Wednesday Web Gems

Coaching Defensive Baseball Instincts

Developing baseball instincts and aggressive baseball players is usually a good thing for baseball coaches. However, sometimes that aggressive play backfires. Often, a defensive mistake turns a routine single into a triple, with the result being more runs allowed, when more runs were preventable.

Baseball coaches are responsible for coaching players to develop good baseball instincts. One aspect of developing those good baseball instincts involves when to dive for balls and when to accept letting the ball drop or get through.

Making the right call first depends on knowing the game situation, which is why it is important that coaches have player know the score of games, even at the lower non-competitive levels of baseball. The score and the inning of the game are the first two ingredients needed to decide whether going all out to catch a ball is worth it.

The other things necessary to know involve the consequences of the dive including the risk of injury and the backup situation. Players must realize that there is more risk involved, when players leave their feet and when there is no back up, on many balls in the outfield.

Additionally, there is a difference between diving headfirst and sliding feet first for balls. The feet first slide generally has a lower injury-risk factor. Learning when to do which of those two leave-the-feet plays is another learned trait of good baseball players.

Analyzing all those factors in the spur of the moment is what baseball instincts are all about.

Baseball Instincts – When outfielders should dive or slide catch balls

Outfielders should leave feet:

  1. On fly balls on that will not travel very far away from them even if they miss the ball – these are balls that are hit high and are falling straight down
  2. Anytime the result of the ball dropping means the end of the game, with little or no chance of throwing runner out at home
  3. On balls where they know for sure another outfielder has the play backed up and they are good when leaving their feet, as some players are safer than others, when leaving their feet
  4. On balls when a possible head on collision with an infielder is possible – of course, if players see that situation may happen, veering off to avoid any collision is the best option in amateur baseball
  5. When pitcher has a no hitter going late in games – good players do anything to save a possible no hitter

Baseball Instincts – When outfielders should not leave feet:

  1. On a routine single with no one on base and it may result in a triple or inside the park home run – generally this is when there is no backup fielder nearby
  2. Many runners on base and early in game or when team has a comfortable lead – no reason to allow many runs to score instead of one at certain times in a game
  3. When there is no realistic chance to catch or block the ball – some players are more into show than having good baseball instincts, and that is not good

Players, who are willing to be hit by the ball, often can block the ball with their body after leaving their feet, minimize the risk of too much damage after leaving their feet. Sometimes, there is no cut and dried time to leave their feet and the easy answer is whether the catch was made or not, but baseball instincts must take into account the odds of catching the ball, along with the possible consequences.

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