Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kickball Season 5: Mid-Season Report

It's time for a mid-season report of my 5th season of co-ed kickball!

We've played six games so far. It would have been eight, but two were rained out. I'd like to say that those games will be made up, but with Knightdale, you never know, really, especially if they want to do double elimination playoffs. Our record is 3-3...BUT, all of those losses were (I think) by one run. So, I think we've done pretty well! I have no idea what the other three teams' records are, but I think this is our best chance to win the league yet. That's not to say we're the favorite by any means; that just means we have about a one-in-four chance. But we also have a one-in-four chance of finishing in last, too; all three of the other teams in the league have beaten us once so far. A win tonight, in a rematch of a game that went to 10 innings, and we'll have beaten all three teams, too.

Really, it all comes down to how many people show up on each team. Any team in the league could beat anybody else if they have their full lineup. Of course, if they don't have their full lineup, then you may get a game like our 11-1 "mercy rule" win a couple of weeks back. (Yes, for the first time ever, we actually won a game by mercy rule and not the other way around! In the opponent's defense, they only had the minimum seven players that night, and it's really hard to play defense that way.)

The big change going into this season was the size of the strike zone. To illustrate:

The old strike zone was the entire box surrounding the plate. Meanwhile, the new strike zone is bounded by the lines on either side of the plate, which means it's now less than half as wide as it used to be. Some claim that I am the reason they narrowed the strike zone. Don't know if that's true or not, but I've just tried to adjust as best I can. And hey, it does give me something to talk about. (Speaking objectively, I think the old strike zone was too wide, but the new strike zone could stand to be a little wider than it is, in my view.)

With the new, smaller strike zone, I can still spin the ball like I always have and hit the strike zone, but it's obviously harder to do consistently. I've fallen behind in the count a lot, and when that happens I usually just try to throw the ball straight down the middle. But even that doesn't always work; it's best to throw those straight pitches fast, because a slow pitch is more likely to take a weird turn or bounce and veer away from the strike zone.

Strikeouts are much harder to get now. I think the best way to get one is to take the count full, throw a borderline pitch, and hope the kicker takes it for strike three while attempting to draw a walk. That's how I got my one - and only one - K of the season (in the four games that I've played). Of course, you risk giving up a walk that way, but depending on the game situation, sometimes it's worth trying. (I also have one unintentional walk in my four games.)

Getting strikeouts might be a thing of the past, but I can still try to keep the kickers as off balance as possible by spinning the ball. I do think that throwing non-straight pitches does result in more fouls, pop-ups, and soft grounders, and it definitely makes it harder to "directional kick". So, it's still a worthwhile way to pitch. But I also still believe that effective defense is far, far more important. And our defense is, just like last season, excellent. We've averaged less than two runs allowed per game in my four games.

On offense, it's been business as usual, at least for me. Bunt, bunt, bunt! Sometimes I mess up and bunt it straight to the pitcher and get thrown out, but when I bunt it perfectly - right down the third base line - I'm usually safe. (How soon before they change the rules to handicap my offensive strategy, too?) My margin for error is smaller than it used to be, though, given my distinctive scouting report...but 10-for-16 on the season with five runs scored is still pretty good, I think. I even have an RBI!

And this concludes my mid-season kickball report. Game #7 is tonight, if the weather cooperates. Goooooo team!

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