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"Tearing up the pea patch" meant going on a rampage; "sitting in the catbird seat" means sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him.

What does sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him mean?

Obviously, it is talking about baseball. It must be about the scores a batter might take. But I do not know the rules.

And is going on a rampage used in its normal sense, that is to say going very angry? Or it as well refers to something technical in baseball?

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found this: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/tear_up_the_pea_patch –  Juya Feb 16 at 22:01
    
So looks like it does not mean becoming extremely angry. –  Juya Feb 16 at 22:04
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I don't know much about baseball either, but I've heard about "three strikes (and you're) out!" All I know is that the pitcher must throw the ball into a specific zone to challenge the batter to hit that ball. If the pitcher missed this zone, it would be counted as a ball. If the batter couldn't hit the ball, it would be counted as a strike. The more "balls" the tiresome the pitcher must be. So I would say that the saying "sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him" would imply that the batter is at great advantage, compared to the pitcher. –  Damkerng T. Feb 16 at 22:12
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To go on a rampage means literally to perform a sustained sequence of violent acts. Here, figuratively, it means to perform a sustained sequence of acts of athletic prowess. –  StoneyB Feb 16 at 23:19

1 Answer 1

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In baseball, the pitcher throws pitches to the batter. Each pitch not hit into play is deemed either a ball or a strike. A ball is a pitch where the batter does not swing, yet the pitch is outside of the strike zone – in other words, the pitch is either too high or too low, or else not over the plate.

Three strikes and the batter is out, but four balls and the batter is awarded a walk, also known as a base on balls. A walk is considered good for the hitting team, and not good for the team in the field.

When the count is 3-0 (that is, when the batter has three balls, and no strikes), it is considered good strategy to take the next pitch (that is, to let it go by, without swinging at it). The reason is simple: if this pitch is outside the strike zone, you get awarded a free base. If it's in the strike zone, though, you still have a favorable count, 3-1. So, during most pitches, the batter stands tense, ready to make the a split-second decision: Swing? Or take the pitch? However, when the count is 3-0, quite often, the batters have no intention of swinging at the ball. The batter will stand much more relaxed, and calmly watch the pitch go by.

So, the simile in your passage simply refers to someone being relaxed and still, unlikely to move or flinch.

If you'd like to watch an example, have a look at this video. It starts with the batter having a 3-0 count. He obviously has no intention of taking swing at the next pitch, which is called a strike. (In this case, the batter doesn't agree – he was ready to take his walk – but the umpire gets to make the determination, not the batter.) In the next two pitches, the batter's stance and posture are completely different from how it looked in the fourth pitch.

The phrase is not a common one, but the game situation is. Therefore, the analogy is readily understandable to anyone familiar with the game of baseball, but it wouldn't be easy to figure out without that background knowledge.

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+1 Succinct and informative. How 'bout a Canonical Post on the Lexicon and Grammar of Baseball? Pitchers and Catchers Reported Today! –  StoneyB Feb 16 at 23:16
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If anyone would like to see one more example of a batter sitting pretty, with three balls and no strikes on him, you can watch this video, but that game situation doesn't get shown until a little after 1:40 in the video. Once again, that batter's stance is markedly more relaxed than in other pitch counts. –  J.R. Feb 16 at 23:25

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