There’s probably more things in baseball connected to the “umpire’s count”, than anything else. Its extremely important to pitchers because it has a lot to do with what pitch they’ll choose to throw. And as important as it is to pitching, it may be even more important to hitting. It has a lot to do with base running too, and make no mistake, defensively players pay a lot of attention to it as well.
The counts are also one of the most recognized sports icons too, and I’d venture a guess that most people in this country know them. And each count has its own “tale” too, plus every “tale” is different, which is why people are always asking what the count is. They want to know because it allows them to make an informed guess as to what’s going to happen on the next pitch.
There are 11 different umpire’s counts.
But there are 4 counts which are just a bit more “special” than any of the others because their “tale” can change. Yup. Those pesky 2 strike counts can fake you out if you’re not paying attention.
FI, let’s say you’re one of those crafty old coaches always lookin’ for an edge, so you track the tendencies of your opponents. In doing that, you find the opposing coach, who calls the pitches, TENDS to call a big breaking pitch on 0-2 counts. So, you tell your hitters to look for that pitch when the count’s 0-2, to improve their odds of not making a mistake.
In general I’d say that was an excellent thing to do, and for sure it would be if it was the 3rd pitch coming. But the fly in the ointment is, it could be the 3rd pitch, but it doesn’t have to be because of foul balls. What happens is, if the 3rd pitch, a big breaking ball is fouled off, the chances the 4th will be another one are less. And if it was, the chances of the 5th being the same thing is even less. So really, at some point in time, guessing at what to look for based on past tendencies, could actually be a detriment.
And not only can that same thing could happen on any of the 2 strike umpire counts, for the 2 strike counts that have balls in them, the 1-2, 2-2, and 3-2 counts can come about in different ways. FI, a 1-2 count could have been BSS, SBS, SSB, BSSS, SSBS, SBSS, BSSSS, SBSS, SSSBS, SSSSB, and it goes on and on, and in each different case, the next pitch becomes less predictable. But that’s one of the great things about the game! Coaches and players who understand that and allow for it, are really doing themselves and everyone on their team a favor.
But the question in my mind is, how many people actually consciously think about that? I know in my role as an SK, there isn’t a game that goes by where some batter hasn’t fouled off a 2 strike pitch, but the “chatter” from the other players, coaches, and fans doesn’t change! They’re telling the batter to look curveball in the dirt or something like it on 0-2, whether it’s the 3rd pitch or the 10th!
But how about the coach who’s tracked all those tendencies? Do you suppose he’s broken the tendencies down what pitch it is in sequence, or by the umpire’s count?