In a first and third scenario where the other team is stealing this is especially true. Particularly when the sole purpose of the offense is to distract the defense, with the intent they will focus on the runner stealing versus the runner scoring.
In general trick plays seem to decrease as you get older, but I must admit I have seen them ran successfully in college and even in the major leagues. Which means it really is hard to keep your composure, suppress your emotions, and continue to play the game mentally.
I am sure there are others, but here are the ones I have seen coaches use the most.
Force Balk – As the pitcher starts his wind-up the runner at first takes off. Hoping the pitcher will emotionally panic and balk.
Variation against the Left Handed Pitcher: Since he is facing the runner at first, the runner takes off for second after the runner at third heads for home.
The Aw [explicative] Play – Knowing the batter is taking all the way, the runner at first takes off only to fake a fall midway. To create the maximum attention on the fact he fell [surely an easy out] he yells loudly as he falls. The runner takes off when the catcher releases the ball to second.
Picked Off On Purpose – Enticing the pitcher to pick-him off the runner at first takes a longer than normal lead with the intent to get into a run down until the runner from third scores.
Making it very difficult to keep your composure, these trick plays are usually performed late in a close game, when there are Two Outs and in many cases when there are Two Strikes on the batter!
Instead of focusing on the batter and preventing the runner on third from scoring we emotionally fall for the bait. We visually suppress all our knowledge and the mental side of baseball for whatever number of seconds we emotionally believe the other team is giving us the third-out. Reality, their intent is to score a run.
Knowledge and understanding the purpose behind the trick plays before hand is critical, but talking when a first/third situation arises in a game is the key to prevention. In fact being vocal throughout the infield not only strengthens each player’s mental focus, but it may make the opposing coach second-guess whether to try one or not.
After all, they only work if the defense emotionally makes the wrong decision.
Keeping your mental composure – Defensive Considerations
- Pitch the ball. A pitcher should make the decision to throw over or pitch before he goes into the stretch. Late in the game the batter, the runner at third and the out is more than the runner at first
- Step-off and focus on the runner at third. If you want fake the throw to first, and see if the runner at third makes a mistake
- Worse that can happen you still have two outs with a runner at second and third
- Third steps to the infield side of the bag shakes his glove if the runner at third is too far off the bag. Catcher sees it in his peripheral vision and throws to third
- Throws to second. SS covers the bag with the 2B in line with the throw watching the runner at third
- If he goes, 2B cuts the throw off and throws home and follows his throw in the event there is a run-down
- If he stays close to third, he lets the throw go through and the SS makes the tag coming up ready to throw home
- If the runner stops and attempts to get into a run-down the SS focuses on the runner at third and walks towards the runner back towards first base
- If the runner from third breaks towards home he throws to the catcher to get the out
Whether you are a purist of the game, or maybe which side of the trick play you are on, it is a thing of beauty when the defense keeps their composure and gets the runner out going from third to home. The icing on the cake is the bang-bang double play runner getting the runner stealing second and runner going home.
Until next blog,