Fast, Slow, Hybrid How do you choose?
To whoever sees the first few lines of this blog post I am posting a warning. This is a super wiffle nerdy and in depth analysis of my wiffleball playing experience. So if wiffle is strictly recreational in nature for you this may turn you off. However if you are feeling adventurous today go ahead and explore this post. I think I am finally at a place in my wiffle playing career to give a rounded view of how I view styles of play. And in relation to that, through this post I’m hoping to show why I will forever say Leroy’s system of play is the most sustainable format of play to keep players of all skill levels engaged.
First I am gunna talk about slow pitch mainly ORWBL. I played a few tournaments last year but I have played all 12 games so far in ORWBL for the Maple City Magic. In short it hasn’t been exactly what I expected. When I first went online to look at the rules of ORWBL I was chompin at the bit to play. Coming from a hybrid fast pitch league to a slow pitch no balls league I was thinking dinger after dinger after dinger. Well its not that simple. Because there are no balls pitchers can be way more selective where they pitch you the ball and some of these pitches they throw can be actually pretty nasty. I love the pitchers hand everywhere rule. This allows an athletic pitcher to change the game. And of course its a hitters dream league. There are a ton of details that can change a game, fielding errors, solid baserunning, or the wind. But at the end of the day in ORWBL you have to have the horses from the plate and 9 times out of 10 the better hitting team will win. Now what I don’t like about ORWBL is pretty simple. I don’t feel like it challenges each individual to see who is the best all around player because there is no pitching. Nothing against ORWBL but I could take our top 5 hitters from Leroy to ORWBL and have 5 top 10 players in the league potentially. But if I take the 5 best players from ORWBL to Leroy and compare them to our top 10 there would be 2 or 3, but the pitching is what will kill most. It is so difficult to pick up a wiffleball and just become a good fast pitch wiffler. Hell it took me 2 years before I could get an E.R.A. below 2. Nothing against the ORWBL guys hitting talent, because its some of the best in the country. If you look at Liberatore, Ellis, Bushman, Soos, Curliss, or Smith from Granger. But have them throw fast pitch or hit it as well and see if the numbers look the same.
NWLA style has me conflicted. For me it is the purest form of wiffleball. Straight fast pitch no hybrid mix of slow pitch. 5 balls, 3 strikes. Yellow bats. 2 fielders. The pitchers best against your best. You walk just like baseball, there is a pitchers ring instead of circle so putting the ball in play can really help because pitchers hand isn’t throughout the whole field. For your advanced and experienced player, this style feels like the most fun. The Tournament is a blast and it shows you where you stack up against other leagues throughout the country. It is the best of the best but that also the problem. Something that makes wiffleball great is where it started. Its a backyard game that you enjoyed with the stud athletes and the kids that were just there to chill and have fun. I’m really competitive. But I also understand that this great game and what its growing into is way bigger than me. If we want to see this sport continue to grow and people to get excited about the game this isn’t the style for that purpose. Don’t get me wrong the NWLA is so important and has its place. If I didn’t have this outlet for my competitive nature I wouldn’t be as excited about playing in Leroy as I am in 2017. But this can’t be the format for starting and introducing a league. If new players get discouraged with not being able to even hit the ball, we are defeating the purpose. But fast pitch to me still is the way to go. So now I kind of transition into the whole point I’m Trying to make…..
My big statement for the day is that Leroy’s style and format of play is the most sustainable for growing a league. Bold Words, but here’s why. We cater to two types of players. Competitive and talented, and recreational and less skilled. The two rules in our league that bring me to that conclusion are the 5 pitch speed switch and 1 inning limit. Our 5 pitch speed rule is as follows: After 5 fast pitch balls the pitcher must throw slow pitch style pitches. IF the hitter gets to 10 balls in the count he is free to take a single, 15 a double, 20 a triple, and 25 a homerun. At first many people are turned off by this rule but think about it. This doesn’t penalize good players. AGAIN IT DOESN”T PENALIZE GOOD PLAYERS. If you don’t throw 5 balls or an NWLA walk, you will never have to throw a slow pitch to a hitter ever. This is why this rule has changed how we play wiffleball in Leroy. Good pitchers such as Erik Detmar or Andrew Sitter don’t complain because they very rarely get to slow pitch counts. But rookies and lower level players love it as well because there is a chance. A chance to see a meatball off of a top pitcher in the country and send it over the fence. It has created a dynamic that encourages elite players to perform. But the beautiful thing is that it punishes those same elite players when they don’t perform at the level they should be playing at.
The other big rule we have in Leroy is that you pitch 1 inning at a time through your lineup. Let me explain. So I will use my liners team for example. Our regular batting order with our full team is as follows.
Instead of having 1 starter throw the whole game, I will pitch inning 1. Jon will throw inning 2 Quin throws inning 3 and then Austin throws inning 4 and then I finish with inning 5 back to the top. But the next game we play that day. Jon starts game 1, quin throws the second inning Austin 3 me 4th and then Jon closes again. Your lineup carriers over in order where you left off from the previous game. This rule has been huge for our league because it doesn’t allow super teams or players to win based on their skill ability greatly exceeding their opponents. Sure they can do it from the plate, but you aren’t gunna go 6-6 and then throw a no hitter as well. In our league everyone throws the same amount for the most part. So you really are only as good as your 3-4. The best overall team in the league will win based on this format.
In summary. ORWBL does a great job with giving a style that good players can be good at and bad players can play. But they potentially miss out on a lot of talent and potential exposure because of the strict slow pitch rule. The NWLA tournament brings the best talent out for a weekend to see what league is the best. But if this format stays the same with the price continuing to grow it will be tough to find new teams and fresh faces if newer leagues with younger guys have no shot or even hope at qualifying for the big dance. I obviously will always have a soft spot for Leroy and I heavily participate in ORWBL and the NWLA scene so I love them both a ton as well. But during a time where major leagues are starting to see recession Leroy is growing exponentially. There are a lot of factors that go into all of those situations, but maybe this article can at the very least be a conversation piece into how our success in growing our league and the approach we took could be a starting place for change throughout the wiffle world.