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3/25/2024

COLLGE FOOTBALL IS A SPECIAL TYPE OF BUSINESS OVERVIEW AND SYNOPSIS: We all realize that based on revenues, costs and exposure, college football has long been a big business. What has been less obvious is how it has differed from the free enterprise model of competition in the marketplace that we typically envision when we think about big business. Recent changes in the method of revenue generation from conference television contracts and player compensation from name, image and likeness (NIL) sales are converting the game to the free enterprise model and that is causing great disruption.

 

To almost everyone, myself included, these changes are for the worse. Unlike in conventional business competition, sports leagues, including the professional ones, need to have competitive balance and to preserve, not eliminate, competitors. On the other hand, in free enterprise, you want the best to flourish while the “losers” may fall by the wayside and go out of business. Unfortunately, that is what is happening to college football now and it does not produce a more likable product for fans. Major league baseball and pro football have already realized this in their sports and have taken steps to preserve, not eliminate, competition. College football could benefit from following their lead.

 

WHAT COLLEGE FOOTBALL HAS BEEN:

 

Historically, college football possessed several features crucial to its success that made it different from a free enterprise business. Some of the key ones are: 

 

Rules were made to preserve competitive balance. One was to limit the number of players on scholarship. Another was to pay them all the same, that is, to cover their expenses but not to provide income. The fact that tuition expense varied widely among schools was not a competitive problem because all football players had the same economic outcome. They all had no income but also no expenses, so money wasn't a reason to pick a school. That was a terrific solution to preserving a workable form of competitive balance. (I am not addressing underthe-table payments.) 

 

Conferences generated money, big money, from contracts with television. While these contracts now vary widely in value by league (see Florida State and the ACC), historically they were closer together in value and not an open source of competition and envy. Furthermore, the revenues are typically distributed evenly among conference members. Television revenues historically were not a significant motivation to wish to change leagues.  For players, transferring to a different school was significantly (and intentionally) curtailed. Players electing to change programs had to sit out a year. Almost everyone stayed where they began, for better or for worse. This wasn't good for players but it was excellent for coaches. It is my impression that fans have historically liked the idea of “loyalty,” even if it were, to a significant extent, forced.  With money being equal everywhere for players, some of the reasons to choose which scholarship offer to accept were how much and how soon one would get to play, who the coach was, how often they were on television and where the school was located. Current choices by players demonstrate that tradition and loyalty are not on that list, despite their importance to fans.

 

WHAT HAS CHANGED:

 

There are two major changes that are leading to free enterprise behavior and to the destruction of historical competitive balance: 1) Players now receive NIL payments in greatly differentiated amounts that are now the biggest deciding factor in where they want to play (as in much of American behavior, the explanation is to “follow the money.”); and, 2) Television league contract values now vary greatly between conferences and are a compelling reason for schools to change conference affiliation, destroying regional loyalties, leagues and traditional rivalries that are so valued by fans. It should be noted that NIL money is paid by boosters, not universities, and has no limitations. A player's NIL money, like all prices in a free enterprise system, is valued at what the market will bear.

 

What is so important about these changes? First, schools with more money can now buy better resources (players) in the market place – at market price. That means the team (actually, its boosters) that has the greatest capacity to pay will corner the market. This will produce much greater disparity than in the past. Those schools at this time are known to be Michigan, Ohio State, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Phil Knight (oops! I meant Oregon). SMU is said to be likely to join the crowd. I don't know the status of Penn State or Notre Dame. Clearly, the rich schools all have bright futures.

 

Worse yet, in fact, much worse yet, because transfer rules have been relaxed (a player no longer has to sit out at all if changing schools), the acquisition of all players now occurs anew every single season! Not only are high school seniors being recruited, so is every single existing player at every single school! Every player, everywhere, is looking every season at his new best opportunity. The result is a consolidation of the elite players at the top few schools and chaos for everyone else, including fans. If you are a fan of one of the teams listed above, this is good news. For everyone else, not at all.

 

WHAT COULD OR SHOULD BE DONE NOW:

 

Measures need to be taken to greatly reduce or eliminate purchasing power differences. Two potentially effective solutions would be to: 1) Pay the players, but pay them equally; and, 2) to combine all television money into one pot for all of college football, not individual conferences, and to distribute shares equally throughout. These are, admittedly, aspirational goals that require not only effective cooperation that can't be counted on from the privileged few plus legal maneuvering concerning anti-trust and labor laws that go beyond the score of this paper. Whether there is sufficient enthusiasm among the participants to make this happen remains to be seen but I believe those solutions could be made to work if the decision makers wanted to have them implemented.

 

Certainly, so far it has been a steady slide into catastrophe. I feel that where college football is headed will soon - very soon – leave it with a very greatly reduced fan base and that the people now profiting will be forced to find solutions to outcomes of their own doing.

 

Is there a reason to be optimistic that solutions will be found? Yes, there is. Both pro baseball and pro football were faced with similar challenges in the past. When confronted with possible impending doom, they found ways to limit the true pursuit of free agents and to suppress truly different abilities-to-pay among franchises. (See revenue sharing and salary caps.) At the player freedom level, they found ways to impose effective constraints. For television, they chose to divide the substantial revenues provided in equal dollops among them. I see variations of these responses coming to college football out of a combination of common sense and necessity – and hopefully sooner rather than later

Feb 23, 2024

More From the Good Doctor - Doc Balfour.

BACK SPIN, TOP SPIN, SIDE SPIN, NO SPIN HOW A BALL FLIES AND BOUNCES IN SPORTS [Boy, that top line sounds like Dr. Seuss, doesn't it?] A great number of sports use a ball. That ball may be hit, kicked or thrown but in all cases, it will spin. The ball will vary in size and hardness by sport, but with the exception of football and rugby, all sports balls that I can think of are spherical. I guess that is what defines it as a “ball.” Technically, even footballs and rugby balls are defined as “oblate spheroids.” (Did you already know that?)

 

To strike a ball, a player typically uses a racket, club, bat or foot. By definition, all throws are made by hand. In baseball/softball you may want to curve it; in football, the goal is to throw a spiral. The spin a ball takes affects both how it flies and how it bounces, or in bowling, how it rolls. The larger the ball, all other things being equal, the more it can be spun – or will spin itself even if you didn't intend it to. That probably comes as a surprise to golfers who hit a small ball that still spins too much – unless you are an expert. I am told this is because a larger surface creates more resistance from air. Softballs, being larger, curve more than baseballs, particularly fly balls. Roughness on the surface such as seams on a baseball or dimples on a golf ball create additional resistance and spin, thereby allowing better opportunities for skilled players to bend it intentionally. Spin is important both when you are impacting the ball and when you are chasing it. It largely determines whether a ball rises or falls, flies straight or bounces straight or curves in some manner, either in the air or on the ground. Good athletes control spin; poor ones are victims of it.

 

An opening observation from physics: A ball tends to travel in the direction it is spinning. There are other factors that also matter, but spin always contributes in some amount to direction. There are four ways it can go: up, down, left or right. These correspond to back spin, top spin, or side spin. For right-handed golfers, the spin to the left is a draw or hook, depending on its size. To the right, it is a fade or a slice. It is also possible, although very uncommon, to hit a ball so dead solid perfectly that it does not spin at all. That is the “no spin” example. When this happens in softball, the hit either sails straight or knuckles and flutters in flight. When ball players see one of these rare events, we typically giggle in admiration.

 

Second observation from physics: The spin imparted is typically opposite the direction the bat, club, racket or, I presume, foot (I don't play soccer) was traveling. For instance, in golf, where the effects are most obvious, hitting down on the back of the ball generates back spin lift and causes the ball to go up; hitting above the center of the ball with your club rising will impart top spin and cause it to dive (almost always an undesired outcome); cutting across it toward yourself will cause the ball to spin away from you and hitting out at it will cause it to spin back toward you. In theory, there must be a straight hit and straight shot, but mortals know little about this. When the legendary Ben Hogan was asked if he could curve the ball on request, he is said to have replied, “Why would I want to? If you can hit it straight, you won't need to.” That is from a world with which lay people are unfamiliar.

 

Spin can either be your friend or your enemy, depending upon whether or not you can control it. For touring pro golfers, spin is a weapon to create results; for hackers, it is more like a weapon of mass destruction. Good tennis players can make weaker tennis players look really bad without blatantly overpowering them – personally I know that I have been embarrassed more by controlled spin than by power.

 

In baseball, power hitters may attempt to generate distance by hitting just below the center of the ball while cutting down slightly, thereby generating back spin to increase lift and carry. On the other hand, the arguably greatest non-power hitter in softball history, Lou DiMarini, recommended the exact opposite technique. He took a slight uppercut while hitting just above the center of the ball, causing it to rise above the infielders as it came off the bat before the dramatic top spin took over and caused it to plunge down sharply and bounce in front of the outfielders for a clean hit.

 

I have tried both of these methods and, back when I could still hit a little, discovered that what worked best for me was what every boy my age was taught: try to swing level and try to hit the middle of the ball. For most of us, hitting off-center intentionally is almost impossible to accomplish and hitting on center is also almost impossible to accomplish. What we routinely do is hit off-center unintentionally. I have discovered, and you probably have, too, that you have to be very good at a sport to make spin work for you. So, does this qualify me to be a “Spin Doctor".

10/30/2023

SOFTBALL BAT SELECTION

 

A lot can go into selecting a bat for men's age-group slow-pitch softball. A choice can be forced upon you because you broke your bat (or it is almost ready to break) or you can choose to try to “upgrade” your performance with “better” equipment. In essence, you will try to buy improvement. I used to resist trying to buy improved performance through technology rather than through skill improvement. Unfortunately for me, no one else did and I soon figured out I was going into a gun fight with a knife. I jumped on board.

 

Regardless of your motivation, you are looking for a replacement bat. For this, there are two markets: new and used. While the most recently created bat may have some feature that the older one does not, the reasons to choose a particular bat remain pretty much the same: Weight, balanced or end-loaded or, as I call it, “unbalanced” weight distribution; single- or two-piece barrel and grip size. And, of course, my criterion: Does its color complement my uniform shirt?

 

When I think about the culture of bat acquisition, two homilies come to mind: 1) As we used to say when I lived in Oklahoma, “It ain't the arrow; it's the Indian;” and, 2) In golf, “a good putter can putt with anything; a bad putter has a garage full of them.” In short, many of us spend a lot of time and attention and maybe money on trying to marginally improve a small part of our input. Let me explain:

 

First, I am not a trained engineer. If you are professionally knowledgeable about this, feel free to improve this analysis. It seems to me that there are four components determining how well a ball flies off your bat: 1) The speed of your bat at contact; 2) How square the contact you made was; 3) The quality of the ball; and 4) The quality of the bat. I will grant that worn out softballs do not fly as well; bats are trickier to assess. From what I understand, bats do vary in liveliness over the course of their lifetime and that they are their liveliest just before they break.

 

So bat variance does exist, at least, based on use. Note that the difference should not exist at the time of manufacture. In fact, according to certification rules, it is not allowed to exist. Understandably, variance occurs as a bat gets “broken in.” As I understand it, bat performance factor (BPF) is supposed to regulate how lively a new bat can be for safety and fair competition. Yet, manufacturers continue to promote their newer “hotter” models. How is that possible? How is it legal? How is it allowed? Is it real? Wow! That last one is a hard one!

 

How can you tell if a new, or new to you, bat is better than the one you are using? You audition it. You swing it. Then you assess whether you think it worked better. This is where science typically takes a real beating. If there are clearly better results – and they may not exist at all or exist more in your mind than on the field – you have to ask why the outcome is different. Presuming the improvement is real and not just in your imagination, you have to ask why it occurred. There are two possibilities: 1) the bat really is better; or, 2) You swung it better during that tryout. I'm guessing this happens more often than that the bats are significantly different – and I am not ruling out that overly optimistic assessment occurs a lot.

 

Again, this is not real science with measured results. I am merely reporting my impressions. It seems to me that maybe 50% of the result depends on the contact that you made. Maybe another 48% depends upon the speed of your bat at contact. That leaves 2% of the variance to the quality of the ball and the bat. Let's give them 1% each. See where I am going here? We are working hard to maybe improve some portion of 1% of our overall performance. Clearly, improving our swing for speed and contact would be better potential investments. If I knew the answer for how to do this, I would take my own advice and do better myself. So I see why we are working on bat selection. But let's recognize it for what it is: It is like shopping for a modern new car. With laserguided robots doing the assembly, all cars are good now. They all work as they are supposed to. In fact, I think Kia has the highest quality ratings, but the difference between their cars and #16, Mercedes Benz, is genuine but minuscule. They are all good now. I'm guessing that the same goes for bats. I say, take the one that goes with your shirt color

6/12/2022

More from the Good Doctor.

Folks,

 

I have attached an ongoing file I am compiling of ironic little insights I have experienced.  It is titled in aggregate, "Miscellaneous Stories to Tell, Part II".  I do not know technologically how to parcel out portions of it so I have included the whole thing.  Some of you have already seen the first two essays, "How I Got My Last Name" and "How I Got My First Name"  The new portion to read if you have already seen the others is "My Friend Bob's Name".  I hope you enjoy it.

 

Alan

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12/14/2022

More From the Good Doctor - Doc Balfour.

HITTING A BALL: IT MATTERS WHAT KIND IT IS

 

One of life's greatest mysteries explained! How can it possibly be harder to hit a golf ball that is standing still than a softball that is moving? Well, obviously the golf ball is smaller, but beyond that, what else might be going on? It isn't like we swing at the smaller ball and miss it entirely. It is more like we swing at it differently every time. I play softball and try to play golf. I suppose many of you do also. I am stunned by how much I “have the games on backward”. In softball, where it is valuable to be able to hit the ball in all directions, I hit it straight to left field every time unless I try hard not to. In golf, where I want to hit it only straight forward, I hit it all over the course and sometimes off it. Left field and a fairway are about the same width. Softballs, which I wish to spray around, I hit straight with consistency. Golf shots, which I want to hit only straight, I spray around – maddeningly. If I could switch the way I hit, I would be better in both sports. So, what gives? Why can't I hit a ball that doesn't move as squarely as I hit one that does? After all, it should be harder to do. I have come up with a premise. I tested it on a fellow hack golfer who is a very good tennis player. He says my premise would appear to be suitable to tennis as well. Here's my observation: The swings are very different in purpose. In golf, one aims at a precise, pre-selected spot. Ideally, the swing is the same every time. (I said ideally.) In softball (and tennis and racquetball, too, for that matter), the purpose is very different. The bat is directed to a location that is constantly changing and, worse yet, must arrive not only in the precise location but also at precisely the right moment. That has to be harder, doesn't it? So, why can I hit a softball square 80% of the time (my estimate) and a golf ball only 20% of the time (the estimate of my partners in betting games)? I speculate it is because in softball I am adjusting my swing to the circumstance and relying on athleticism, rather than trying to repeat a preconceived swing which is a product of preparation and thought. In short, it appears I react better than I think. You may, tooI'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

SEVEN QUALITY STANDARDS TO ASPIRE TO FOR SOFTBALL PLAYERS

 

If one were managing a competitive softball team and had the luxury of asking for “everything”, this is what I think should be on the list. Some of this is blatantly obvious; some not so much. For anyone striving for excellence, the physical skills are probably limited now but the four attitude standards are available to all who wish to be their best.

 

QUALITY #1:

HITTING ABILITY The most important contributor to run scoring is on-base percentage. The higher the better. Home runs are also highly valuable – but not as highly as many people estimate. If the alternative to a home run is a fly out, there had better be a lot of homers to overcome that. On an excellent team where everyone in the lineup is a good hitter, avoiding outs is the key to success. Everyone will score eventually, just not as soon as on a home run. Extra-base power is also, of course, of high value, but nothing is more important than out avoidance. In age-group, power is less relevant.

 

QUALITY #2:

FIELDING Similarly to hitting, the most important quality here is making the plays one should. If you can also steal some hits, that is great but the most important factor in run prevention is avoiding giving the opponent extra outs. Similarly, a strong throwing arm is impressive but only if it is accurate. Wild throws are a bane to good defense. Speed and arm strength are great to have but are “luxuries” while turning the outs one should get is a “necessity”. On highly talented teams, versatility is also a valued quality.

QUALITY #3:

BASERUNNING Excellent teams may require everyone to be able to run the bases. Faster is better but that is not all there is to it. It also helps to have runners who know how to achieve the shortest route between bases, how to round a base and keep options alive and how to advance when the ball gets away. These skills are not as widespread as one might hope and they can make a significant difference.

 

QUALITY #4:

SOFTBALL INTELLIGENCE Softball (and baseball) is checkers, not chess. Strategy is remarkably simple. Smart play should be demanded from every player, all the time. This standard is seldom met in practice. Players should know that the number of outs has an influence on whether to try to get to third or to score and when to throw the ball and when to hold it. It isn't just a matter of whether one can throw it that far. Also, sometimes things don't turn out as planned and adjustments have to be made on the fly. Some players are good at this; others are not. Those that are good are known as “heads-up” ballplayers. They probably exhibited that quality at age 12. It may be impossible to develop it after that. It is better to recruit for it. QUALITY

 

#5: EFFORT AND INTENSITY

Good players play hard every moment they are between the lines. They are labeled “hard-nosed ballplayers”. They don't loaf on the bases and they run their hits out, regardless of whether they they think they might be out. They back up teammates when they should, even if it requires effort. This quality is often referred to as “hustle”. In reality, it might not make the greatest difference in outcome but it does reflect classiness. Also, I believe one should always play hard, regardless of the score – and that applies both to being far ahead as well as far behind.

 

QUALITY #6:

SPORTSMANSHIP AND CLASS: I realize that not everyone agrees with me that this is important, but I am adamant about it. I object to arguing with umpires or starting fights with the other team – or even your own teammates. Good plays should be acknowledged and good sportsmanship exhibited at all times. It is the right way to behave. It is an aspect of having “class”. I believe that shucking, jiving and lollygagging are evidence of a lack of class. Nothing is worse than standing at the plate and not running out a batted ball.

 

QUALITY #7:

BEING A GOOD TEAMMATE This one is not always specified but it should be if you have the luxury of taking only “complete” ball players. Bad teammates are bad for everyone. They certainly affect fun negatively and may affect performance. No one should ever blame or show up a teammate who tried. Pitchers hanging their heads after errors are the type of example I have in mind. Sulking and giving up are on this list, too. Teammates should be a support, not a threat

12/23/2022

 

ISOFTBALL SMARTS

 

The Brandon Senior Softball Association players exhibit a wide range in skills – and in smarts, too. And being good in one doesn't necessarily mean you are good in the other. You would think being smart in softball wouldn't be hard. Analytically, softball is to football, basketball and hockey what checkers is to chess. Almost all action is individually oriented. Only one player on offense is busy (the batter) while the others sit on a bench, not aiding in any way. In the other sports, teammates have responsibility for blocking, screening, checking, etc. for the guy with the rock. In softball, only the defender that the ball comes to is busy. In the other sports, everyone is either converging or guarding a spot at every moment. There really is comparatively little to know in softball. But, for what you do have to know, you had to learn it somewhere and just playing at the game is a poor way to produce it. Systematic instruction is much better (didn't that sound like a retired professor?) and not enough of us have had that opportunity. Actually, although the term “smarts” is universally used throughout the sport, that label isn't really the right word for what I am talking about. There is a difference between intelligence (“smarts”) and knowledge. Here, I am talking about knowledge of softball strategy and the rules. It has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with awareness. Recently, I saw an accomplished left fielder not attempt to throw a runner out at home who had tagged up on a caught foul fly ball. The outfielder said he wasn't aware that tagging up on a foul was allowed. (It is.) Knowing the rules – and what to do in general – is often a product of the coaching one has had the opportunity to receive. I doubt that it much of it comes from sitting down and reading the rule book. I had the privilege of learning smart softball from my father, who was terrifically “old school” and my high school varsity coach who played 12 years in the majors. The team listened to what he told us about how to behave and he had a lot to say about it as well as trying to develop our skills. One of my favorite takeaways? “Never step on a chalk line. If you are not superstitious, you are not a ball player”. None of us ever stepped on a chalk line. In that era, we were trying to learn from our elders rather than to rebel against authority. Interestingly, my college varsity coach knew less about baseball than I did, although he was a very good football coach. Here are some tips I have accumulated over the years on how to “play smart”. None of them is original with me. They are all conventional baseball wisdom.

 

CALLING FOR FLY BALLS:

 

This is important for both safety and success. If you know that you can clearly get to a fly ball, call for it. Yell out loudly and decisively, “I've got it!”. This applies to both the infield and the outfield. We actually practiced this in high school. This is not a time to be polite. It is a time to be authoritative, regardless of whether that fits your personality away from the field. On the field, take charge when you should. Of greatest concern is possible collisions and, to a very significant amount, deflections. Just watch us warm up some time and see how many players deflect a ball that someone else was ready to catch. The rebound can go into the face of somebody. That outcome is often painful, sometime dangerous, always ineffective and could be made avoidable. And I haven't even mentioned that confusion and competing for a ball almost always result in it being missed. Here's how to handle it: If someone calls for a ball, get out of his way. I don't care if it should have been your ball. If so, you should have called for it. If both of you call for it, the first one to change the words to, “No, it's mine!”, takes it and the other yields and immediately and completely. I learned that from my major league veteran coach and it works. If you think your teammate is “hogging the ball”, you can talk about that at a more convenient time.

 

COACHING THIRD:

 

The third base coach in the BSSA has two big responsibilities: calling foul balls and deciding whether to send runners home. At Dover, your biggest responsibility is probably calling the foul line. I can't help anyone see straighter (myself included) but it helps to know the rules. Here is what everyone needs to know: It matters whether the ball hits the ground before it reaches third (or first) base. If it flies into the outfield, where it hits (not stops) determines whether it is fair or foul. If it is outside the line when it hits, it is foul. If it hits the line it is fair. I know, it should be called the “fair line”. Where it rolls from there is irrelevant. The ball is in play. Ground balls in the infield are more complex. In the easiest case, if a ball rolls dead on the foul line short of third or first, it is fair. If it hits fair in the infield, bounces over the base fair and lands foul in the outfield, it is fair. If it hits fair originally but bounces over the base in foul territory, it is foul. It may be in the air when it passes over the bag. If it originally hits foul in the infield, it is not officially foul until it stops or it is touched. A ball that rolls back into play is fair. Any batted ball that hits the base is fair. Deciding whether to send a runner home depends on two factors: the ability of the players and the situation for outs and score. Obviously, you have two determinations to make. First, you have to estimate the certainty of whether the runner will make it home safely and; second, whether it is worth the risk to take that chance. The runner's speed, the thrower's arm and the catcher's ability all factor into the physical equation. Conventional wisdom cannot help you with that calculation. It is situational analysis that requires softball smarts. Sometimes taking a chance is the right choice; sometimes it is not. A good third base coach knows the difference. Here are the rules of thumb:  Never make the first out at home. Always hold the runner if there is ANY chance he might be out. Don't send him because you think he CAN make it; only send him if you know he WILL make it.  Making the second out at home is not really a good idea, either, but with two outs, always send the runner home if his chance of making it is higher than the upcoming batter's likelihood of getting a hit. (Let that sink in for a moment.) That means it is sometimes the correct decision to send a runner home that you expect will be thrown out! Really! For an example from baseball, you should send a runner home who his 60% likely to be thrown out (that means he is more likely to be out than safe) even with Ted Williams coming up next! Why? If Williams had a .350 batting average, he only had a 35% chance of getting him in. Your runner had a 40% chance on his own. That was the better choice. So, yes, the decision to send the runner will more likely result in an out than in a run. But so would letting Williams bat, in fact, even more so, despite how great he was. In such a case, the likely out is still the better risk. This awareness takes a little getting used to.  If you are way behind, don't take ANY chances. Avoiding outs is more crucial to run generation than advancing bases. Any out at the plate when way behind is a serious gaffe.

 

ON-DECK BATTER'S RESPONSIBILITY:

 

The on-deck batter should be a coach at home for a runner trying to score. Let the runner know if there is a play being made and whether he needs to run his hardest all the way through the scoring line. A runner coming home should never be surprised to find out that that there is a play being made at the plate.

 

DOUBLED OFF BASE ON A CAUGHT LINE DRIVE:

 

This can happen in baseball because runners take lead offs and sometimes cannot get back safely in time. It should never happen in softball but happens so regularly at Dover that no one comments on it. The time to leave your base on a line drive is NOT when the ball is HIT. It is when the ball PASSES the last infielder that might be able to catch it. This is strictly a matter of awareness and self-discipline. I realize that many of us do not run as fast as we used to and sometimes we are forced out at the next base (even by outfielders), so we are anxious to get our earliest possible jump. However, that can't be before the ball clears. It is better to be forced out than to be doubled off. And I am giving runners the benefit of the doubt here that they were trying to beat a force play. More typically, they are merely impetuously foolish. A smart player does not let this happen to him.

 

TAGGING UP ON THIRD:

 

If you are on third with fewer than two outs, you have only one job to do on a fly ball. Stay glued to the base! There is no excuse for being even one step off. If the ball falls in or is dropped, you can amble home. If it is caught, even unexpectedly, you are in proper position to begin your full-speed run to the plate. The only way to screw this up is to be partway down the line when the ball is caught unexpectedly. Then you have to scurry back to third before turning around and heading for home if there is still a chance. How often have you seen it happen in Dover? (I don't really want to know.)

 

SCORING FROM THIRD ON A GROUND BALL WITH TWO OUTS:

 

I did not imagine this item would appear on the list but on two occasions in the last week, I saw a runner on third base not score on a ground ball on which the fielding team was unable to retire the batter. In both instances, the throw to first went awry but the runner on third was still there! If you are on third with two outs and the batter hits ANYTHING, you should run home. In both of the observed instances, the batter hit a ground ball to the third baseman who the runner feared might throw him out at the plate. While he might, he won't – or, at least, he shouldn't. He should throw to first for the force play for the third out and what the runner is doing is irrelevant. If he does throw home, the runner is not forced to continue and may return to third base if he hasn't crossed the commitment line. It is a poor third baseman that makes that choice.

 

ADVANCING ON THE BASES:

 

In our league, there are many opportunities for runners to advance on miscues getting the ball in from the outfield. The outfielder may let a batted ball elude him or the relay throw may be misplayed. In either instance, a base runner should not automatically stop at the expected base. Instead, he should round the base he is coming to (if a play isn't being made on him) and be in position to advance if something goes awry in the field. In fact, the runner should assume it will until it is confirmed that the defense has the situation under control. You will look “smart” if you advance when you can. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.

 

HITTING BEHIND THE RUNNERS:

 

Unlike the previous recommendations, this takes more than awareness and intention; it also requires skill and that may affect whether it should be attempted. With runners on first and second or bases loaded with less than two outs, it is strategically valuable to hit the ball to right field. It makes a double play on two of the leading runners more difficult to execute. A grounder to third in this situation is not a good investment for the batter. In the worst case, with no one out, a good third baseman will tag third for one out and throw home to complete a double play on the two leading runners. The batter, if he can, should try to avoid this bad possibility by hitting to right field, but this might present a trade off. If the batter is not as skilled hitting to right as to left, left might not necessarily be the wrong choice. If the batter is left-handed, hitting to left field in this situation is always the wrong choice.

 

I hope some of you found this informative and useful. “Doc” Balfour

 

4/20/2022

From the Good Doctor - Doc Balfour.

 

These materials are a compilation of what I have learned over a lifetime of baseball and softball. They are not just about me. They are about all of us. They are particularly about the world of age-group softball in which we all participate. They are about a trip we are all on together. I hope you will see some of yourself in what I report. It is not scientific. It is only my impression and opinion and is only wise to the extent that I am about softball. It contains my insights on talent evaluation, strategy and managerial philosophy and life in softball in general. Expert guest contributors have provided instruction on hitting, fielding and pitching. I hope you can identify with it, find it amusing in places and possibly even find parts of it useful. Comments are invited.

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