Guide to Becoming an MLB Fanatic
Home run! Strike out! Have you heard these phrases screamed in celebratory fashion, but don’t actually know what they mean? You’ve seen baseball games on TV and heard friends and family talk about “RBIs,” but the idea of learning about the sport seems a little daunting. Fear not, we’re here to help you make sense of the differences between “foul” and “fair” – and everything else baseball related – with our Guide to Becoming an MLB Fanatic.
Top of the Order
Older than the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, or the National Hockey League, the MLB reigns as the oldest professional team sport in America. Each year, 30 Major League Baseball (MLB) teams compete in a 162-game season for the chance to go to the playoffs, and hopefully, win the World Series. These 30 teams are broken evenly into two leagues – American and National – and each league has three divisions.
In both the American and National leagues, the division winners (the teams with the most wins at the end of the season) and one wild card team (determined by a single-elimination playoff game between the two teams with the best records who are not division winners) start the post-season in a best-of-five game series. The winners then progress to a best-of-seven League Championship Series. This all leads up to the World Series, where the winning team gets bragging rights and immortality if they emerge victorious!
At the Plate
Baseball games are broken up into nine innings. There’s a top of the inning, where the visiting team has the opportunity to try and score runs (at-bat), and a bottom of the inning, where the home team gets their turn. Each half-inning concludes when the team on the field (not at-bat) records three outs. Outs can be recorded in several ways, but the most common are when a hitter either strikes out or hits the ball directly to a player in the field and they catch it.
Sometimes, if the game is tied at the end of nine innings, extra innings are required. If that happens, the game will continue until a winner is determined. The winner, either in nine innings or extra innings, is the team with the most runs. Runs are earned when a player progresses to the first, second, and third base before returning to home plate.
It’s the job of the team on the field to help make sure this doesn’t happen. They do this by either striking out the batter, or by tagging him out. Tagging a player out occurs when a runner is touched by a player’s glove that contains the ball before they’ve reached the next base or home plate. Baserunners can also get an out if a fielding player, with the ball, beats them to a plate that they are forced to run toward.
There are nine positions on the baseball field, and each position is associated with a number (for scoring purposes). Here are the positions, and some examples of key players in each role (these are the guys whose jerseys you’ll want to pick up from Fanatics.com!).
- Pitchers (1): Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers; David Price, Boston Red Sox
- Catchers (2): Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants; Brian McCann, New York Yankees
- First Base (3): Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers; Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
- Second Base (4): Robinson Canó, Seattle Mariners; Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox
- Third Base (5): Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles; Adrián Beltré, Texas Rangers
- Short Stop (6): Carlos Correa, Houston Astros; Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays
- Left Field (7): Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals; Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers
- Center Field (8): Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
- Right Field (9): Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins; Jason Heyward, Chicago Cubs
In the American League, there’s also a position called the DH – Designated Hitter. This person bats in place of the pitcher throughout the rotation. The most well-known DH today would be David Ortiz, who plays for the Boston Red Sox (make sure to see him play soon, though, as he’s retiring at the end of the 2016 season).
Chasing the Pennant
Below, our recommendation for a few teams you should be watching:
- Chicago Cubs: Owning the mantle for most tortured franchise, the Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. However, with great pitching, hitting, and coaching, the Cubs have the city of Chicago believing that this will be the year they break the curse.
- San Francisco Giants: Having won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014, the Giants are on a roll. If they can stay healthy (which hasn’t always been their strong suit), perhaps they can add another World Series win in 2016.
- Baltimore Orioles: With possibly the best young player on any current baseball roster, (Manny Machado, age 24), the “Birds” are currently flying high. There is a lot for fans to be excited about, and the Orioles are hoping their team makes it to the World Series this year.
Now that you know about innings, the types of players on the field, the star athletes in every position, and even some teams worth checking out, you are ready to emerge as a baseball fan. So grab that foam finger, get ready for peanuts and Cracker Jack, and get yourself out to the ball game. But before you do, get the best official MLB merchandise and apparel from Fanatics.com; it’s a home run!