Even the best base runners get picked off and/or get caught in a rundown every once in a while. Although at the higher levels practically all these runners will be out, there are a couple things a runner can do to increase the likelihood that they will be safe. Here are two tips that might just work for you when you’re “in a pickle.”
Run to the inside. This involves a play where a runner takes off from first base on a left handed pitcher’s first move after coming set. By taking off on the steal at first move, the runner is banking on one of two things. Either he guesses right and the pitcher throws home on the pitch or the runner is faster getting to second base than the defensive team’s ability to throw the ball from the pitcher to the first baseman and then to the shortstop at second base. When the runner guesses wrong and the pitcher throws to first, smart runners will veer to the infield side of the baseline on their way to second base. This is because the first baseman will be throwing the ball to second base on that same infield side of the baseline. A runner who runs on the infield side of the baseline can get in the way of the first baseman’s throw. What the runner hopes for is either the ball will hit him on the throw or the first baseman will alter his throw to avoid hitting the runner. In both cases, the advantage is with the runner. A runner who stays right on the baseline when he runs allows a clear, unobstructed throw from the first baseman to second base which increases the likelihood he will be out at second.
Turn to the right. Another tough spot a runner may find himself in is a rundown between bases. A previous post gave two priorities for the defense when a rundown occurs. This tip is something a runner can do. Most infielders are taught to sprint at the runner during a rundown to get him moving fast. If they can’t catch him they toss the ball to their teammate and continue running to the right in order to get out of the baseline when the runner turns to run in the other direction. The key there is that just about every fielder runs to the RIGHT to get out of the baseline. However, just about every runner turns to the LEFT in order to turn around and run in the other direction after the toss. Here’s a tip for runners. Force yourself to turn to the RIGHT instead of the left. Sometimes when you turn to the right you will run straight into the fielder who has just tossed the ball and is trying to exit the baseline by going to the right. If you make contact with this fielder who no longer has the ball, obstruction is called and the umpire will award you the next base.