CHAPTER THREE

The Birth of the Modern Pitching Regime

DURING THE OFF - SEASON between 1892 and 1893 the major league owners approved a change in playing rules that created the modern pitching regime. In brief, the change moved the pitcher five feet farther from the batter, establishing the dimensions of the modern baseball diamond. But this rule change was far more than that cursory explanation suggests. To understand the impact of the new rule, we need to look abstractly at the game of baseball from the viewpoint of generic competition.

Baseball is a point game; that is to say, the side that scores the most points wins. In this respect it differs from competitions like racing, where the task is to cover a specified distance faster than your opponent, or chess, where victory goes to the competitor who manages to capture a specific board piece of the opponent. Unlike most point games, however and here the contrast with sports like basketball, football, and soccer is dramatic the ball with which baseball is played does not itself tally the points. Indeed, the ball is usually nowhere near the player who makes a point.

Baseball is also a station-to-station game, in which the side on the offense tries to advance its players through four successive stations, earninga point only when it successfully pushes a player to the fourth station. Each offensive player begins his attempt to make a circuit of the stations by usinga wooden club to try to hit balls thrown by one member of the defensive side. There are specified ways in which a hitter can be successful in trying to reach the first station (and thereby become a runner); and there are specified ways in which a runner can advance. When three

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