Baseball’s 4:3 Ratio

Baseball’s spring training season in Florida and Arizona got started with the preseason, exhibition games over the weekend so a lot of people are excited about baseball coming back. As it signals that winter will soon abate and that spring will soon be here.

Eric Chesterson posted a cool historical explainer on the evolution of baseball’s rules and the development of the four balls–to–three strikes ratio at the plate.

1889 was the year the league finally found the right balance. The threshold for a walk was lowered to four balls — and the three strike/four ball standard would remain in place up through the current day. Batting averages and run scoring immediately rebounded to previous levels.

When I was around six or seven years old and first learning the rules of baseball, probably at my dad’s side while watching a game on television, I remember forming an immediate opinion about the ratio of four balls–to–three strikes. To my young brain, it seemed fair, logical, or perhaps even moral that it should be harder to get a “free pass” than it was to strike out. Not much harder…just a little bit: four balls to three strikes.

I didn’t realize it had such a long complex history, but then again just about everything around has a long complex history. It’s just that we often do not know it.

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