MLB 2K6 employs its own take on the meter-style pitching that's all the rage in baseball games these days. Pitches are selected and aimed using the buttons and the analog stick. When you press the button to select a pitch, the targeting cursor grows into a large circle that gets bigger the longer you hold the button. This indicates how much power or break you've built into the pitch. Letting up on the button locks in the effectiveness and causes the circle to quickly collapse into a crosshair. You then have to tap the button one more time to lock in the accuracy. The smaller the circle is, the more accurate the pitch will be. In practice, it's a highly intuitive system that boils the complex art of pitching down to a couple of quick button presses.
Another intriguing aspect of the pitching interface is that it's possible to specify where the catcher sets up for each pitch. By holding the left shoulder button, you can use the analog stick to position the catcher's glove over any of eight spots around the strike zone. This lets you psych out players by setting up outside for inside pitches and inside for outside pitches. It's also the key to the game's optional payoff-pitch mechanism. In a real baseball game, a pitch made on a two-strike count is called the payoff pitch, because the pitcher's confidence can be shaken or strengthened based on whether the next pitch is a ball, a hit, or a strike. MLB 2K6 simulates this when you choose to position the catcher on a two-strike count. If your pitch lands in the glove without causing the catcher to move, you'll add a couple of points to your pitcher's effectiveness rating. If the catcher has to move to catch the ball, you'll lose a couple of points. Perhaps the implementation is a little bizarre, but the ability to adjust the catcher's positioning is still a welcome addition.
Unique to MLB 2K6 is its Inside Edge system. Besides incorporating scouting data into player strengths and CPU behavior, Inside Edge makes hitting and pitching suggestions to you on a pitch-by-pitch basis during the game. When you're on the mound, the game will suggest the most effective pitch and location based upon the hitter's past performance in that particular count. When you're up to bat, the game will show you how likely a pitcher is to throw each of his pitches, as well as display the three most likely spots where the next pitch will be located. What's nice about Inside Edge is that it makes scouting data an integral part of gameplay.
Generally, MLB 2K6 does a good job of portraying what tends to happen during a real-life professional baseball game. The CPU plays a smart game, is relatively aggressive on the bases, and makes substitutions when they're appropriate. Overall, the ratio of ground balls to liners and fly balls is right on the money. When you swing too early or too late at pitches, foul balls and weak pop-ups are more likely to result than clean hits. Pitchers get rattled when there are men on base with no outs, or when a fast runner is on first, which causes the pitching cursor to bob and weave. Inexperienced fielders also tend to bobble the ball or make offline throws more often than veteran players do. Occasionally, you'll run into an artificial intelligence gaffe, like a fielder failing to pick up the ball or touch a base on a putout, but those sorts of glitches occur far less frequently in the PSP game than they do in the console versions.
On the whole, Major League Baseball 2K6 for the PSP is a solid baseball sim that hasn't had to sacrifice too much in the transition from console to handheld. Diehard simmers will probably be able to forgive the game's stoic atmosphere, since the gameplay and features are deliciously deep.