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Archive for the ‘baserunning’ Category

What is the proper approach when taking a lead off 2nd base?

lead off second base

I like taking a simple approach. Take the largest lead where you know you can get back to the bag safely if the pitcher throws over. Usually, this is two steps and a dive. Too many young ballplayers are overly concerned about where the shortstop and 2nd baseman are playing. I see many players extending and shortening their lead based on what they see and instructions screamed from base coaches or the bench. I call it bouncing.

There are situations that warrant extended leads, but in general I like my players to take the same lead every time. Don’t worry about the fielders. The pitcher has the ball. He is the only player who can get you out. Adjusting your lead causes two very bad habits:

1. Taking your eye off the pitcher-Do not look back at the fielders when you are off the base.
2. Shifting your weight towards 2nd base- When you bounce back and forth depending upon the positioning of the fielders, you run the risk of shifting your weight back towards 2nd base. You are going to have a very difficult time scoring on a base hit or even advancing to third on a grounder if your weight is directed towards 2nd base. If I’m a pitcher and I see the runner at 2nd base shift their weight back towards the base, that is a great time for me to start my delivery.

Rather than trying to gain an advantage by bouncing, use a secondary lead to put yourself in a position to advance and score. When the pitcher commits to the plate, take two aggressive crow hops as your secondary lead. Then, react to the situation. This approach will put you in a good position to score on a base hit, advance on a hit ball or ball in the dirt, and you do not run the risk of being picked off.

How do you take leads off second base?

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You are the runner on 3rd base. The infield is drawn in. How do you give yourself the best chance to score? You will score on a hit, a sacrifice, and possibly on a passed ball/wild pitch. Another way to score that run is by breaking for home once you see the ball hit on the ground. This is commonly known as “the contact play.”

What I like about the contact play is that it puts pressure on the defense. Even with the infield playing in, breaking on contact will force the defense to make three successful plays: 1. The infielder must field the ball cleanly. 2. The infielder must make an accurate throw to the catcher and 3. The catcher must receive the ball and tag you OUT.

Keys To Executing The Contact Play
1. The third base coach should communicate the play to the runner at third base and any other runners on the bases. This is key. If there are runners on 2nd and 3rd, the runner on 2nd will be able to get a better jump if he knows the runner in front of him will be breaking for home on contact.

2. The runner on third should take as much of a lead as he can at third base and get a good secondary walking lead.

3. The runner on third should break for home the instant he sees the ball hit into the ground.

It Could Get Busted
The most common way that the contact play gets busted is when the ball is grounded back to the pitcher. In this case, it’s the runner’s job to get in a rundown long enough to allow the batter to get to 2nd base. Of course, the batter’s gotta be bustin’ down the line to make this happen as well.

Pick Your Spots
Like any baseball play, there are no hard fast rules. You need to consider the situation. How much of a risk are you willing to take given the score and timing of the game? How fast is the runner at third? How strong are the infielders? Etc.

In general, there are two situations when it makes more sense to put on the contact play:

1 OUT–With 1 out, there will be less chances to score that run so you might want to be more aggressive.

RUNNERS ON 2ND AND 3RD–Even if the play gets busted, you will still have a runner in scoring position for the next batter.

What sort of success has your team had with the contact play?

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Guest Blogger Kyle Provost breaks down the importance of taking the proper lead off third base.

leading off third base













Game Scenario

Imagine being just ninety feet away from scoring the tying run of the biggest game of the season. The game has been well played with stellar defense and great small-ball baseball strategy. The pressure mounts for the hitter, who faces a full count with the game on the line. With the pitch on the way most would argue that the game is solely on the shoulders of the hitter at the plate. As is often the case, the importance of sound baserunning is forgotten. We’ll get back to our game situation in a bit. First…some general advice on taking your lead.

Know The Situation

As a baserunner it is crucial to be aware of your role in dozens of situations. It could mean sliding to one side of second base to break up a double play or knowing the outfielder’s arm strength in case you need to advance on a fly out. Baseball seems to be full of surprises, and you need to be ready for every possible scenario.

Taking Your Lead

It is important to take all of the precautionary steps when leading off of a base, while at the same time adding some calculated risk to gain that competitive edge. Take your lead far enough to be a distraction for the pitcher, but within a hangnail’s reach of getting back on a pick-off attempt. Also, make sure you increase your lead when the pitcher commits to throwing home. This is most commonly referred to as the secondary lead. This will give you a greater chance of advancing to the next base if the situation arises to do so. A secondary lead can mean the difference of scoring from second on a single, getting home on a wild pitch or passed ball, or even increasing your chances to break up a potential double play.

Leading the Comeback Charge!!

Back to our game…The runner at third began his lead in foul territory of the baseline, which proved crucial to what was about to transpire. With the game on the line, the hitter roped a solid groundball down the third base line, hitting the runner directly in the foot. Because the runner took his lead in foul territory, the ball is considered dead on contact. The runner would have been ruled out if his feet were in fair territory.

The batter had new life, which resulted in an RBI single and an eventual win for a smart base-running squad. In the end, it was a matter of making the right decisions on the base paths that allowed for some heroics.

Bonus Tip

Once a ball hit to third has passed the runner in fair territory, the runner should move to the inside part of the base path to block the third baseman’s throwing lane to the catcher. If the ball strikes a runner on any throw, then the ball is still considered live and no outs are recorded.

Blogger Bio

Kyle has been around baseball for the past twelve years of his life as player, manager, league owner, and even radio broadcaster. Kyle played for North Middlesex High School until he began his radio career in 2002.  He was a play-by-play personality for Franklin Pierce University, Keene State University, and the New England Collegiate Baseball League in NH. After departing from NH, Kyle focused his efforts on creating one of the newest Boston-area based baseball leagues.

Along with his brother Jason Provost, Kyle formulated the Royal Rooters Baseball League, which was named after arguably the most famous Boston fans of all time. The RRBL is housed in mostly Boston suburbs including Reading, Cambridge, Wakefield, and Medford. The competitive woodbat baseball league is marketed as great baseball for weekend warriors. The league has grown to nine teams since its creation in 2005 and looks to add a tenth team in 2010.  The players come from all over New England with experienced playing backgrounds ranging from former High School standouts, to former and current Division I, II, and III studs. You can find more information on RRBL’s website at www.royalrooters-baseball.com.

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RyanChurch3rdbase

In Monday’s Mets-Dodgers game in Los Angeles, Ryan Church made a baserunning gaffe that Mets manager Jerry Manuel could not comprehend. Church’s 11th inning run was erased when he missed 3rd base and the Dodgers correctly appealed the play. After the game, Manuel remarked,

“It’s hard to miss third base. I don’t know if I ever remember seeing anyone miss third base in a situation like that. I don’t have any explanation for it.”

I concur with Manuel that I cannot recall a major leaguer missing third base. But, it certainly happens from time to time at lower levels of baseballs. Church claimed he did not realize he missed the bag. But, what if he knew he missed the base? What’s the best advice for a baserunner in that situation?

If you are not sure if you touched a base, return to the base and then advance as the situation allows. There are too many people (fielders, bench players, over-involved parents etc.) watching the play to get away with it. 

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There are exceptions: The major exception is if the act of returning to the base would likely result in being tagged out.

Here’s another exception that will make you think:

Bottom of the 9th inning. Your team is batting and down 1 run with 1 out. Runners at 1st & 2nd. Line drive to leftfield. The runner at 2nd holds up to make sure the ball is not caught. The runner at 1st is running hard the whole way. The ball is over the outfielder’s head and both runners are being waved home by the third base coach. The runner who represents the tying run misses third, but the runner behind him is right on his heels. You are the tying run. What do you do?

You need to continue running to guarantee the game will be tied. Don’t you agree? Not to mention, turning back would likely result in the 2nd runner passing the 1st (an automatic out).

Are there other situations when a runner should not return to the base he missed?

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We’ve discussed timing the pitcher and creating the gap. In our final installment on stealing 3rd, let’s talk about the catcher.

The catcher
When you deem the timing is right to steal third base, look to the catcher before bolting. How strong is the catcher’s arm? What pitch is the catcher likely to call (easier to steal on an offspeed pitch)? And….where is the catcher setting up? If the catcher is setting up inside on a righthanded hitter, it could be more difficult for him to get a throw off as the batter will obstruct the throwing lane to 3rd. If there is a lefthanded batter at the plate, it really opens up the throwing lane for the catcher.

Lots to think about. As you play more, you will be able to collect all this information in your head in a matter of seconds and make a good decision.

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In our first installment on stealing 3rd, we spoke about timing the pitcher. In Part 2, we will talk about creating a gap.

Create a gap
By stealing 3rd base, one thing you are doing is opening up a larger hole on the left side of the infield, as the 3rd baseman needs to vacate his position to cover 3rd base.
There are several situations where your hitter is more likely to hit that gap:

1. The hitter has a tendency to hit the ball that way.

2. The pitcher is likely to throw a ball that the batter can hit in that gap. (most often this will be a pitch middle/in to a righthanded hitter)

3. It’s a hitter’s count (1-0,2-0,2-1,3-1) when a hitter is in an aggressive mode at the plate.

On the flip side
If your team is in the field, you might consider holding the 3rd baseman in position and conceding 3rd base. You would probably only do this when there are 2 outs and you believe there is a high likelihood that the batter will hit the ball in that gap.

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Stealing 3rd base is something that amateur and scholastic teams should be doing more often. It’s all about finding the right opportunities. Consider this posting the first in a three part series about stealing 3rd.

Timing is Everything
Steal on a pitcher who doesn’t change his timing to the plate. By studying the pitcher’s tendencies, a runner at 2nd can get a huge jump. Look for a few things:

1. Observe how many times the pitcher looks at the runner before starting his delivery to the plate

2. Count the seconds from the pitcher’s set position to the start of his motion.

3. Look for a movement the pitcher makes that jumpstarts his motion. Sometimes a pitcher will tuck his chin or bob his head slightly.

The effectiveness of this approach is increased even more when the 2nd baseman and shortstop are not paying much attention to the runner at 2nd.

Rule of Thumb: Don’t make the 3rd out trying to steal third. Most likely, you will score from 2nd base on a 2-out base hit anyways so the reward of getting to 3rd is not nearly as great as when there are less than 2 outs. I’m not saying not to steal 3rd with 2 outs. I’m just saying that if you go, you better be safe! If you consider it somewhat of a risk, steal with 0 or 1 outs. Then, you have the added reward of being able to score from 3rd on a sac fly or infield grounder.

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