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Opening Day Countdown: The 11 Man Defense

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Just 11 days until opening day!

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I've been doing these opening day countdown articles since New Year's Day. That's in addition to all the other articles I write--and edit--for this site and The Outside Corner. I'm not asking for you to pity me. No. I'm just pointing out that my brain is a little fried at this juncture and more specifically that I'm scrapping the barrel with these articles. So I did what all desperate perfectly well adjusted and sane writers do when they're faced with writer's block. I begged Twitter for help. And much to my delight Twitter obliged in full force.

I was immediately flooded with a bunch of great ideas from friends, colleagues, and followers alike. So a huge thanks to everyone that offered help in this my darkest hour with a simple daily article. A lot of people suggested I write about the 2011 season--which hadn't even crossed my mind as evidence of how melty it is. It's a good topic, but I wrote a bit on this in different iterations this winter and so did Travis (1,2) so I thought it was time for something a little different.

This is a great idea. Baseball has been looking for ways to jazz up the game for the kiddies and what better way than with 11 players on the field. The strategic possibilities are endless. Here are just a few that my think meat was able to produce.

The Wild-Thang* Defense

Full disclosure: I basically stole this from the Kia Tigers who tried this last year. From what I understand they were doing this at a critical late moment in the game. They wanted to protect against a wild pitch allowing the runner at third to score. The Wild Thang tactic is a little more intense.

My idea is to take "effectively wild" to a whole new level. I'm talking about full scale psychological warfare. You put the extra two fielders behind the batter on either side. That way he doesn't have to just worry about the pitcher being wild around the strike zone. The ball could go flying in any direction. By their third plate appearance the hitters will be so scared they'll just flail at any three pitches just to get back home safely. It also keeps base runners in check because they have to worry about more than just the catcher picking them off.

*It's called Wild Thang because it's hip and trendy with the kids. Trust me. I'm down with the youths.

The 11 man infield

The 11 Man Infield is inspired by Kodi Medeiros. I was fortunate enough to see his first start with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers last year. He went 6 innings while striking out 7 batters, allowing 0 hits, 1 walk, and nothing hit went into the air. It got me thinking and I came up with a simple variation of the 5 man infield. Since everything hit off of Medeiros is a ground ball--this may or may not be true don't look it stop I said don't look it up--you have no need for outfielders. With 6 extra fielders there's zero chance Medeiros ever allows a base hit.

The "Hey Your Shoe's Untied Ha Ha Made You Look"

This is more psychological warfare. Remember when you were a kid and played rec department baseball? What did you always do when the opposing team went to bat? You heckled the hitter of course. "Hey batter, batter." "Swing batter, batter." That kind of stuff. Well instead of hanging behind the chain link fence, the extra two fielders hang a few feet behind the hitter and taunt him mercilessly--this is the major leagues after all. Goose Gossage would approve. If the batter gets a hit the extra fielders can continue to keep pace with the hitter to distract him while running the bases.

Sure to be a popular offshoot of this strategy is the "I'm not touching you." It's pretty self explanatory. You have one fielder right up against the batter, or base runner, as close as he can get without actually touching and he continuously whispers, "I'm not touching you."

The Reverse Pepper Defense

Have you ever seen the "No Pepper" signs at baseball stadiums? For those that don't know, "pepper" was a kind of practice/drill that players used to use. A bunch of fielders would line up to toss balls at a batter who would then ground it back to them. If you hit it in the air, the next in line gets to hit. It was supposed to be a fundamentals drill but teams banned it because they didn't want players accidentally drilling their teammates before games, or screwing up the field, or hitting anyone in the stands. Goose Gossage doesn't approve ya bunch of sissies.

My idea throws all of that out the window. You give the two extra infielders bats of their own. Their goal is to hit back anything the opposition puts into play. Let's say the batter hits a line drive. If one of the extra fielders hits into the stands in foul territory, it counts as a foul. If he's adept enough to pop it up and someone else catches it, it's an out. This is the revolutionary change that baseball has been waiting for. Sure it increases the injury risk to everyone on the field and in the stands by an insane amount. But that's just the risk you take for greatness.

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What do you all think? Which one of my great ideas do you think is the greatest? Do you have any 11 man strategies of your own? I'm curious to hear them if you do!