The “Big Leagues” Primer
Major League Baseball, founded in 1903 when the National League and American League joined forces, is the oldest major professional sports league in the US (and Canada – looking at you, Toronto Blue Jays). Today, MLB has 30 teams – 15 in both the American and National Leagues, whose winners square off in the World Series (nicknamed the ‘Fall Classic’). MLB plays the longest schedule of any major sport – 162 game season each year in addition to pre-season (Spring Training) and postseason action. Baseball is known as “America’s pastime” as a nod to its incredibly vast popularity in the US for centuries – creating a long and rich history of baseball (which we’ll show you in this overview!). The current era of MLB is full of extremely talented young players reviving the game on the heels of the Steroid era.
Teams and leagues
Difference between National and American Leagues – The ‘DH’ (Designated Hitter)
While the National League and American League became part of one unified league in 1903, MLB is rare in that the two leagues play a slightly different game. The difference:
The pitcher is a part of the regular lineup of 9 hitters and must take his ‘at bat’ to remain in the game. Typically pitchers are the worst hitters on a team so they bat last and are often substituted for, in favor of a better hitter off the bench. Pitchers hitting = fewer runs on average.
Pitchers do not hit. Each team can designate a hitter (the DH) to take the place of the pitcher in the lineup of 9.The DH is typically a strong hitter and/or a normal starter taking a lighter day of only hitting vs. playing defense as well. Designated hitters = More runs on average.
Players you need to know
OK, FINE… 3 MORE:
AND THESE GUYS TOO…
MLB IS FULL OF YOUNG TALENT. KEEP THESE 3 ON YOUR RADARS.
They’re the guys that, if baseball cards were still a thing, you’d stash their rookie cards for down the road:
Baseball’s history at a glance
Interesting storylines in Today’s Era
Playoff format: the Wild Card
A Wild Card is a team that makes the playoffs despite not winning its division (e.g., AL East). MLB added one Wild Card to each league in 1994 and then a second in 2012.
This caused an uneven number of teams to make the playoffs in each league, which MLB offset with a 1-game, sudden death playoff of the two Wild Card teams in each league for who will make the playoffs. It’s great TV, but settling a 162 game season over one game can cause for some drama and frustration with the system. Another impact this change had was giving more and more teams hope of making the playoffs, increasing the competitiveness over the final months of the season.
Speeding the game up
In a world where every team plays 162 games – and games average almost 3 hours in length – it’s not surprising there’s a push to speed things up.
MLB is experimenting with several ways to speed up games, including:
+Batters must keep one foot in the batter’s box (vs. stepping out each pitch to adjust batting gloves, helmet, etc.) throughout the at-bat – with some exceptions
+Time limit on the break between pitcher substitutions
+Limit of three “time outs” or conferences on the field during games
+Pitch clock of 20 seconds maximum until the pitcher must deliver the ball (in test phase)