2B or Not 2B, That Is The Question
Hitting the ball was easy. Running around the bases was the tough part.
Running bases is the thinking man’s reactive part of the game. Today we will wander around the bases – in no particular order – while thinking about when to leave a base on a fly ball to the OF.
Hitting a softball to get on base is a happy feat we accomplish 50 to 70% of the time we come to the plate. Once on base, it’s time to make decisions about what comes next on the base path. But those decisions should have started long before the batter box was entered. Base running requires advanced mental preparation with a survey of the talent playing in the OF either before the game starts or at least while waiting a turn at bat. Knowing where the players with the strong throwing arms are located is the primary bit of information that needs to be stored away and retrieved when on base.
Once on base, data processing continues by knowing how many outs, the location of other runners, if any, AND their running capabilities. Over-running the lead runner is poor etiquette in polite society.
Third base is a good place to start this discussion because it's a simple go/no-go decision between the runner and the 3B coach. With less than 2 outs, staying plugged into 3B is paramount for any fly ball situation. On a long fly ball, the base runner is off to score once the ball is caught in the OF. For a ball hit and caught in short left, the mental process kicks in and go/no-go depends on the information stored regarding the arm of the OF, the number of outs, and whether you are still puffing away after that triple. If the OF is known to have a gun for an arm, staying in place may be prudent.
Heading over to 1B, the base runner has a very different set of dynamics for concern than 3B. Regardless of a long or short fly ball to the OF, the 1B runner must make an unhesitating mad dash at least halfway to 2B. This is the point where the go/no-go decision is made. If the ball is not caught - finish the mad dash before the OF makes the throw to 2B. If caught - hustle back to 1B with the knowledge that, in our league, a safety rule exists which prevents an OF throw to 1B.
12.2.1 Outfielders may not throw a runner out at first base.
This does not mean the base runner should dawdle back to 1B. You’re open season for an OF relay to the IF standing on the dirt with a gun for an arm and a savvy 1B guy.
You know all this stuff – except when the data gets jumbled.
Let's wander over to 2B which is the whole point of this column.
Your high school baseball coach may have dictated you take a 3-step lead off 2B, then wait and see if the ball was caught by the OF. If it did, you would score – but if caught, no harm, you tagged up and waited. You might want to rethink that strategy. There is an indisputable fact that must be kept in the runner’s mind at 2B. It takes the average senior citizen 18 running steps to go 70 feet between 2B and 3B.
On a batted ball to the OF, taking a 3-step lead from point A (2B) to point B (lead) means you will burn 9 steps to get back to point B on a caught ball after tag up. That’s 50% of wasted running steps to 3B as well as losing scoring potential. The solution is simple, stay plugged into 2B until the OF situation develops.
Insane Mcnutly just smacked a double and stands on 2B with his adrenaline pumping and humming bars to “Zip A Dee Doo Da.”-- he is having a wonderful day. But he has immediate decisions to make regarding his base advancement because, in the next 4 seconds, the pitch will be made to the next batter.
The choices are as follows:
Continue humming while being distracted by the silly banter of the hippy-looking rover.
Ensure that his foot stays planted on 2B while rechecking the OF talent for arm strength and position depth – ready to make a go/no-go decision on a short or long fly ball.
Live up to his first name and bounce down the path for a normal 3-step lead on a fly ball.
‘The Mick’ said, "It's unbelievable how much you don't know about the game you've been playing all your life."
Happy running! Refer all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 2, 2024