Your guide to all things playoff baseball

Sports Sports | Lifestyle

martlet-helmetcopyAs September cools, we have the perfect suggestion for a midterm distraction: playoff baseball! There’s tons of excitement and camaraderie surrounding the post-season, and given the likelihood that the Jays will be in the playoffs, wouldn’t it be nice to be a part of that conversation?

We know that getting into a new sport can be challenging, and female newcomers to baseball can face particular pushback and resistance. So, consider this your friendly guide to playoff baseball and to the Toronto Blue Jays!

Why should I care about Blue Jays baseball? 

You certainly don’t have to. But, baseball will likely dominate the conversation for the next month, and being able to participate is always nice. The Jays are also the only major-league team in Canada, which gives them a fun, scrappy, underdog quality.

What’s a wild card, and why is everyone talking about it?

Introduced in 1994 and expanded to two spots in 2011, wild card spots allow teams who do not win their division to make it to the playoffs. Think of the wild card spots like the best losers. Unless the Blue Jays turn it around and win their division, it’s likely they will be claiming a wild card spot in the playoffs.

What is the American League, the National League, and the World Series?

These leagues divide Major League Baseball in two. The winner of the American League will play the winner of the National League for the title of World Series Champions. The World Series is the name of the playoffs, or the championship series of baseball. The Jays play in the American League.

What’s a triple, a double, a single, and a grand slam?

Baseball is essentially about hitting a ball and trying to get around three bases and back to home plate. A single is when the batter hits the ball and makes it to first base; a double, to second base; and a triple, to third base. A grand slam is when the batter gets a home run with players on each of the three bases, resulting in four runs/points — the most you can get with one hit of the bat.

What’s the strike zone? Isn’t everything a ball?

When the pitcher throws the ball towards the batter, the ball must pass through an imaginary rectangle, called the strike zone, in order to be called a strike. This is judged by the umpire. The strike zone measures from the middle of the batter’s torso down to their knees, and across the width of the plate. A ball is anything thrown outside this imaginary rectangle.

What is ERA? What is an RBI? 

Baseball is very statistics-heavy, so let’s break this down. ERA is an “Earned Run Average.” It calculates the average number of runs that a pitcher allows the opposing team per nine innings pitched. A high ERA means the pitcher hasn’t been playing well. RBI means “Runs Batted In.” This is the number of points a batter has directly helped score by helping his teammates reach home or by reaching home himself.

How long do games last? 

Games are meant to last nine innings and have no set time limit. There is a top (or first) half and a bottom (or second) half to each inning — the visiting team bats in the top half, and the home team in the bottom half, with teams switching places when the defensive team gets three outs. An inning lasts as long as it takes for both teams to get three outs each. Theoretically, an inning could last forever. (Though the longest was between Detroit and Texas in 2004, lasting 110 pitches and 18 runs over one hour and eight minutes!)

Who is John Gibbons? 

The man, the myth, the sunburn. John Gibbons, or “Gibby,” is the manager of the Jays. Similar to a coach in other sports, Gibby makes the strategic decisions for the team. He enjoys sunflower seeds, billowy windbreakers, and arguing with umpires.

What’s the big deal with Bautista’s bat flip? 

During last year’s playoffs, José Bautista hit a crucial home run in a deciding game against the Texas Rangers. Before running the bases, Bautista “flipped” his bat. Because many commentators played baseball when Justin Trudeau’s dad was still prime minister, this exuberant mid-game celebration was seen as disrespectful to the sport. But the game is changing. Today’s players are younger, fitter, and more exciting. It’s not your grandparents’ baseball anymore, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Who should be my favourite player?

Think about it like picking out your favourite superhero! Looking for a stoic Canadian? Try Russell Martin. The flashy pretty boy and last year’s MVP? That would be Josh Donaldson. A hometown hero? Try Victoria’s own Michael Saunders. A meticulous, seasoned professional? Troy Tulowitzki. How about a pitcher? Roberto Osuna. There’s something for everyone.

What if people accuse me of being a bandwagon fan?

There’s no shame in being a bandwagoner — everyone has to start somewhere. The Jays players have said that they feed off the energy of the fans, so: the more the merrier!

If you still have unanswered questions, we recommend pursuing some internet research on your own! The Jays fandom is fortunate to have a rich variety of beat writers, active tweeters, and independent bloggers covering every news story on and off the field. Baseball is (we think, at least!) played at just the right pace to encourage community; there are breaks in play that encourage reflection, conversation and engagement. Don’t be shy about joining the flurry of Jays talk this fall, whether it’s in a coffee lineup or cheering raucously at Felicita’s. Welcome to your new favourite game!

Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly left out the essential concluding paragraph that really tied the whole thing together. We’ve added the paragraph back in and regret the error.