Base Running with No OutsPosted: June 9, 2010
What is my point?
With no outs a base runner should tag up on a fly ball if he is on second or third base. If he is on first base, he needs to make a decision based on the distance of the fly ball.
Why does it matter?
The goal of a base runner is to preserve outs while taking advantage of opportunities to reach the next base. These rules provide a framework helping a runner make better decisions.
Do Your Homework Before a Pitch is Thrown
Check the Defense
Base runners must identify the location of each defensive player before taking their lead. This information helps make decisions once a ball is put in play.
Step Back on a Line Drive
Line drives are the most difficult ball to read. They are the biggest cause of “doubling off” runners. “Doubled off” is when a batter flies out to a fielder and the fielded ball beats the runner back to the base the runner occupies.
Many coaches will say that a player should “Freeze” on a line drive, but that doesn’t give the runner the best opportunity to preserve outs. There are some examples where a player who freezes will be out when a player who steps back will be safe. That example is for another time.
Now that we have a general understanding, it is time to discuss the first rule. Put your helmets on!
Rule Number 1
With no outs, players should “Tag up” at second and third base if a ball is hit in the air. There are some exceptions based on the location of the fly ball and what base you occupy.
Let’s Look at Some of the Most Common Examples.
Situation 1: Runner is on first base and no one is out. Fly ball is hit in fair territory.
Base runner: The base runner should get off as far as he can and still be able to get back to first base should the ball be caught. Remember, we said that the runner should automatically tag up at second and third base, not first base.
Why? The runner should not tag up because he could be forced out if the ball drops. That is not possible on second or third base since there is no force.
Situation 2: Man on second base and no outs. Fly ball is hit anywhere on the field fair or foul.
Base runner: “Tag up” and choose to stay or advance to the next base after a catch is made.
Why? With zero outs, a runner’s priority is to preserve the out. It is better for the runner to remain at the occupied base then it is for the runner to move too far off the base and become “Doubled off.” By tagging, the runner gives his team 2 additional outs to score.
Situation 3: Man on third base with no outs. Fly ball hit at least 200 feet away. (200’ is a generic number I am using to describe a distance where the base runner can beat a throw home)
Base runner: Base runner should tag up.
Why? The likelihood is that the ball will be caught. The fielder will also be in a location where the runner can beat the throw to home plate. If the runner tags up, he will have a high probability of making it home unless he trips or slips. Even if the fielder drops the ball, the runner will still beat the throw home.
Situation 4: Man on third base. Fly ball is hit in the short outfield where either an infielder or outfielder has a chance to catch a ball.
Base runner: Since the fly ball is now close enough to throw the base runner out, the runner should no longer tag, and instead get off the base. The runner needs to be close enough to get back to third base if the ball is caught.
Why? By going part way, the runner is able to get back to third base if the ball is caught. He will also be able to score should the ball be dropped. Remember that the ball is not deep enough for the runner to tag up.
First and Third base coaches
The runner should not pay any attention to the third base coach. It is the job of the runner to make decisions. Remember that in a big league game, a player probably won’t be able to hear so the decision is on them.
I believe that a player’s understanding of baseball lies largely with how they run the bases. Speed is secondary to understanding the value of your out. Down the road we will look to see how the score of the game helps determine decisions on the base paths.
It is now your turn to watch the base runners when there are no outs and a fly ball is hit. If you see a runner tag up then you know he has played correctly. If you see the runner lead off the base then you have identified a player who has made a mental mistake. Watch some games and see how you do!