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Posts Tagged ‘baserunning’

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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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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This post is dedicated to those under-appreciated, underrated base coaches out there. Can you think of another sport where players look to coaches for guidance in the heat of a play? Imagine Doc Rivers standing in the paint and telling KG to take it to the hoop. Imagine Bill Belichek standing behind Tom Brady and whispering in his ear, “Check out Randy cutting across the middle.” It doesn’t happen. In baseball, it does. And ironically, basecoaches all to often take their jobs for granted. Here are 5 ways that basecoaches can do a better job:

1. Stay on your toes. Your attention and intensity should be equal to or greater than that of the baserunners.

2. Be a broken record. You can’t be too annoying when coaching the bases. Remind baserunners of the number of outs and other situational cues. Use a combination of verbal reminders and hand signals.

3. Know the signs. It sounds stupid but often times the signs are coming from the bench and the basecoaches will tune them out.

4. Be a student. Study tendencies of the defense. You could pick up on a weak arm, lack of concentration, or other observations that can influence your decisions.

Ok….these tips are too vague for you? Here’s some candy:

5. Remind your baserunners of things like these:

-Let the line drive go through.
-Break up two.
-Pitcher is coming with a breaking ball, anticipate a ball in the dirt.
-Don’t forget…there’s a runner in front of you.
-1st baseman is playing behind the bag
-Infielders are playing back
-Same rhythm (i.e. the pitcher is not changing up his timing)

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The following situation took place in the Belmont/Dracut State tournament game:

Runners on 1st and 3rd. 1 out. The steal sign is given to the runner on 1st base. The runner on 3rd base mistakenly takes off for home, thinking the steal sign was intended for him. The pitcher steps off the mound, throws to the catcher, and the runner is thrown out at the plate.

Question: If the batter had thrown his bat at the ball and made contact, what would the call have been? It’s clearly interference on the batter, given that it was not a pitch. Is the batter called out and the runner sent back to third? If this is the case, it would have been the best move for the batter if he believed the runner would be out at the plate. 1st and 3rd with 2 outs beats having a runner on 1st with 2 outs.

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The Break Up

In the Pawtucket Red Sox/Indianapolis Indians game last night, the following situation took place:

Runner on 1st base, 0 outs. Ground ball to the 2nd baseman, fielded in the baseline before the runner reaches him. The runner evades the tag by shifting his course out of the baseline. The 2nd baseman throws to 1st for the out. The runner who leaves the baseline is also called out.

You are the runner
As the runner in this situation, I believe you should lower your body to the ground as you approach the fielder. By doing this, the fielder now has to reach to tag you before throwing to first. You’re buying the hitter more time to reach 1st base safely. If you try to avoid the tag, you could be called for running out of the baseline. If you stop, you will likely become the back end out of the double play.

You are the fielder
Resist the temptation to tag a baserunner who is out of reach. Take the out at first and have confidence the 1st baseman will finish the double play with a good throw to the shortstop covering 2nd base.

Are there other things to consider in this situation?

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