In the world of baseball, triples are considered a rarity. This wasn't always the case, as they used to be more common than home runs until around 1930. Today, only about 2% of all hits in Major League Baseball (MLB) are triples. But why is this so? Let's delve into the fascinating history and mechanics of baseball to understand why triples have become such a rare occurrence.
The Evolution of Baseball Fields
During the early days of baseball, from the 1860s to the 1910s, most baseball fields had no walls. The game was played on a hypothetically infinite field, where a fielder could theoretically run, pick up the ball, and throw it to a teammate in the infield. This setup naturally led to singles being more common than doubles, which were more common than triples, which were more common than home runs.
However, as baseball evolved, so did the design of the fields. Ballparks were built with walls, and team owners gradually moved these walls or fences in to make outside-the-park home runs more common. This shift in field design, coupled with changes in how baseballs were produced to make them fly farther, led to a decrease in triples and an increase in home runs.
The Difficulty of Achieving a Triple
Achieving a triple requires a unique combination of factors. The ball must be hit solidly to a distant part of the field, usually near the foul line closest to right field, or take an irregular bounce in the outfield, usually against the wall, away from a fielder. Additionally, the batter must be fast enough to reach third base before the ball is returned to the infield.
Moreover, achieving a triple also requires strategic thinking. Teams tend to be conservative and stop the runner at second base unless it's clear that the runner can safely reach third base. This is because having a runner on third base is not seen as a significant advantage over having a runner on second base. Both positions allow the runner to score on any hit that gets past the infielders, making the risk of attempting a triple often not worth the potential reward.
While triples may be rare in today's game, they add an exciting element of unpredictability when they do occur. They require a perfect blend of power, precision, speed, and strategy, making them one of the most thrilling plays in baseball.