Baseball versus Cricket versus Baseball

Many thanks to Ron Kaplan for the entertaining video, below. It is “baseball-centric” for sure. But it does objectively go into the physics and biology of batting, in each sport. Incidentally, “the news” regarding a baseball batter not being able to see the pitched ball when it is closer than fifteen feet from him is in dispute if Ted Williams (cricket fans: possibly the greatest pure hitter there ever was; certainly the most scientific) could be believed—claiming that he could see the ball as it hit off his swinging bat.

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About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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42 Responses to Baseball versus Cricket versus Baseball

  1. Martin (on the cricket side) here: While I’m glad to see that this video proves our thesis in ROTB that it is indeed easier to hit a cricket ball with a cricket bat than a baseball with a baseball bat, what this video doesn’t show you is that the bowled ball can move through the air AND bounce differently on the pitch. Unfortunately, our cricketer simply isn’t good enough (and nor is he bowling fast enough) to cause any batter/batsman much trouble in hitting it. A further observation is that to “put the ball in play” is not the same as scoring runs, since it’s a good bet that many of the cricket shots the baseball batter hit would have been caught on the fly and thus invalid. Finally, a cricket batsman doesn’t have to power hit the ball like a baseball batter. He can hit the ball anywhere he wants, using the pace of the ball and angled bat to direct the ball. The video accurately shows the dynamics of certain cricket shots and I have no doubt that the “accommodation” science is accurate, but, well, it doesn’t really tell you much about how to hit a cricket ball.

  2. Amanda says:

    Yes, “he moves his eye to where he predicts the ball will be” is the key line I think. How wonderful for the audience, and terrible for batsman, that the ball is not, quite frequently, actually there.

    I’m an Australian so cricket is my first love, I strongly feel think Test Match cricket is the peak of human civilisation to date. 😉 But I’m also a big baseball fan (Go Cubs). The difference I have most wondered about is not batting but bowling/pitching. I can’t quite shake my cricket chauvinism that pitchers get off easy. Fast bowlers can go on and off all day, then even the next day whereas the trend these days is to restrict starts to 100 pitches a game, and then they get a week almost off. I’m fairly certain this is highly unfair — something in physics maybe about the long run up versus the more explosive action of pitching? I think it was alluded to a bit in your book (which I just read and really enjoyed, thanks) but I’ve always meant to dig into more deeply the differences. Perhaps you’ve talked about it somewhere else on the blog?

    • We haven’t touched on cricket’s long run directly in our blogs. Suffice to say, however, that we share your judgment that nothing beats cricket for wearing down the souls of bowlers. Witness the sad efforts of Zimbabwe’s attack in the just concluded one-day series against New Zealand. By the end, they just wanted to be anywhere else but the cricket ground. No ice-packs for them on the shoulder or a friendly manager ushering them from the mound. Just humiliation.

  3. Amanda says:

    Yes, there’s the psychology and the then there’s the physics side of it. I am going to go googling this tomorrow …

    Anyhow, I wrote something about cricket/baseball, partially inspired by your book if you don’t mind me mentioning.
    http://sidelined.com.au/2012/02/09/a-few-words-about-baseball/

  4. We are grateful for plugging our book with keen insight into the Right Off the Bat Project. Your experiences of Major League Baseball as well as minor league ball are notable. We are extra-glad you visited Shea Stadium (only one of the authors of “ROTB” was ever there, as a regular over many several decades). There are three cricket equivalents to the Burns-documentary achievement: UK-Australia, India-subcontinent, and West Indies, for a total of 180 minutes. These are found on YouTube under “Empire of Cricket.”

  5. I think the actual dynamics of intimidating the batsman away from the physical strike zone by directing the ball at his head or body can’t be ignored as an additional technical challenge. The following clip clearly illustrates my point..

    • Thanks for your comment, Geoffrey. Your video highlights one of the bloodiest (and most bloody-minded) encounters between batsmen and bowlers in cricket history. Certainly, in the days when neither baseball nor cricket batters/batsmen wore helmets, both games could be very intimidating to those having a ball pinged at them at ninety miles an hour, or more. I’m not sure batsmen are now more intimidated than batters: the former, to be sure, gets a ball rearing up at him from the ground; the latter, however, gets a ball directed precisely at his head. Yikes.

      • Geoffrey and Martin: Baseball has had its share of bloody-ugly occurrences. This one (below, ca. 57 seconds into the video), hardly envisioned by Abner Doubleday, took place well within “the helmet era.” “White (WASP) America” undoubtedly had its own view, as the incident involves a Hispanic (Juan Marichal with the bat), a black (Johnny Roseboro being attacked with the bat), and a Jew (Sandy Koufax attempting, with others, to stop everything from happening).

  6. Geoff Plumridge says:

    Frankly I don’t see the comparison between a brawl and a legitimate part of a sport (unless brawling is in the rules of baseball) how long does a game of baseball last? Brian Close batted against bowling like this for 191 minutes, taking many blows from balls travelling at over 90mph. Some batsman today don’t wear helmets, it isn’t compulsory.

  7. Geoff Plumridge says:

    And I don’t agree that this episode was particularly bloody at all. No-one was injured (seriously) in that game. It is a normal tactic for the quicker bowlers to try and knock someones head off their shoulders. This is a good run down of the normal practice. Cricket isn’t anything like it is portrayed in that stupid sports science bs above. It’s really like this..

    • Yes, there is a distinction. I (Evander) posted the brawl in contrast. In baseball, the pitcher (bowler) will often “move the batter (batsman) from the plate,” that is, if the batter is crowding it, by throwing inside. (The term is “a little chin music.”) Sometimes, however, the whole situation gets out of hand in the heat of an important game especially, as in the 1960s Marichal-Roseboro incident. Marichal had been pitching the batters “tight.” Roseboro asked his pitcher, Koufax, to retaliate. Such was not Koufax’s style, since he was the hardest thrower of his time and feared killing a batter. Roseboro, on receiving a regular (not-inside) pitch from Koufax, returned the ball, in Marichal’s (the batter) words, “by ticking my ear” with the return-throw. The depicted mayhem ensued.

  8. Aka soft- compared to a whole tactic of trying to actually hit the batsman- aka “bodyline”- if you have a physical strike zone that you must defend in order to keep batting, then you place your body behind the line of the ball as opposed to comfortable inside it, knowing that you can let at least the first couple of deliveries go. The trick is knowing when which 90mph delivery is directed at your feet, and which one at your face. That is why cricket is a tougher game in my opinion. A clip..

  9. Funny. I never seem to get a response when baseball fans actually see what goes on in real, hard test cricket. Show them the actual physical brutality of our game and silence seems to be the inevitable result. One final clip (helmet on)..

    • This seems to be an appropriate time to pitch (he he!) a new book that looks at the number of deaths in baseball parks. Straightforwardly titled Death at the Ballpark: A Comprehensive Study of Game-Related Fatalities of Players, Other Personnel and Spectators in Amateur and Professional Baseball, 1862-2007, this (let’s face it) specialized study appears to give the impression that just about the safest place in the ballpark is on the field of play. I (Martin) haven’t read the book, and so can’t vouch for its bloodiness. Nor do I know of an exact cricket equivalent, so I don’t know whether cricket can claim more than the 850 fatalities that baseball has caused. On the other hand, one wonders why it’s necessary to compete over which sport is the most brutal. American football, anyone?

  10. Hundreds every year worldwide (mainly fielders getting struck). I even saw one kid duck into a ball in training and fractured his skull (and later died in hospital). I’ve had teeth knocked out, I saw a guy get his eye knocked out of it’s socket, I’ve even seen the stitching on the cricket ball catch a bloke in the mouth and cut his cheek like a knife all the way along his cheek, we could see his back teeth amidst all the spraying claret. Not to mention all the finger bones I’ve seen sticking out of fingers because we aren’t so soft as to wear a huge leather mitt. American football? Don’t get me started. We don’t wear pads and helmets in our (more original version) of rugby/football. Pissweak attempt at re-direction though.
    And you ignored my point entirely. With that very real threat of being seriously injured (even with all the protective equipment) technically test cricket is a far more challenging game than any form of baseball. You have to ignore your very human self-preservation instinct and actually put your body INTO the line of a potentially lethal projectile travelling up to 99mph, and then within 0.4 of a second decide and then play a ball than can be directed anywhere from your toes to your face. And there are very different foot movements that have to be instinctively applied in that 0.4 of a second depending on the length of the delivery. In a very real way it is like a highly developed martial art, footwork and bat work have to be timed to each different ball, certain instincts (like backing away) have to be surpressed, and a Zen like zone of concentration has to be reached to be able to both avoid injury and then score runs without getting out.
    I’m sorry, but when compared to cricket, in catching and batting baseball is not in the same league (pun intended). As far as basic running and throwing goes though, baseball is the bomb. (I do rate pitching as a great art, but bowling is equal in this regard) Another clip (my favourite catch)..

    • We at Right Off the Bat are hardly the silent (or golden) sort. One Art Irwin, who played shortstop (a most demanding position as not only the the ball whizzes toward you but the runner coming into second base on a close play is probably half-trying to knock the ball out of your hands if not knock out your teeth) for the Providence (Rhode Island) Grays, invented padded buckskin as the first-ever baseball glove, in 1885. Geoffrey: Art I. may seem Public Enemy or Casper Milquetoast Number 1 to you. What can we say? Not to be deliriously diplomatic or engage in too much Kumbaya (peace, love, and understanding as Nick Lowe put it), I (Evander) get your point and yes, I am astonished by the courage of the batsmen. The outfielder with the outsized glove does seem overprotected for snagging a lazy fly; and the pad-and-helmet-protected baseball batter, who is rarely thrown at, especially nowadays in the era of big salaries, team-shiftings, and players’ associations, is safer. We applaud safety first to showcase the ingenuity, the sheer brilliance and lifelike qualities, of The National Pastime and The Noble Game.

  11. Safety first. Ok. So do you admit that with the sheer physical danger involved that cricket (to a human being) constitutes a technically more challenging sport than the great and noble game of baseball? (I must admit that when I played baseball the line drive scared the absolute bejeesus out of me and made me glad of a huge leather blocker in front of my face).

  12. Oh yeah and I just re-read your comments. No I don’t agree that a batsman with all the gear on is safer. Poor old Daniel Flynn had every international quality protection on and still lost a number of teeth (and his confidence in being able to play cricket at that level). And you haven’t recognised the short leg fielder either.. a clip.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6skKyjmMows

  13. No question, any hard ball whizzing 95 mph-plus toward your head (or any part of the anatomy) calls for great reserves of courage. There have been so-called headhunters among major-league pitchers, such as Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez. Extra-curricular episodes of baseball mayhem have included the biting off of Ghost Marcelle’s nose. Your clip of the short leg fielder takes the cake for lightning-fast reflexes. A “defensive nervous system” and unbelievable hand-eye coordination, athleticism of a related sort, are on display in this famous catch by Willie Mays in a big spot, with loads of pressure on his team, the New York Giants (1954) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7dK6zPbkFnE

  14. Still with a glove though. I’m sorry but that catch may be legendary in baseball, but I’ve seen catches like that taken even by my own team members in local cricket and without a glove. Check out the international standard of cricket catching (sans gloves) and compare.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbN5GUNEWl4

  15. Just as I suspected. Nothing to come back with because there is nothing in the cupboard. Baseball is a good running and throwing game. It does have an older and harder cousin though that it can never compare with, in any aspect (except accurate throwing and running). Catching, batting and bowling in cricket are skills developed in cricket way beyond what happens in America’s great past-time.

  16. C’mon you must have more than that. I’ve played baseball I understand the difficulties in it- give us some feedback about the fielding in cricket, I’ve given enough examples, the silence is incriminating.

  17. At the recent Brooklyn Book Festival (sold and signed 7 copies of “Right Off the Bat”!), I (Evander) spoke with three Australians in all. Each had played baseball and cricket. Each said cricket was more difficult. In the recent Yankees-Tigers playoffs, I saw a 55-foot Kuroda pitch bounced (by accident) to the plate and come right in on the stunned batter. What a bouncing and skidding and spinning ball can do is pretty tough indeed.

  18. Imagine that directed at you (at 90mph) constantly and with intent to make you shy away from the physical strike zone that exists in cricket (the stumps). But really would like some feedback on the catching that you have seen in the clip I posted. I saw a CNN report not too long ago about a ball boy in tennis (Australian open) casually catching a ball struck by a player this young bloke was most certainly a cricketer.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjyfMCTAqKU

    • It is a demonstration of coordination and concentration by the ball boy. I (Evander) cannot say such is a definitive sign of having played the (no question, dangerous) positions of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd slip, which call for superior reflexes and high alert, so much as having trained, or devoted time, for example, to juggling, which requires a healthy dose of both along with the challenge of making it all appear unrehearsed and thereby easy. Our friend Art Irwin, who devised the first baseball glove in 1885 (as noted), would probably agree. Howzat!

  19. Young bloke, Australian, he plays cricket. You can generalise on that. Buckleys that he “is a juggler” and still haven’t answered my question on the fielding clips I sent you.

  20. The Williamson catch, a pure reaction, is poetry in motion: no question….Growing up with baseball, there is a certain “magic” or “intimacy” for lack of better words, between a boy and his glove. The leather pocket is created by endless hard tosses from one hand to the gloved hand during the long break-in period. This usually occurs in the dead of winter, the so-called Hot Stove League fallow-period of North American baseball, as well as the off-season in the Far East. To soften the leather further, as springtime is eagerly awaited, gloves enveloping animal fat or otherwise greased are tied and placed in refrigerators thro the long North American winter. It is all a grand ritual. Baseball-obsessed boys in deep poverty have other desires and approaches. One of the greatest ballplayers, Mariano Rivera, was so poor growing up in Panama that he and his mates devised gloves out of trash: discarded milk containers. For a ball, they used rocks.

  21. Try catching a screamer in the slips on a cold morning when you have to rub your hands together so hard they hurt just so you won’t feel the sting of leather coming at the rate of knots hitting your cold hands. Mits of any kind equals soft sportsmen.

    • We never think of baseball players as soft anything, except for the (less-than-) occasional beer belly. True, however, there is no equivalent position in baseball to the slips, which strikes me (Evander) as positioning with a death wish….Incidentally, baseball gloves vary with the position. Catchers of a knuckleball pitcher use a glove the size of a pillow. A regular catcher’s mitt (The wicketkeeper uses gloves, no? Two in fact? The batsman wears gloves the size of asbestos-filled potholders, no?) looks nothing like a first baseman’s. Outfielders’ gloves have gotten to butterfly-nets size: bettering chances of winding up on the nightly highlight reels over ESPN or the Baseball Network….There’s lots of cricket in “The Lady Vanishes” (Hitchcock). “Cricket, Sir! Cricket!” The Manchester test match is ultimately washed out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=al60grtUgHE .

  22. Funny, I actually love playing catch with my son with a mit and a baseball. But it is something I would do with a child. Once he starts playing cricket (he is only 7) he will take the mit off and start playing the real game.

  23. Sounds great. None other than Babe Ruth said, “Baseball is the only real game.” Or something like that. I suspect he had football, basketball, and other American sports in mind, not cricket, which challenged and fascinated him. In the words of John Bates (“King Henry the Fifth,” IV, i, 210-11), if you could imagine him talking about other sports, “Be friends, you English fools, be friends! We have French quarrels enow….”

  24. I have the distinct feeling that if Babe Ruth had ever played cricket, he would have been far worse at it than Don Bradman (our Babe Ruth) would have been at baseball. Just a thought. By the way I have a photo of the two greats meeting during a cricket tour of North America.. http://community.dreamcricket.com/community/blogs/usa_cricketer/BradmanandRuth1.jpg

  25. Thanks for the great photo. It must be from the Summit of 1932, when The Babe and The Don met at Yankee Stadium, perhaps on an off-day, possibly immediately following the season; or (less likely), the picture is from 1935. The latter was the winter-spring of Ruth’s barnstorming thro the Far East to Paris (where he was disappointed American-embassy kids didn’t know how to play ball), finally to the UK, where he tried his hand as a batsman. Alan Fairfax felt he could make Babe into a star cricketer in a matter of weeks. We don’t know any report of The Don’s 1932 efforts “against our type of pitching” as The Babe called it. Both reached incredible heights. Ruth’s records have been superseded. But his genius was inventing the power game. Baseball without Ruth is like trying to conceive rock ‘n’ roll without Elvis Presley. But The Don’s batting record is unapproachable. One more thing: The Babe was that baseball rarity–the all-rounder. He was a star pitcher before switching to the outfield so he could bat more often, as pitchers only worked every fourth day in that era.

  26. In other words, attempted to convey that Babe Ruth was a transformative figure and force….

  27. james says:

    no offence to any baseball fans but no baseball batter can ever compare to Sir Donald Bradman. a batting average on 99.98 in unbelievable. also please keep in mind that the controversial body-line tour took his batting average from over 100 to 55.6. without that tour he would have easily had a average of over 100. (100 runs a game is a solid achievement) and nobody has been as good and i don’t think will be as good ever. no baseball player can compare to how good he was.

    also when comparing batting in cricket with batting in baseball. some cricketers need to bat nonestop for whole days at a time while the apposition sledges hem to get them off there game. no baseball player can compare to brian lara’s 400 runs in one innings. cricket players are mentally and physically fitter over long periods of time. this itself makes the sport more challenging and tougher

  28. To your first paragraph, James, regarding “The Don,” and the case is not strictly analogous: As this article http://tippingpitches.blogspot.com/2010/03/most-dominant-home-run-hitters-greatest.html points out, in 1920 Babe Ruth hit more home runs than every team but one. The 2001 equivalent would be a batter swatting 234 home runs. (The major-league record of 73 was set that season.) Another example of baseball dominance, again not exactly analogous being within one season and not over a career, is Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941. The next-closest streak is 44. The difference between 56 and 44 on the surface may not seem great. But it is truly seismic. DiMaggjo went on a shorter streak following, so that season he batted safely in 72 of 73 games. It’s as mind-blowing in its dominance as the Ruth achievement.

  29. cd69 says:

    Base ball pitcher is called FULL TOSS in cricket and it is the worst and easiest to hit delivery out of them all legal deliveries… End of story..
    See ya…
    Ref: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_toss)

  30. Drathul says:

    This is not an equal comparison. You gave s high quality baseball player versus a nobody. His biwling and batting techniques were poor.

    • Mal says:

      Yes, but then they let the cricketer try to bat against a no movement fastball that I could have thrown in high school, too. 80 mph is slower than the average minor leaguer’s changeup. It’s not like they put Aroldis Chapman up there.

      They’re fundamentally different sports, so the whole comparison is somewhat pointless. There is a mentality difference between the two that may, in the short term, help a baseball player transition to cricket more quickly, but probably wouldn’t make a difference once the cricketer transitioning to baseball got used to it. That’s that batting in cricket is inherently defensive in nature – you’re protecting your wicket; while in baseball it’s offensive – you’re trying to drive the ball to a place where you can reach base and if you don’t do it pretty immediately you’re going to strike out (and 75% of the circumference of hitting is foul territory and puts one of your three strikes against you). I could see a baseball player saying “wow, 8x the sweet spot and all I have to do is foul it off” and if they weren’t facing a decent bowler they might succeed in doing so quickly, although they wouldn’t be scoring many runs. They may struggle with the more devastating consequence of an out compared to baseball and be too aggressive, though. On the other hand, it may take awhile for thecricket batsman to get used to the fact that moving your feet means you miss, especially against a curve or slider, and literally 95% of balls that are contacted but not driven with power result in a bad outcome. Combine that with the fact that the ball isn’t slowing down by 25% 10 feet in front of the plate by striking the ground, and I could see the adjustment to baseball (at least to the point of achieving some basic competency) being a little harder to manage.

  31. Mark Tony says:

    Hold on… this is so incomplete that it shows that the author of the video doesn’t understand cricket at all.
    First of all, you have an elite baseball player, in comparison with a complete unknown in international cricket. The USA has never even qualified for the World Cup and plays in the 3rd tier of international cricket, rated far below nations like Holland, Afghanistan and Canada.

    Secondly, you have a bowler delivering “nude” off breaks (an off break bowler that is not spinning the ball) on a synthetic grass surface at what looks like 60mph at most. He is also bowling it into what would be considered a fair ball zone in baseball.

    If you want a real comparison, how about you get a fast bowler such as Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson or Dale Steyn to bowl the ball at the baseballer on a turf pitch at more like 90-100mph. I can guarantee you, that if he didn’t watch the ball from the bowlers hand, and used the “accomodation” technique, he’d probably be currently in hospital. Furthermore, if a batsman was backing away towards the leg side like this guy is, the bowler would follow him with a short pitched delivery aimed at the throat/head. How many of these deliveries do you think he would get “in play”… I guarantee you none. He would end up on his ass most of the time trying to avoid being hit.

    Obviously this is very baseball centric. Perhaps another video with a more accurate comparison might educate your viewers a little better.

    In the meantime, you should watch this clip of an Australian fast bowler from the 2000s by the name of Brett Lee that frequently bowled at 95-100mph, with his fastest delivery recorded at 101mph. I don’t think that your batter would. E hitting 70% of these deliveries in play. Keep in mind these are world class international batsmen. The best of the best.

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