Smart Baserunning 2023
In the following four plays of this report, you will see where runners played excellent Ruleball by executing sound running strategies and utilizing what the rules allow.
Yankees Smart Base Running
The Yankees and Red Sox played a day-night doubleheader at Fenway Park on September 14, 2023. In the nightcap, clever base-running by Oswaldo Cabrera led to a five-run second inning. The Yankees had the bases loaded and two outs. Estevan Florial was on third, Oswald Peraza was on second and Cabrera was on first base when DJ LeMahieu hit a bouncer to second baseman Pablo Reyes. It appeared that Reyes wanted to toss the ball to shortstop Ceddanne Rafaela and end the inning on the 4-6 force out. But instead of making a traditional slide, Cabrera ran hard THROUGH SECOND BASE. Reyes, seeing he had no play on Cabrera, then threw to first to get LeMahieu who was called out by umpire Alex Tosi. The Yankees challenged the call at first and the call was overturned. This allowed Florial to score from third. Aaron Judge followed with a grand slam home run to make the score 5-0.
You can view the play below. Keep your eyes on the actions of Cabrera going to second base.
- Credit both Cabrera and LeMahieu for running hard THROUGH THE BASE.
- Most runners going into second base on such plays, slide which in my opinion slows the runner and favors the defensive team to complete the play.
- By running THROUGH SECOND BASE, Cabrera took away the force out. If he was tagged out between second and third, Florial would score because the inning would not in a force out. This would be a “Time Play.”
- I have advocated this running strategy for a long time. If the runner who is on first has good speed, this is something for teams to think about in two-out, bases loaded inning-ending situations.
- If Travis Chapman, the Yankees first base coach, instructed Cabrera to do this, kudos to Chapman as well.
- By Cabrera keeping the inning alive, it led to the grand slam and an 8-5 Yankees win.
Umpire Incorrect Call of Running Through Second
The same running strategy was used in this recent minor league game which allowed a run to score. Unfortunately, the umpires did not handle the situation very well. The bases were loaded with two outs. The batter hit a ground ball that was fielded by the second baseman who was positioned near the bag. The runner, who was on first, ran through second base and beat the second baseman to the base. The runner was called safe by the umpire and then was called out for abandonment when his momentum carried him beyond the base.
- The umpire had no reason to call the runner out for abandonment. The runner was not headed to his dugout, nor was he headed to his position in the field. In my opinion, the ball should have been kept alive and in play. Also, you couldn’t call the runner out for being out the baseline because at the time he ran beyond the base, he was not avoiding a tag, nor was he in a rundown.
- This is a wise running strategy by the runner who RAN THROUGH SECOND BASE in this inning-ending bases loaded play.
- If the runner is safe as in the two plays above, the force is removed which allows a preceding runner to score resulting in a “Time Play.”
- Also, the runner who runs THROUGH SECOND BASE will most likely end up in a rundown after he runs through the base. If the rundown is poorly executed, the runner might pick-up a Type 1 obstruction call or there can be an errant throw.
It should be noted that the runner in this minor league game was coached to do this.
Putting Pressure on the Defense
The Orioles and Red Sox played at Fenway on September 8, 2023. In the top of the seventh, the O’s had Anthony Santander on first base and no outs when Ryan O’Hearn hit a ground ball to second baseman Enmanuel Valdez. It appeared Valdez wanted to complete the 4-4-3 double play. But Santander spoiled his plans when he backtracked a couple of steps. Valdez decided to get at least one out and threw to first base to get O’Hearn.
Santander then broke for second base and was safe beating the throw from Tristan Casas.
- Credit Santander by putting pressure on the young infielder by taking a step or two in the direction of first base when avoiding an imminent tag attempt. Also, by using that running strategy, he avoided going out of the baseline.
- In my opinion, Valdez should have paid more attention to Santander and kept him out of scoring position because he was the more important runner. Valdez could have attempted to tag Santander and maybe get him into a rundown, or Valdez could have tossed to second base for the force putout.
- If a rundown ensued, it’s possible Santander could have picked-up the obstruction call and now the O’s would have had runners on first and second and no outs if no throw was made to first base.
- If a runner is aware that there will be an imminent tag attempt, he can widen his unrestricted basepath to discourage the fielder from making a play on him. Once the fielder makes a motion toward the runner, he now has a restricted “baseline” which is a straight line to the base he is going to, and he cannot exceed 3-feet to either side of the line.
Creating a Time Play to Steal a Run
The Cubs and Giants played at Wrigley on September 4, 2023. In the bottom of the eighth, the Cubs had Cody Bellinger on third and Dansby Swanson on second and two outs when Seiya Suzuki hit a ground ball to Casey Schmitt at third base. Bellinger headed home. As Swanson neared third base, he saw that he was going to be an easy out. So, he retreated toward second. Schmitt chased him and tagged him for the third out but not before Bellinger crossed the plate.
- Dansby wisely kept the play alive by making a crossover step and retreating in the direction of second base. The crossover step or back pedaling are important running techniques to keep a play alive while in the process of manufacturing a “Time Play.” Falling to the ground to avoid a tag is another possibility.By retreating and keeping the play alive, Dansby allowed Bellinger to cross the plate before the third out.
- A witness who was at the game said Bellinger did not run hard to the plate, so thanks to Swanson who lengthened the time of the play, Bellinger was allowed to score.
- Whenever a third out is made by a trail runner, the runner advancing to the plate should run hard THROUGH THE PLATE.
- Plate ump Ron Kulpa scored the run.
- Because the ball was slowly hit, Schmitt had no play at first base. If he had a play at first on Suzuki, that would have been the base to throw to because that would nullify the run because when the batter-runner makes the third out before reaching first base, or the inning ends in a force play, no run can score.
- Although I don’t think it was Dansby’s intent, a runner going from second to third in that two-out situation, could try to induce the third baseman to make a play on him by running at the fielder. This is a good way to create a “Time Play” if a rundown should ensue.
Rules consultant/analyst: Angels, D’backs, Dodgers, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Yankees, Bally Sports, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.