In this tutorial, we will learn about the count, what it means, and the different phrases you may hear to describe it.
In baseball, the count refers to the current number of balls and strikes during an at-bat. The number of balls is always stated before the number of strikes. When writing the count, there is a hyphen between the numbers.
How To Say It
When speaking, you can either say, The count is two and one (with an and between both numbers) or He has a two-one count (listing the numbers without and, but saying count right after). Additionally, if there is a zero in the count, the zero is pronounced as oh. For example, if a batter has three (3) balls and zero (0) strikes, or a 3-0 count, it would be pronounced three-oh count.
The count will only extend up to three (3) for balls and two (2) for strikes. Even if the batter gets four (4) balls or three (3) strikes, the count will never include the four (4) or the three (3). Once the outcome (walk or strikeout) of the at-bat occurs, the count is no longer used.
A full count is when the batter has three (3) balls and two (2) strikes, or a 3-2 count. It is called a full count because neither the number of balls nor the number of strikes can increase without ending the at-bat. Just one more strike would result in a strike out, and just one more ball would result in a walk.
However, a full count does not necessarily mean that the outcome of the at-bat would occur after one more pitch. The batter could foul the ball, and if none of the defensive players catches it, the batter would get another pitch. This could go on for multiple pitches. The batter could also hit the baseball, putting the outcome of the at-bat in the fielders' hands.
An even count is when there are the same number of balls and strikes. Typically, this only includes counts of 1-1 and 2-2, since three (3) strikes would mean an out and the count would not be used. 0-0 counts are not typically used either; people begin using the count once at least one pitch has been thrown.
Ahead in the Count
The phrase ahead in the count is used to describe who has the advantage in the count: the pitcher or the batter. If there are more strikes than balls, the pitcher is ahead in the count, because he is closer to striking the batter out. If there are more balls than strikes, the batter is ahead in the count, because he is closer to walking than he is to striking out.
Behind in the Count
Similarly, behind in the count describes who has the disadvantage in the count. If there are more balls than strikes, the pitcher is behind in the count because he is closer to walking the batter than to striking out. If there are more strikes than balls, the batter is behind in the count because he is closer to striking out than to walking.
A hitter's count refers to a situation where there are at least two (2) more balls than strikes in the count. A typical hitter's count is a 3-1 count. These counts favor the batter because they encourage the pitcher to throw within the strike zone in order to avoid throwing a ball and walking the batter. Remember that pitches thrown in the strike zone are easier for a batter to hit. Also, the low strike count gives batters room to be more picky with the pitches they choose to swing at. If they receive a pitch that they do not want to hit, they can let it pass -- without the risk of striking out -- and see if the next pitch is more hittable.