Play Ball Should be Changed to Play War

Of the many games online for free that you can play, the overwhelming majority are war games. In the spirit of the popularity of war games and the start of spring training for the upcoming baseball season, we present a discussion of baseball as a war game.

The Armies

The defensive team has nine armies strategically placed on the field of battle. On every pitch, the manager or the catcher, who is known as the field general, deploys his troops based on the hitter, the situation in the game, and many other relevant factors.

The offensive team has only one army, called the batter. There may be offensive troops on base but these are not armies. They are better understood as supply lines or logistical teams rather than as armies. The purpose of the single Army of the Offense is to facilitate getting the supply lines around the bases.

The singular purpose of the Armies of the Defense is to prevent the Army of the Offense from doing so.


The Armies of the Defense deploy based on the hitter and his tendencies, the pitcher and his skill at preventing the Army of the Offense from reaching base and becoming a supply line that scampers around the bases, and the skill of the Armies of the Defense to play complementarily.


The first tactic used is the pitch thrown by the Army of the Defense. The batter need not swing. If he chooses not to swing, the negotiator determines if the pitch was good or bad. Too many bad pitches award the batter first base. If the batter absorbs three good pitches his collective army is determined to be set back in their quest to conquer the bases.

The pitcher may have a varied arsenal at his disposal. The pitcher who starts the battle may have as many as six tactical weapons called pitches. These may utilize speed, changes of speed, deception, flanking maneuvers, and unpredictability. The latter is especially prevalent among pitchers who throw with great speed but cannot always predict where the ball will go. Batters understandably are leery of standing too close to the pitcher’s target and are prepared to bail out if the pitch sails close to their head.

Unpredictability is also common in the pitch called the knuckleball. The pitcher, batter, catcher, and negotiator have no idea where this ball will come to rest. It is reminiscent of the great strategic knuckleball the Allied armies threw at the Germans on D-Day in World War II.

Tactics on Defense

We discussed deployment above. Defensive deployment means placing armies where the batter is expected to hit the ball. This tactic depends on the ability of the pitcher to place his pitch in congruence with the overall defensive deployment. Many small battles are lost because the pitcher threw inside when the defense was fully committed to an outside pitch and vice versa.

The Armies of the Defense are also deployed based on each one’s singular talents. A speedy defensive player with good hands and a strong arm might play shortstop or center field while a lumbering lummox of an army might be “hidden” in left field, at third base, or at first base.

The lumbering lummoxes of baseball are used on defense because baseball is a sport that requires offensive armies to become defensive armies. The lummoxes are valuable as Armies of the Offense even as they are liabilities as Armies of the Defense.

Baseball as a War of Attrition

The goal of the defense is to prevent the offense from placing supply lines on the bases and maneuvering them back home. This prevention is the modus vivendi of baseball; it is the default situation in most situations. Generally speaking, each Army of the Offense suffers the same number of failures in any game so the real goal of the offense is to get as many supply lines running about the bases in between the omnipresent failures of their batters.

The ultimate goal of the Armies of the Defense is to maximize failures on the part of the offense.

The offense also has tactical methods to promulgate attrition on the defense. The primary method is to force the hand of the Major General of the Defense, called the manager, to change one pitcher for another. This may be effected by telling his batters to wait for a better pitch to hit. Pitchers generally begin to tire after 80 pitches so this tactic is widespread in baseball.

Another way to effectively force a manager to remove one pitcher for another is by changing batters on the fly. This is called pinch hitting and is a well-known tactic of the offense.

Sometimes the Major General of the Offense will force the opposing Major General to change one of his field armies. This often weakens the overall cohort of field armies and not infrequently leads to a victory for the offense.

Paying Attention

Because baseball is like the thirty year war, an unsung ability of the armies that have not yet been deployed, is to pay attention. This is called “keeping your head in the game”. Many battles are lost because players were unable to muster the attention span needed to prevail in a given situation.

Baseball Strategy and Subtleties

We’ve discussed a few tactical avenues available to the Major Generals. Baseball is full of these tactical avenues. Some Major Generals are better at the tactics of defense and some are better at the tactics of offense. The best, those that become enshrined in the Hall of Fame, are equally adept at both the tactics of offense and the tactics of defense.

These Major Generals are known to exclaim loudly at the appropriate moment: “Play Ball”.

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