Sony's MLB: The Show franchise has become one of the most definitive sports brands out there, taking virtual baseball up a notch with its unmatched realism and compelling gameplay. Whether you're a master of throwing the fastball from the mound or nailing a home run shot into left field, there's something for everyone to enjoy, and the latest edition, MLB 15: The Show, offers more features than ever.

Along with some of the staples we've come to expect from the series (including Road To the Show and online competition), MLB 15 provides a new card system, where you can equip your players with items that help improve their performances. In addition, emotions play a bigger role, as you succumb to nerves before throwing a pitch or walk confidently towards the batter's box in the hopes of scoring the winning run.

We'll cover every aspect of this game, with in-depth articles beginning next week, but to get you started with MLB 15, here are some tips to keep in mind.

How to hit the ball

The batting interface takes a similar approach to previous games, with analog or push-button controls to execute your swings. Watch the pitch all the way down to the plate so you don't take a swing at something you can't hit. That can result in a strike, and once you get three of those, you're out.

Don't forget you also have access to different kinds of swings. The power swing is best left to players who rank high in that category, as they'll have a better probability of getting the ball over the fence. Sometimes, though, a good contact swing is better, depending on the situation. For instance, if you have players on base waiting to make their way home, going for a home run can be a risky move, particularly if there’s an outfielder ready to snatch it away.

With a contact swing, however, you can drive the ball towards the open spaces of the outfield, making players run for it and giving your base runners the time needed to reach home. Only go for the home run if you are confident you can get it.

There's also the bunt. Hold up your bat and let the ball drop somewhere on the infield, forcing the pitcher and the catcher (or whoever else is nearby) to scramble for it. This play almost guarantees the batter will be out nearly every time (depending on distance), so use it when you need a sacrifice play to score the winning run from third.

How to find the best pitch

When it comes to pitching, before you automatically go with a fast ball every time, take a close look at what each pitcher has to offer. You'll find a variety of pitches in your arsenal, ranging from a knuckler to a curve ball to other types. From there, take a good look at the pitching grid and recognize the hot zones. Pitching into these zones guarantees some form of hit, so it's best to try and find a weak spot and aim for that. The opposing player may still hit the ball, but not nearly as often.

From there, you'll also want to make sure you master the timing of the pitch. Unless you're on easier settings, you'll need to judge for the proper power and accuracy. Go too far off this meter and your pitch is likely to go wild, which can result in one of two things. Either it will go sailing out of the pitching zone and result in a ball (four of those and the batter will walk to first base), or it'll go inside one of their hot zones, making it easy to make contact and send it flying.

Base running tips

When it comes to base-running, there are times when you'll want to play it safe, and times when you'll simply want to go for it and steal. It depends on where the ball ends up, and just how much time you have from when a ball is caught to when it can be flung to the base you're running to.

Keep a close eye on the ball when it's in play. If it's a pop fly that looks like a guaranteed catch by the outfielder, don't bother running for it, as you'll have to scramble back to the base before being tagged out. If it's a grounder, though, watch its position. If it is close to a player, don’t run for a base outside of your reach. If it's rolling longer or the player makes an error trying to pick it up, that may be just the time you need.

Finally, if you're on third base, keep this in mind. If an outfielder snags the ball from long range, go ahead and make a run for home, as most of the time you'll make it with no problem. If they're a little closer, take the runner's speed into account and figure out if you can sprint faster than the ball would take to reach the base. It helps to know your runner's ability before attempting to try and score the run. Even then, make a play at the plate to knock the ball out of the catcher's hands. You just might get away with the score.

Sure, it's a rough-and-tumble tactic, but one that pays off.

MLB 15: The Show is available now for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.