For the uninitiated, baseball can be a frustratingly complicated game, especially when the main premise of hitting a ball and trying to score runs seems so simple. There are tactical nuances that can make the game hard to follow and much more complex, leaving new fans unsure about how to interpret what they’re watching.

Below is a brief overview of the game to help you follow it as a spectator and even participate in it yourself. We also explain how to read statistics so that you can understand what makes a good player. Here’s everything you need to know to understand baseball.

The Rules

A game of baseball is played between 2 teams of 9 players. The game lasts for 9 innings, with each team alternating between batting and fielding in each inning. To win a game, you need to score runs, and that’s done by hitting a ball and running round four bases without being caught or run out. The runs earned in each inning is added in a cumulative total, with the winner being the team with the most points.

Each team has three outs per inning. An out is when a batter is struck out by not being able to hit a ball after three consecutive throws, or when a ball is caught after being hit without bouncing. They can also be out when players guarding a base stumps the ball on the ground when the batter is between bases or when a fielder tags a batter as they run.

When batting, there’s also a thing known as a home run. This occurs when the batter hits a ball so far that it leaves the playing field. When this happens, the batter is free to run round all the bases to collect a run. This also means that any batters camped on a base can also earn a run, meaning that a very effective strategy is to load up all the bases with a batter and try to get a homerun, as this means you’ll earn four points off one ball.

When fielding, there are defined positions that need to be adhered to. There’s the pitcher who throws the ball at the batter, a catcher who stands behind the batter to catch strikes and throw to a base. Then there’s basemen on first, second and third base to tag runners and catch balls, three outfield players left field, center field and right field, and a shortstop, who positions himself between the third and second base and operates as the captain on field.

Statistics

For a greater understanding of the game, it’s a good idea to learn how to read baseball stats. Doing this can give you deeper insight into who’s good in the sport and what their best skillset is. This can help you identify quality players but can also inform you on what stats are most important depending on position.

In fact, stats have proven to be very important as demonstrated by the Oakland A’s and their ability to build a cheaper team in 2002 that won 20 games in a row. This is a record, thanks to smart statistical analysis to help them get great, undervalued players. Some of the key stats include a player’s batting average, their amount of home runs, runs scored and strikeouts.

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