Handicaps for softball games
Finally! The weather finally got halfway decent, the snow had melted off the field, so I got to watch a high school softball game. It was a JV game, but softball is softball. Or so I thought.
It was pretty brutal. The team I was rooting for (because one of my players was helping out there today) just destroyed the other team by 20+ runs in each game.
Truthfully I started feeling bad for the other team.Their girls were trying hard, but they just don’t have the skills. I actually saw a ground ball roll through the second baseman’s legs out to right field, where the right fielder kicked it into center trying to pick it up, and the hitter wound up on second instead of being thrown out easily at first. All it was missing was the music from the Bad News Bears (the original 1976 version, still the best!).
That got me to thinking. Some sports use a handicapping system to make them more balanced and fair. Horse racing, for example. They add weight to the load the horses have to carry to make everything more balanced.
Or what about golf and bowling? They let the weaker player subtract strokes from or add pins to their scores to balance things out more. In sailboat racing they subtract time from the times of the slower boats to even things out a bit.
So why not softball? Rather than watching a complete blowout, which is the equivalent of watching paint dry, why not institute a handicapping system that gives the struggling team a chance at a comeback, and gives the far better team more of a challenge, which makes the game more worthwhile?
It wouldn’t kick in right away. But let’s say you set a 15-run limit. After that, the losing team gets to add an extra fielder or two to try and cut down on the number of errors by closing up the field.
Or you can do what we did as kids when we didn’t have enough players – close a field. For right handed hitters you could close left, i.e. any ball hit there is an out and a dead ball, and any runners on base have to go back. For lefties you’d close right field. Not only would that cut back on the scoring, it would force the hitters to have to learn how to go to the opposite field.
An obvious one is to have the hitters on the successful team turn around and hit opposite-handed. I remember doing that in co-rec softball years ago. Or you could force them to use cheap aluminum bats instead of their $350 super bats.
Here’s another idea. After 15 runs, the two teams switch pitchers. That way the better pitcher is pitching to her own team, challenging them, while the weaker team gets to hit off the pitchers who’s been getting pounded all game. Either they’ll hit better or the pitcher will feel better about herself.
The dominating team could start each inning with one out, and/or the hitters would have an 0-1 count. Or you could give the weaker team an extra strike. (I’ve noticed many umpires tend to do that anyway by closing up the strike zone for the better pitcher trying to make a game of it.)
Obviously, this is tongue-in-cheek. Truth is it’s up to the coach of the weaker team to coach his/her players up so they improve. Still, when you’re wondering if the inning will ever be over, the mind does tend to wander.
So how about you? What sorts of handicaps would you impose to help move the game along?