Cricket and Baseball Come Ever Closer

Baseball heavy-hitter Manny Ramirez was seen holding a cricket bat the other day during a promotional advertisement for some cricket league in America. The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting feature that tried to predict how well baseball batters would fare in the cricket, where the ball bounces and the stumps rattle. Here’s the idea:

In cricket, the “bowler” will usually throw the ball so that it bounces off the ground before reaching the batsman. By that logic, says John Aaron, secretary of the United States of America Cricket Association, “any baseball player who hits the sinker or low fastball would enjoy a greater percentage of hits.”

Using that metric, the WSJ had Ramirez put in the third-highest average against “low fastballs” (whatever that means). While the experiment may sound silly, baseball and cricket aren’t all that far apart. A relative e-mailed me to say that the Rajasthan Royals have apparently offered a coaching position to the coach of Australia’s baseball team, no doubt because baseball players (and coaches) are extraordinarily good fielders who know innovative drills. 

My relative and I both agreed that the WSJ piece wasn’t all that useful. He wrote:

That’s interesting although a bit simplified.  It would be interesting to see some baseball players try for real, and vice versa btw.

To which I responded:

As far as batting goes, I think baseball players would do well in the shorter formats. As long as you have good hand-eye coordination, you should be able to acquit yourself. Against spin bowling, though, you need good footwork and patience, which I don’t think many baseball batters need to have. And in the longer formats, where you need at least 2 hours to build an innings, I doubt many batters would do well.

It’s an interesting question, though. I think most baseball batters would have to get used to seeing the ball bounce first, but then after that, they could swing away. Of course, in baseball, if you swing and miss, you only have a strike against you. In cricket, if you swing, miss, and the ball hits the stumps, you’re out. There’s more pressure, in other words, to make contact and properly judge the line of the ball. 

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