The mysterious death of the 1&1 count

17
May

Dave Wareham

As we all know, normally three strikes are an out and four balls give you a walk.  But for many years the vast majority of tournaments in this country used the 1&1 count, so effectively two strikes = a strikeout and three balls = a walk.

In the past, in the Manchester League, many Tuesday night games were also played with a 1&1 count.  But over the past few years, the 1&1 count has fallen out of favour in the UK and while there is still the occasional sighting, it’s largely vanished from the scene.  I think its disappearance is unfortunate as it had (and has) many advantages.

The main reason for using a 1&1 count is that the game moves faster and so you get more innings played in a set amount of time.  This has obvious advantages in tournaments where games are played to a time limit: with a 1&1 count you have a much better chance of a game lasting the full seven innings or at least getting close to it, which means that you get something much more like a “real” game than the three or four innings that you might otherwise end up with.

In the lower divisions in Manchester, the reasons were similar.  While you don’t have quite the same time constraints as in tournament play, a lot of Tuesday night games played by teams with weak pitchers and mainly inexperienced players were taking forever to complete, and bringing in the 1&1 count made everything move faster.

However, that begs the question: if it’s so good why has it disappeared?

Using the 1&1 count was never universally popular.  This was partly because when you play 1&1, you are not playing the rules as written in the Official Rulebook, and also because people who were used to using an 0&0 count in their league games sometimes struggled when having to adapt to a 1&1 count at tournaments.  Originally, though, the increased speed of games with a 1&1 count was seen to more than compensate for these problems.

What changed, in my opinion, was that playing standards went up noticeably, especially at the top end of the sport.  With players who generally know what they are doing and how the game works, and with better pitchers and better fielding, games at the Comp level are just generally a lot faster than they were 20 years ago.  If you can play six or seven innings in your 50-minute slot with an 0&0 count, you don’t need to play 1&1.  A start count of 1&1 started to disappear in the higher grade tournaments, and once that change began to happen it developed a momentum of its own and 1&1 has now almost completely disappeared.  I think this is unfortunate.

While playing standards have gone up at the top end, there are still a lot of weaker, inexperienced teams out there where most of the players don’t have a good feel for the game and the pitchers struggle to find the strike zone at times.  When these teams play with an 0&0 count the pace of the game can be painfully slow, and this isn’t good for anyone involved.  Players lose focus, make mistakes and things get slower and slower.

Bringing back the 1&1 count at the lower end of the game would improve the pace of the game, give more confidence to pitchers, allow fielders to remain focused on the job in hand and encourage batters to go up to the plate with a positive attitude rather than standing there looking for a walk.  Overall, it will make the game more enjoyable for everyone concerned.

Bring back the 1&1 count – you know it makes sense!

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About Dave Wareham

Dave Wareham

Dave started playing softball in the Manchester League in 1995 and has been playing, umpiring and coaching in the league ever since. He has held a number of roles on the league’s Executive Committee, including spells as the Technical Officer (umpiring and coaching) and Recruitment Officer. He has run a number of teams in the league over the years and is currently captain of the Tigers team in the fourth division.

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