Carleton: The secret powers of the foul ball

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on March 22, 2017:

I’ve never caught a foul ball. I’ve been to a couple of games where I was in the right section and came close to snaring one, but I never got a chance to make a play on a batted ball off the bat of a major leaguer, even if it was one that went the wrong way.

Once when I was 10 or 11, I was sitting at the end of a row in the lower deck of Cleveland Municipal Stadium when a member of the Twins lined a ball foul off to the side, directly up an aisleway. (Thankfully, no one was in the way!) The ball ricocheted off the facing of one of the concrete stairs that led to the concourse and it bounded back down the aisle, where it landed on the step one row behind me. I jumped to snare the pearl but was beaten to it by about half a second by a guy in his 30s. Had I been a few years younger, I might have been more spry, or perhaps I could have pulled the “cute kid” trick and the guy might have given me the ball. But alas, the ultimate baseball raffle prize has never fallen from the sky into my outstretched glove.

In baseball, we don’t like to talk about foul balls. They’re kind of annoying. They don’t really do anything. With two strikes, they don’t even move the count along. They are just a null space in which a pitch was thrown, but nothing technically happened. About the closest we ever get to acknowledging foul balls is when we talk about a player with a good “contact rate.”

What could possibly be interesting about foul balls? It’s not true that foul balls are completely devoid of meaning. We know that the batter swung and that he didn’t miss, and maybe that’s something worth knowing about.

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Originally published: March 22, 2017. Last Updated: March 22, 2017.