New To Baseball: What Is HRE?

DC Sports Nexus ---- Monday, June 4, 2012

Camilla is a 15 year old hockey fan that is new to baseball...I feel like baseball needs more young female fans so I'm forcing her to write.  But she needs help & encouragement from Nats fans to learn about the game so she can enjoy the National Pastime for the next 85 years of her life...So give her a hand and comment on the post or Tweet her up at @camcoco10...

To say I don't know a lot about baseball is an understatement. I know more about the life cycle of sea turtles than I do about HRE (editors note:  she means hits, runs, errors but thinks that HRE is a thing people say) and pinch hitters. You're probably thinking "Oh geez, Camilla. Just stick to something you're half way decent at". But ya gotta start somewhere, right? And, considering I want to be a sports journalist, knowing about America's favorite pastime might be a tad helpful.

The reason I got to go to the second game of the shortened series against the Braves, was because my dad's office was having a mini shindig and everyone was going to come out and drink over-priced beer and eat over-priced hot dogs while watching baseball. I can't wait to get a job.

Anyway, the beginning of our Odyssey started out with my dad being econimcally savvy and parking over a mile away from Nats park. But hey, it was free!  30 sweaty minutes later, we arrived at the glorious doughnut shaped park known as Nats park for the bottom of the first.

We got there just in time because I got to see Lambo-whats-his-face get his first MLB career homer and then Harper in short order hit it out of the park. Well, over a little fence thingy but it counts (stats and names courtesy of my dad).

I was all like "whoooo! Nats aren't sucking!" and then I went to get food. A bowl of honey nut cheerios is simply not enough to fuel a 15 year old chicka on a mile trek through DC. Being my clumsy self, I managed to spill all my dern fries and get mustard everywhere, but I was back in my seat sometime in the second where nothing happened. I mean, I'm sure something happened, but no one scored a goal-erm, I mean got a home run so I was like "falalala these guys need to shave".

Then the Braves scored in the third and my dad was like "Yeahhh" and then nothing happened the rest of the game except my yerning for cotton candy. So, after the bottom of the fourth and before the top of the fifth, I was like "you know what, cotton candy sounds like a fantabulous idea".

I started wandering around Nats park and got in the longest line EVER.  Some creepy old guy got behind me and was way to close for comfort. But alas, after an inning wait and apparently the Braves scoring twice, I had myself some spun sugar.

I got back to my seat and was shocked to see the Braves were leading 3-2. Not cool, yo. The only time people actually do stuff in baseball games is when I'm getting food! It's a conspiricy, man.

Then pretty much nothing happened the rest of the game except Bryce Harper apparently tried to stretch something or another which was a boo boo.

Baseball's still awfully confusing...

Question time!

  • What in the flibberty gibbet does HRE stand for? I can never get it right
  • Why can't a pitcher still pitch after he was pinch hit? Why does pinch hitting even happen in the first place?
  • Why do so many pitchers play? I get having a closer and starter and a relief pitcher if he does bad stuff, but there were like 4 today!
  • How do you play defense in baseball? There isn't a defense, I don't get it...
  • When catchers go talk to the pitchers, what are they talking about? The latest People Style-Watch? How the Devils need to win the Cup? where to get dinner?
  • Why are batting orders relevant? How does the batting order get chosen? Can you change it during the game or is that illegal.
(Wow...She looks like I did in the early days of Caps Basketball...So help her out peeps!  Encourage her!  Follow her @camcoco10 on Twitter.  Talk Nats!)


  1. H, R, E: Hits, Runs, Errors. The first (Hits) tells you how many batters have put the ball in play and reached base safely. The second (Runs) tells you how many runners have touched home plate [this is the important part of the score]. The third, (Errors) tells you how many mistakes the defense has made.

    Lots of hits, but few runs usually means a lot of squandered opportunities with many baserunners stranded. Lots of runs, with few hits, may mean a few powerfully-hit balls (home runs, doubles) with runners on base. Lots of errors means only bad things.

  2. PINCH-HITTING: A pitcher needs a LOT of time to get warmed up, because he is using his arm ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE MORE than a position player. Thus, if you're a manager, and you know that you will have a new pitcher enter in the next half-inning, you want to have that pitcher getting warm as your team is at bat. He can't do that if he's in the batter's box.

    Thus, the PINCH-HITTER rule is born: to enable a relief pitcher to get warmed-up, we allow another player (the pinch-hitter) to take his turn at bat. When the next inning begins, the new pitcher takes his place in the line-up, now mostly warmed up.

    Incidentally: substitutions in baseball are one-time-only. Once a player has left the field, for whatever reason, he cannot return to it.

  3. PITCHERS, GENERALLY: Because pitchers are much more active than other players, they tire faster and require more time between outings to recover...or risk injury.

    Thus, teams carry 5 starting pitchers (allowing each pitcher 4-6 days of rest between starts). Bullpen pitchers pitch fewer innings, but pitch them on consecutive days, complicating rest/recovery--this is why certain relievers are "unavailable" at a given time.

  4. DEFENSE: The object of baseball defense is to prevent runs from scoring. You do this by: catching fly balls, throwing out runners on the bases, striking out batters, catching baserunners stealing. When your team does something stupid with the ball that causes an opposing base-runner to advance an extra base, and where a reasonable baseball player would NOT have permitted that extra base to be taken, the player who did the stupid thing has committed an ERROR (E). [Baseball is pitiless in measuring your failures]

  5. MOUND CONFERENCES: Lots of reasons. Simplest reason might be to calm a guy down: "Keep the ball down. Relax. Trust your stuff."

    Sometimes, it's to discuss approaches: "OK. Joey Votto's a home-run hitter who pulls the ball. Let's pitch him low and away...don't give him anything high and inside he can knock into the Metro turnstiles."

    Sometimes, especially with a runner on second, it's to discuss the pitch directly, without risking the chance that the runner will relay to the batter what pitch might be coming. "OK, Bourn is on second. That asshole is stealing our signs. I will not put down any fingers. But you will throw a slider away, got it?"

    Sometimes, they DO talk about the Post style section, or the girl sitting in the first row behind the dugout. This is the "Stall for time" conference, used to let a reliever get warmed-up to enter the game, or to give an injured player (or umpire) a few seconds to get his wind back.

  6. BATTING ORDER: you have asked perhaps the most difficult question in all baseball. Quick and easy answers: The batting order defines which player must appear at the plate. Players must not bat out of order--to do so will result in the player batting out of order being called "OUT" by the umpire.

    Generally, batters in the batting order are arranged in order of their skill at batting. Better batters (those less likely to make an out) bat higher in the order than worse batters--this is because the earlier batters will bat more often than the later ones. Thus, if you have a player whose skills in the field outweigh his skills with the bat, you can "hide" his bad batting by batting him lower in the order.

    Pitchers generally bat very low in the order--traditionally, 9th--because they are almost always the worst batters in any given line-up.

    Now, occasionally, you will see a manager "double-switch" on a substitution. This happens when the manager pinch-hits for a pitcher, and then leaves that pinch hitter in the game as a defensive substitution, while also removing another position player. The new pitcher bats in the spot of the removed position player, and the erstwhile pinch-hitter occupies the former pitcher's spot.

    [Hypothetical example: Wang starts as a pitcher, batting 9th. Harper starts as Center Fielder, batting 2d. When Wang bats, he is replaced by a pinch-hitter, Bernadina, who bats 9th. In the next half-inning, the relief pitcher Detwiler appears for Wang, batting 2d--and Harper is out of the game. Thus the pitcher now bats 2nd, and the center-fielder now bats 9th.]

  7. Just wait til she learns about Moneyball

  8. My very basic batting order explanation:

    1. Fast guy
    2. Semi-Fast guy
    3. Good Hitter
    4. Home Run Hitter
    5. Good Hitter #2
    6. Best Hitter left
    7. Best Hitter left
    8. Bad Hitter (lots of times catchers)
    9. Pitcher (typically worst hitter)

    #1 gets on base, #2 gets on base #3 gets on base #4 hits home run to score everyone

    1. This pretty much restates the conventional wisdom. Statistical analysis of the game, however, yields a somewhat different result--see this excellent treatise on Beyond the Box Score.

      Notice that in the optimal line-up, we care less about speed than about being a "good hitter," which, generally, means that a batter doesn't make outs, and tends to reach lots of bases safely.

      An optimized line-up is worth about EXTRA 2.5 wins over 162 games over what a traditional line-up would get you.

  9. Thanks for answering my questions, guys! It's been super helpful.