The unexamined essence of the game, then, would be an event that completely lacks both action and tension. Nobody swings the bat, nobody runs; neither team gains any real advantage. And you see it happen all the time. The most boring moment in baseball, the mud flat exposed at its lowest ebb, is ball two. Ball two stands alone, above any of the other dull business on the diamond. The intentional walk at least adds a base runner to the game. The halfhearted throw to first to check the runner is a sign that the pitcher is feeling tension. But ball two signifies almost nothing. If your attention, like mine, starts to drift whenever ball two is called, the statistics say that’s a rational response. The sportswriter Joe Posnanski, of Sports Illustrated and the Kansas City Star, recently did a study of all major-league plate appearances from 2000 to 2008, examining the shifting dynamics of the battle between hitter and pitcher in more than a million matchups. He was looking for the critical points in the average at-bat: strike two makes hitters stop swinging for power (with two strikes, the average hitter has a Kevin Cash-like slugging percentage of .293); a 1-1 count strongly favors the pitcher.
more from The Boston Globe here.