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College V.S. The Pros: Doing the Small Things

As a baseball fan, there are certain things you take for granted. You expect a team to score a runner from third base with less than two outs, you expect your team to win when it is leading in the ninth, and you expect the routine plays to be made with relative ease. However, that is often not the case, as errors are made in almost every game. What distinguishes the college game from the pro game is how teams deal with those errors.

Take for example, Cornell’s games against Yale this weekend. In the first game, the Cornell shortstop made an error to start off the fourth inning. This rattled the pitcher, who gave up a single on the next play. On the next play, there was a mad scramble, and while two players were eventually tagged out, the runner who had originally reached base courtesy of an error scored because of a second error by the shortstop. The same was true for Yale. An error from Yale’s shortstop in the eighth  inning resulted in a run which once again rattled the pitcher as he gave up an RBI double the next batter. In this game, players scored runs because of pitcher errors.

This was even more marked in extra innings in the second game. The first Yale batter of the 10th inning reached on a passed ball strikeout. This ended up affected the entire team, and the third baseman threw away an attempted sacrifice bunt, and with runners in scoring position, Cornell looked set to strand the runners. However, when the second out was recorded via strikeout, the catcher did not look at the runner at third and threw to first to record the out, and the runner was able to rush home. Although there was not an error on the play, the catcher had a chance to tag the runner out but dropped the ball. In the college game, teams are not able to deal with errors.

Things are very different in the pro game. The perfect illustration of this is the matchup between the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals on April 11th. In the bottom of the second inning, the second baseman of the Braves made an error that left runners on first and second base with one out. The next batter grounded into an inning ending double play. In the top of the seventh inning, the second baseman of the Nationals made an error that resulted in runners on first and second with one out. If that sounds familiar, don’t be surprised to hear that the next batter grounded into an inning-ending double play. It is clear that in the pro game, pitchers tend to be more composed, and the team seems to improve its play after an error in order to pick up its teammate.

This trend continued in extra innings as well. After already falling behind 5-3 in the 12th inning, the Nationals pitcher threw a wild pitch that resulted in runners on second and third with only one out. Instead of letting this rattle him, the pitcher buckled down and struck out the next two batters he faced to strand the runners. Even when the fault was his own, even after giving up the lead in extra innings, the pitcher was able to refocus and make sure the damage did not get worse.

In the college game, all players, especially pitchers, can be affected by errors, often ending in costly mistakes that lead to runs. In contrast, at the professional level players seem intent on making sure errors and wild pitches don’t come back to haunt their teammates. Maybe it is a temperament thing, and potentially it does come down to nerves, but in order to win games, you have to either do the small things or make sure that when small things go wrong, you don’t let them affect you.


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