aren't rattled by the various things runners can do to try and generate a distraction or otherwise to get the pitcher to pay attention to them when they shouldn't. At younger levels, it's possible to see more frequent balks because of that lack of experience and inability to focus. Ultimately, a balk happens because of a lapse of concentration on the pitcher's part, because the pitcher is trying to juggle the competing tasks of keeping the runner close enough to the base to prevent an easy steal and delivering quick and accurate pitches to the batter so as to get them to hit into outs, strike out, or to give the catcher a shot at throwing out the runner on a steal attempt. Failing to remember that the game is not completely on their shoulders generates pressure, which can lead to balks.

In the Tarot, unsurprisingly, the presence of a balk in a reading indicates decisions must be made, and that waffling between options will do no good. It can also indicate that someone's current approach to decision-making isn't effective, isn't working, or otherwise needs improvement. If you're on the mound, you have to commit to the action you intend and not change your mind until after the pitch (or pickoff) is done and you have the next opportunity. Be confident in your decision and execute the plan. There will be time for a new plan soon if you feel it needs tweaking.
silveradept: A star of David (black lightning bolt over red, blue, and purple), surrounded by a circle of Elvish (M-Div Logo)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

This is for DawnM, who wanted to know more about The Hanged Man.

Most Tarot decks that stay with the Rider-Waite type imagery present the Hanged Man as being hung upside-down by a foot, a much less grim scenario than one might expect with the card's name and the history of hanging as a form of execution. The upside-down hanging is intended, I think, to indicate a popular idea that Odin hung himself from the World Tree as a sacrifice to gain the runes - upside down and wounded. Someone with greater familiarity with the Eddas can probably correct me on this.

The Rider-Waite imagery also invokes the bringing together of the elements of fire and water in one entity, and the form of hanging might indicate the degree of difficulty involved in doing so, or that the knotting up is fixed through this balancing act and the Hanged Man only had a little way to go.

In all cases, the Hanged Man is about the search for wisdom by bringing things back into harmony and balance. When turned to a baseball context, there's one scenario where it's obvious that things are out of balance, and players, coaches, commentators, and fanatics can all see it - the Slump.

The slump is an embodiment of nothing going right. Where Batting 1.000 is the pinnacle of plate mastery, the slump is not just being an easy out, but being a pathetically easy out - swinging the bat at pitches well outside the strike zone, letting pitches that should be hammered go by, or worse, making them into piddling pop flies and double play ground balls. And a slump isn't characterized by a single bad night - slumps go on for games without relief.

Most players see their first slump in their sophomore season, when they find out that pitchers do study film and get analysis on how best to get the batter out, and the player hasn't quite picked up being able to know when good pitches are coming versus bad ones when the pitcher knows your tendencies and can exploit your habits. A sharp drop in average and production usually indicates the presence of the slump.

Teams can suffer from slumps as well, where the pitching and defense commit errors, walk batters, hand out hits and home runs as one might hand out popcorn at movie night, and generally build an impressive losing streak while everyone tries to head back in the right direction.

Once of the really pernicious things about slumps is that players will often try all sorts of things, mechanical or superstitious, to try and break the slump and get back on track, and trying those things had a decent chance of prolonging the slump rather then fixing it, because it keeps the player's brain out of the game. All the training to make good fundamentals automatic is being superseded by an anxious brain trying to adjust things on the fly. In truth, that player is probably overthinking things too much.

If you're the player in the slump, a trip to the hitting coach is mandatory, and that particular session of BP is going to last until they're satisfied that whatever's gotten into your swing has gotten out again. The more honest you can be with the coach about what's going on, the faster the session will go. Because they will tell you what they see is wrong, but it's up to you to find the way to implement the suggestions they give. And if there's something mental going on in your game, then they need to know that, too. Once you're back in balance, it will be possible once again to do the thing that you have trained to do for so long for long enough to get yourself a hit. And then after the first one, the slump starts to fade and more hits happen, and soon enough you're back in business. Even for teams, the advice is the same - focus on doing the fundamentals soundly and the rest will follow. And eventually, your team will be on the top of the division, instead of at the bottom.
silveradept: The emblem of Organization XIII from the Kingdom Hearts series of video games. (Organization XIII)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

The Holiday Correspondence post had gone up. Please go and comment on it!

Nobody is perfect, and in baseball, especially not so over time. A 162-game season with at least three guaranteed appearances with a bat and nine innings of playing defense provides a multitude of opportunities for things to go off the rails. Since it is a contested sport between teams, at some point, even the most improbable streak of offense must end if the inning is to be completed. It is possible for the defense to obtain a perfect game (attributed to the pitcher rather than the defense as a whole) by retiring all twenty-seven required batters in the order they appear, without runs being scored, hits being recorded, errors made, walks delivered, or any batter reaching first base safely. This was a rare event, but it has been slowly getting more frequent over the last decade - this might be an indicator that the competitive balance for baseball is moving a bit too far in the direction of the defense, or that pitching is getting better than hitting at this particular point in time. This is in the middle of scandals with regard to performance-enhancing drugs and methods generating controversy about whether this ruins the game or is a natural evolution of the game's more recent focus on power hitting and home runs (since that excites casual fans and television audiences).

When the batter first moves from the on-deck circle to the batter's box, there are usually three statistical categories displayed on the screens, whether on television or at the ballpark. Two of them are important, and one isn't. Regrettably, the one that isn't is the one that usually gets the most focus. The three categories are the season's batting average, the count of home runs for the season, and the count of runs batted in (RBI) for the season. Any player who leads in all three categories at the end of the regular season has captured a baseball Triple Crown (Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers achieved this last in 2013).

Home runs are ultimately unimportant at the professional level, as each player, with the training and coaching they receive, is capable of hitting dingers. And with pitch speeds increasing over time, physics tells us the number of home runs will increase from season to season, as the extra velocity imparted by a swing will make the ball fly farther. They're great for excitement, good for television, and if there's a good home run chase going on, people who wouldn't normally tune in to baseball might watch a bit more. (The McGwire-Sosa duel of who would make it past Roger Maris' record mark of 61 home runs in a single season was great television, even with the allegations of steroids. Which would resurface with a bigger vengeance when Barry Bonds would embark on beating that mark only a few years later, successfully taking over the record himself.) But, in terms of who you send to the plate in a substitution situation ("pinch hitting"), choosing the person with the biggest HR count is not usually the best decision.

RBI is a better indicator of batter effectiveness, as RBI counts all runs scored, whether by base hits, sacrifice hits, balls that ended in the batter being put out, and basically any runs scored by this batter putting the ball in play - everything but walks, really. Sending up a player with a high RBI count in a pinch is a much better bet to get some runs out of the deal.

If you really want to know who's going to succeed in a pinch, though, you want the player with the highest batting average. The average is a percentage, expressed as a decimal to three significant digits between the values of 0.000 and 1.000. The zero before the decimal point is usually not shown. The percentage represents the likelihood that any given at-bat will result in the batter hitting safely for at least one base. Higher-average hitters are more likely to end up on base than lower-average.

The normal batting average hovers between .200 and .250 for any given season. "Hot" hitters will post averages above .250, and people having an exceptional year will flirt with .300 and possibly get over it. The single-season record is over .400, which in today's game is damn near impossible. (The is probably in the stash my parents keep, my first year's play statistics as a child, where our averages were all above .500. Considering the coaches were pitching to us, I should think we would do well.)

Which is a very long prelude to the actual card, Batting 1.000 (said "batting a thousand") - perfection at the plate, which is only really possible during a single game - to do it for a season would mean safe hitting hundreds of times against all different teams. For a career, that same season's improbability would be multiplied by the years spent in a career. Much like life, we cannot achieve perfection over a long term period, but we can do it in short bursts when everything aligns correctly.

That said, batting 1.000 is the same whether one has five at-bats or one. Average calculation only covers official at-bats. Which excludes any time to the plate where a player hits or bunts a sacrifice out of any sort, or any time where the player reaches base due to a walk, an error, or a defensive decision that pursues a different out but could have collected the batter instead ("fielder's choice"). So someone could take their minimum three trips to the plate, draw two walks and a single, and have bat 1.000 for the game (1 hit in 1 at-bat). Which makes the perfection sound less impressive, so when you hear someone recounting a player's at-bats, they will generally give you the fraction ("they went two [hits] for three [at-bats], with a double, a walk, a whiff, and a home run") instead of the percentage. So, no, not all perfection is equal, both in baseball and in life. But it's still with mentioning when it happens.

The Tarot equivalent here is The Star, which talks about the divine potential of each person, the ability to achieve the highest, even if only temporarily. Reaching for the stars, being made of starstuff, or, perhaps, in the vein of Messrs. deGrasse Tyson and Sagan, being able to step back and appreciate the incredible improbability that is humanity and the universe we live in.

I have people on my list who work with spacefaring craft and with the planet itself, and they both demonstrate, when they talk about their work, the things that people have learned through the power of science (SCIENCE!) that would be incredible if the proof wasn't there, in the pictures, in the rocks, in the instrumentation. If I were going to choose something to use as a thing to aspire to for humanity, it is that I hope we are always worthy of the best of our science.

And that our improbable batting scenarios in that regard start becoming more and more frequent.
silveradept: Chief Diagonal Pumpkin Non-Hippopotamus Dragony-Thingy-Dingy-Flingy Llewellyn XIX from Ozy and Millie. (Llewellyn himself.)
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silveradept: Domo-kun, wearing glass and a blue suit with a white shirt and red tie, sitting at a table. (Domokun Anchor)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

Once of the more common ways the defense records an out is by catching a batted ball before it makes contact with the ground. The highlight reels are peppered with catches from well-hit balls that require acrobatic maneuvers to collect, or require the fielder to cover what seems to be an impossible distance to make a catch at the last moment. Those are exciting outs that energize the fans and make for good television.

These are not those kinds of hits.

Fly balls are generally friendly things for the defense. There's enough time to get into place and await the recording of another out, barring losing it in the light, a mental distraction, or other such abnormalities that result in errors. Professionals rarely have this happen. Kids playing ball, however, and it's entirely possible.

I'm told that I tended to get out in the outfield when I was younger because I had sufficient focus to continue paying attention to the game even if there wasn't any actual action going on for the half-inning. Which is supposed to be a compliment, even if it doesn't sound like one to the kid in question. Although, they were right, as a double play of mine from center field (that's F-8, 8-6 for two outs on the score sheet) happened because I was paying attention and knew where to throw the ball after I had caught it, instead of celebrating the catch itself. Thankfully, the shortstop was covering second, and so was in the right position to receive the throw while the base runner was still admiring the catch. These were young kids, all of us, so that kind of thing is forgivable.

Mostly, though, the outfield, as a kid, can be boring, depending on how the pitching is going. Many kids in the younger ages can't hit the ball hard enough to get out into the outfield, so a lot of those kids are out there and have to wait for the one ball that gets through the infield or gets hit hard enough for them to have to do something about it.

Pop flies don't even make it out of the infield. So those kids who are getting no action don't even get the benefit of something coming their way. It's still an easy out, but it's not even had the benefit of getting all the way to the outfield. Most pop fly balls in the professional leagues spend eight to ten seconds in the air, a long testament to not quite hitting the ball right before ending in a catch. Many hopes and attempts at psychically including either the player or the ball itself happen on pop flies, if you're a fan of the losing team.

During many pop flies you will hear a lot of communication between the fielders as they negotiate who actually gets to catch the ball - infielders have priority over pitchers, and someone coming forward to the ball has priority over someone moving backwards or sideways to the ball, as they are much more likely to make the catch. So you may see three fielders converging on the same spot, but two of them will usually peel off and the third will actually make the catch when needed. If there's a doubt about who will catch the ball, the negotiations continue, often more strenuously, until all parties are satisfied. Or a collision happens, which is bad, because both players are looking at the ball and not each other.

The Tarot part says that the appearance of Pop Flies indicates things going well in a routine, easy way. In the same ways that singles are the building blocks to success at places where effort is needed, pop flies are indicators of success where things require less effort - at least, if you're the defense in this situation. If you're hitting a lot of pop flies, something's out of balance - a bad habit may have crept in, or you're not seeing the pitches coming in all the way to make contact with. Both of these situations say you should take a trip to batting practice with the hitting coach, so that you can return to a mechanically sound swing and follow pitches all the way in to contact. Back to basics.
silveradept: The logo for the Dragon Illuminati from Ozy and Millie, modified to add a second horn on the dragon. (Dragon Bomb)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

This one is for [personal profile] nanila, who wanted to know about the break in between the top and bottom halves of the seventh inning.

How is everyone doing so far? Is this interesting? Informative? Helpful? Should we continue?

It's time to take a break. Unlike other timed sports that have ends of quarters, periods, or half-time, or even an official tea break scheduled in at specific times, baseball continues on at its own pace - there are miniature breaks when the defense records three outs and the offense and defense change places, sure, but they're not defined by a certain amount of time, and it's never enough to take a jaunt up to the concession stands and collect food. (Totally like all other sports, however, both the stands hustlers and the concourse vendors will make you pay a lot for food or drink.)

These days, the in-between time is often filled with commercials (on TV) or odd promotions or traditions (such as the Presidential Race for the Nationals of Washington, D.C.) for the live game, just so that the audience doesn't get bored. Because they might just turn to their neighbor or family member and talk about the game that's unfolding in front if them.

On average, though, baseball games tend to take between 2 and 2.5 hours - sitting in uncomfortable seats for that long, even with an entertaining game, without a break requires the same sort of stamina people who see the Ring Cycle in a week need. It could also be a reflection of the English sports that baseball derives from, but the truth of the matter is that baseball, lacking those regular breaks of other sports, needs an occasion for the fans to stand up, shake their legs out, and otherwise prevent bad things that happen when sitting too long. If the home team is behind, this gives them a little time to recuperate and decide on new strategy. If ahead, they have time to think about how to finish our the game ahead. Of course, the plan rarely survives contact with the rest of the game.

So we have the Seventh Inning Stretch, a time which used to be punctuated with mass singing of a time all about having a good time at the ballpark - Take Me Out To The Ballgame. While the peanuts and Cracker Jack of the song would probably induce allergy worries in our times, the song itself is a request to be able to ignore the world outside for the length of a baseball game.

And then the world intruded rather rudely on 11 September 2001. It was no longer possible to ignore the fact that large gatherings of people anywhere, including sport competitions, could be the site of the next attack. Whether one rooted for or against the Damn Yankees or for (or against) the Metropolitans, the return of baseball to the city was one of the surest signs that things would be able to resume where they left off. With a lot more thought about the security of various venues.

The Tarot card that comes with this is Reflection, and in a more standard deck it would be called The Hermit. The Seventh-Inning Stretch is a time for the body to digest and stretch, but also for the mind to do so, to begin the change from the immersion of the game back to the reality outside, whether the immediate realities of leaving the parking in such a way as to get on the proper roads or public transit lines as to get home safely, to the questions of work, home life, money, and the reality of the daily pressures. It's also a time to reflect on the game itself, what has transpired in this unique instance, whether or not it will connect to a bigger theme for the season, or whether the rules will need yet more talking after an obvious bug in the system has appeared or it seems that the competitive balance is slanted too much in favor of the offense or the defense. Reflection is also about the fact that all ball games end at some point, whether being played in the stadium or out in life, and that retirement comes for us all in the end. Wisdom is often sought at the ball game, not just by the players and coaches, but by the fanatics that go and root for the home team. By stepping back for a moment and considering a wider perspective, many things that weren't clear become much easier to pick out from the crowd. And by analyzing the game (and keeping score, a skill all baseball fans should know how to do), not only can you gain wisdom, but you can start to predict a few things, too.

It should be no surprise to anyone, based on the stretch being about wisdom and synthesis, that I detest the jingoistic decision to change the seventh-inning stretch song from Take Me Out To The Ballgame to God Bless America. And not just because of the high Latin American-born population in Major League Baseball, but because the changing of the song (and the now near-universal decision to carry it on television broadcasts, where only some carried the previous song) reflects a lack of wisdom. We got hurt, a hurt, if not of our own making, one that we certainly contributed to, and our reaction is to have our national pastime (ish) respond with bellicose verse of how great the United States is, such that what used to be a performance of sport, given the respect accorded to sport, has now become sport with a Two Minutes Hate in the middle of the seventh. It inserts politics into sport in the most ham-fisted manner possible, and co-opts what was a shared expression of fandom into an expected performance of superficial patriotism.

We need Reflection and Wisdom in our games and our lives now more than ever, and that's not just on the superficial things like performance-enhancing drugs. All things change. Mone Davis demonstrated that baseball could handle having a girl as the star fireballer of a Little League team at the Little League World Series. The day will come when the Commissioner of Baseball will have to make a decision about the gender barrier. Maybe not for Mone (because she wants to play basketball), but for someone who will have already had to fight their university for a spot on that team.

Or the day when someone suffers a fatal head injury when the ball they threw comes back to them much faster than when they threw it. Or the part where athletes need to have a backup plan in case they never make it to The Show, because most of them won't. And many other things that baseball must come to grips with if it hopes to continue and stay in the national consciousness in the next century.
silveradept: Domo-kun, wearing glass and a blue suit with a white shirt and red tie, sitting at a table. (Domokun Anchor)
[This is part of a series exploring the Baseball Tarot. If you would like to prompt for a part of the game or a card from the deck, there's still plenty of space. Leave a comment with a prompt. All other comments are still welcome, of course.]

Having explored some of the building blocks of offense [Walks, Singles, and Steals], there are many ways in which those three elements can be combined to start or sustain a rally and generate runs. Patient players that may not be the best of hitters or runners can be links in the chain by drawing walks and allowing more powerful hitters to get a chance to bat them in. Fast players can take bases by themselves in steals, extra bases on singles by running hard, and their presence on the base paths can be enough of a distraction so that the pitcher serves up much more easily hittable balls than he would otherwise. Hitters with good sight and positioning can scatter balls around where the fielders aren't (or force the pitcher to throw many more pitches than normal by continually hitting questionable pitches into foul territory, which will not generate an out so long as the fielders cannot catch those foul balls before they touch the ground.) and force a pitcher to either give them a good hittable ball or to accumulate enough balls to draw a walk if their own.

Eventually, intrepid players and managers start finding ways to combine those blocks for greater results. Thus was born the hit-and-run. At it's core, the hit-and-run combines the elements of a single (hitting successfully and safely) with that of the steal (by setting a runner in motion during the delivery of the pitch), with the optimal result being that the runners can collect additional bases or score runs off a single that they would otherwise not be able to do. A successful hit-and-run turns a relatively safe situation of one runner on first base into a highly dangerous situation of a runner on first base and on third, easily able to be scored, even if the defense records an out (or two) on the next batter.

That said, the hit-and-run is a high-risk, high-reward affair. There are many possible failure points along the way. If the hitter misses the pitch, it's a steal, with all the risks associated with that. If the hitter hits, but right at an infielder, the defense records a double play very easily (as any ball caught in the air by the defense requires the runner to return to the last base safely reached before trying to advance). An outfield hit that's caught can also mean the double play, but most likely results in the runner retreating, nothing gained and one out less to try again with. A ground ball to an infielder could still result in a double play anyway, even with the advantage gained by starting early.

So, the hit-and-run tends to come on situations that favor the hitters. These are usually pitches where there are zero or one strike against the batter and two or three balls against the pitcher. The pitcher needs to throw a strike, and they may put the pitch in a place where it will definitely be a called strike, instead of the maybe-yes, maybe-no that hanging around the corners of the strike zone that normally goes on. That pitch is one the batter should be more able to hit, so that would be a possible time to go with the hit-and-run. It won't happen every time, as being predictable is an easy way to lose your baseball game, but managers and coaches and those who study the enormous amount of statistical data that baseball games generate have ideas when it would be good to run out a tactic such as this. Both generally, and within the scenario of the game, the statistics and the feel of the game contribute a lot to the decisions being made from pitch to pitch.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

The card I chose to pair with this is the Ace of Bats. The Aces in the Baseball Tarot Deck are about beginnings, and the hit-and-run is usually employed as a device to get something started, to kickstart the offense into a rally, or to put runners in scoring position (where a single could reasonably be expected to generate a run), or to deny the defense a double-play ball, or to try and energize the players (or home fans) so that they change the dynamic of feelings for the team to get them back into the game mentally.


silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
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