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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Skunk in the Outfield

First-and-third situations are breeding grounds for gimmick plays in high school. Often, the runner on first will attempt to steal second, hoping to draw a throw that will allow the runner to score from third. But defenses will rarely make that throw, so offenses have designed ways to tempt the defense into going after the trail runner while letting the lead runner sneak home. Sometimes, when the pitch is delivered, the base stealer will stop halfway and try to get in a rundown. Sometimes he’ll start walking to second base while the pitcher still has the ball. There’s a balk/steal play, where the runner takes off sprinting once the pitcher gets set, the goal being to startle the pitcher so that he’ll make an illegal move off the mound in reaction.

These plays—and “skunk in the outfield”—all have the same paradoxical premise: It’s more valuable to the team that’s at bat for the runner to be on first base. If he wanted to go to second, he could just steal. But as long as he’s on first—or, at least, not yet on second—he might be able to ignite something weird. When Ulmschneider had his team run the play in practice for the first time just before the championship series, his pitcher on the mound—Solecki, coincidentally—immediately balked and then started yelling that the runner can’t do that.

“Bobby Downey [of East Greenwich] is one of the best coaches I’ve ever coached against,” Ulmschneider says now. “If we do a walk-off steal there, if we steal a base and slide short, get in the rundown—they’ll defend it.” Indeed, East Greenwich practiced their reactions to these plays all the time. “I go, ‘If Solecki’s reaction is what it was, what’s to say Bracey’s won’t be?’ So I gave the sign.”

Crazy crazy play and some good stuff about coaching at different levels.

Jose is an Absurd Doubles Machine Posted: August 17, 2017 at 10:55 AM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: high school, ryan westmoreland, trick play

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   1. Greg Franklin Posted: August 17, 2017 at 07:38 PM (#5515801)
Absurd, yet fun. Good article.
   2. Athletic Supporter wants to move your money around Posted: August 17, 2017 at 10:27 PM (#5515901)
This is amazing.
   3. Howie Menckel Posted: August 17, 2017 at 10:40 PM (#5515907)
great read.

I thought I'd be annoyed with someone, but I'm not.
well-written article.
   4. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: August 17, 2017 at 11:14 PM (#5515924)
We all follow a lot of baseball here, but I've never seen or heard of anything like this. I was aware of some of the other "tricks" like just walking to 2B to try an induce a balk or something, but running out into RF and just standing there, that is new to me.

A really fun read.
   5. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 17, 2017 at 11:30 PM (#5515934)
I assume ESPN articles are widely read, so we might see this again, although probably not in Game 7 of the World Series.
   6. The Duke Posted: August 18, 2017 at 08:55 AM (#5515992)
I hope we see this in a major league game
   7. Random Transaction Generator Posted: August 18, 2017 at 09:25 AM (#5516010)
I love that the book that tells you how to execute the play also tells you how to defend it (with the huddle/hidden ball).
   8. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: August 18, 2017 at 09:47 AM (#5516022)
This was cool. The pitcher could also just ignore the runner on first and pitch. Gotta be disconcerting though, especially for a HS player.
   9. Tim D Posted: August 18, 2017 at 09:55 AM (#5516029)
Great baseball story. Crazy, weird, uproar, furor. And nothing happened. This kind of stuff makes baseball so unique. Sparky Lyle tells in the "Bronx Zoo" of a game in Baltimore where the lights went out with two out in the 9th, two strikes on Eddie Murray. Everything stops while they take 20 minutes to crank the lights up to full. Goose Gossage warms up throwing hard and harder, Murray steps in and Gossage throws a change up and freezes him. Strike three, game over. All that anticipation for...... oh nuts.
   10. Bote Man Posted: August 18, 2017 at 10:24 AM (#5516053)
I'll have to try this in our softball game!
   11. esseff Posted: August 18, 2017 at 11:58 AM (#5516113)
If you want to try this play, just be prepared for an umpire, perhaps wrongly, calling the runner out for abandoning his effort to advance to the next base.

Also, I'm not sure why the writer thinks the phantom pickoff play wouldn't happen at a level above high school.
   12. villageidiom Posted: August 18, 2017 at 11:59 AM (#5516114)
I'll have to try this in our softball game!
Nobody in our softball game has enough energy to make it back to the infield after wandering off first.
   13. Bote Man Posted: August 18, 2017 at 12:04 PM (#5516118)
I actually meant in my rec league softball game down here, but I'm quite confident that my coach's head would explode if I did. Not to mention the umpire calling me out and making it stick, even if it is a legal move. We do have a few savvy guys who would go along with it if they happened to be on 3B at the time, so you never know.
   14. esseff Posted: August 18, 2017 at 12:08 PM (#5516124)
leadoffs in softball?
   15. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: August 18, 2017 at 12:21 PM (#5516144)
This would make a good episode of Pretty Good.
   16. Bote Man Posted: August 18, 2017 at 12:32 PM (#5516153)
leadoffs in softball?

Well, if you're gonna get picky I guess my whole devious plan falls apart, doesn't it? nvm.
   17. Batman Posted: August 18, 2017 at 12:39 PM (#5516161)
Well, if you're gonna get picky I guess my whole devious plan falls apart, doesn't it? nvm.
Just take the base out to right with you.
   18. Bug Selig Posted: August 18, 2017 at 02:42 PM (#5516297)
If you want to try this play, just be prepared for an umpire, perhaps wrongly, calling the runner out for abandoning his effort to advance to the next base.
Happened in a 13U game in 2009. Still mad at that guy.
   19. Khrushin it bro Posted: August 18, 2017 at 03:38 PM (#5516353)
Just round first on a single and don't return to the base.
   20. catomi01 Posted: August 18, 2017 at 04:19 PM (#5516387)
leadoffs in softball?


There is usually leading in the BBTF Central Park game - but its usually associated with the runner actually slowly falling over, not actually trying to get a good jump off the base.
   21. dave h Posted: August 18, 2017 at 05:17 PM (#5516431)
In college we would entertain thoughts of the walk-steal with 1st and 3rd, and our catcher was adamant about the right way to do it. (You have to power-walk, like you're determined to get to second but incapable of running.) He never mentioned the possibility of running into RF, though, so I'm kind of disappointed.
   22. Khrushin it bro Posted: August 18, 2017 at 06:35 PM (#5516496)
About a month ago there was a skunk running the bases on an unused field where I play softball. Just in case you guys were wondering about that.
   23. Sunday silence Posted: August 19, 2017 at 08:07 AM (#5516781)
we had a crazy Pony league (age 13-15) coach like this. Actually he wasnt crazy we won the league twice. But he had a couple of special plays.

One was called "special 8." We ran it a few times in practice. It was for the defense, if there was a guy on 2b the pitcher turns and throws to 2b in attempted pickoff. The mid infielders both miss the ball, the CF is charging in the whole time. The CF picks up the ball and throws out the runner heading to third. In two years we had never tried this or any of his other plays. Except for one basic one, like the 1st and 3rd run down but that was basic.

Finally one day, he yells our team in the field. "Special 8. Special 8." Yeah he just yells the name of the play.
SOme stoopid parent in the stands yells "Special 9 Doby. Special 9."

So we put the play on. It doesnt work. THe runner goes back to second. Nothing happened.
   24. McCoy Posted: August 19, 2017 at 01:57 PM (#5516861)
I would think having the pitcher with the second baseman walking with him towards the runner in the outfield would negate this rather easily. The pitcher walks toward the runner with the second baseman walking backwards. If the runner on third takes off you hand the ball to the second baseman who throws it home. If the runner in the outfield besides move directly towards a base he is out. If he moves toward second you throw it to the ss covering second which either forces the runner back or he can tag him and the ss is still in a position to throw home should the runner on third decide to go home.
   25. Greg Franklin Posted: August 19, 2017 at 02:42 PM (#5516886)
TFA makes it clear that "If the runner on third takes off you hand the ball to the second baseman who throws it home" is accounted for by the play, since the 2B will be somewhere in the OF and have to stop backing up as the lead runner takes off. If the long off-balance throw isn't perfect, the lead runner will score (the play has him ready to go upon any decision by the defense) and everyone will be safe. It doesn't matter if they get the trail runner in any case.
   26. McCoy Posted: August 19, 2017 at 05:05 PM (#5516954)
Not in my version. The second baseman and pitcher meet up around the mound and walk toward the runner in the outfield. The runner can only choose to run to second or back to first. If the runner on third takes off the pitcher hands the ball to the second baseman who is facing home plate and he can make the throw to home.
   27. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 19, 2017 at 06:21 PM (#5517003)

Not in my version. The second baseman and pitcher meet up around the mound and walk toward the runner in the outfield. The runner can only choose to run to second or back to first. If the runner on third takes off the pitcher hands the ball to the second baseman who is facing home plate and he can make the throw to home.



The easiest solution is to just return to your normal positions and have your pitcher throw the next pitch. The advantage with that is you've got an even easier force out at second.

   28. McCoy Posted: August 19, 2017 at 09:08 PM (#5517115)
Well, presumably if you throw a pitch the runner is going to break for second which leaves you in the same situation you were with the trick play. Either attempt to throw him out or ignore him to keep the runner stationary on third.

The easiest solution is to walk over to the runner with a buddy. Any competent fielder is going to get the ball back to the catcher from short right field well before the runner at third gets there.
   29. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 19, 2017 at 09:22 PM (#5517120)
The easiest solution is to walk over to the runner with a buddy. Any competent fielder is going to get the ball back to the catcher from short right field well before the runner at third gets there.


Why would you need the buddy? And why wouldn't the pitcher, who probably has a better arm than the second baseman, make the throw home?

Well, presumably if you throw a pitch the runner is going to break for second which leaves you in the same situation you were with the trick play.


And teams at this level are OK with that. The reason they try this trick play is because they think there's more value in being between first and second, rather than on second. And the defense plays it likewise.

I often always agree with that philosophy, but that's how they play it.
   30. McCoy Posted: August 19, 2017 at 09:34 PM (#5517123)


Why would you need the buddy? And why wouldn't the pitcher, who probably has a better arm than the second baseman, make the throw home?


A pitcher heading out to the runner has his back to the field. So a)he isn't seeing what is going on behind him, b)he'll have to pivot and throw when he does find out what is going on behind him, and c)pitcher have generally not been your best infielders.

Why shouldn't he have a buddy though? You've got 9 fielders out there. Put them to work.



And teams at this level are OK with that. The reason they try this trick play is because they think there's more value in being between first and second, rather than on second. And the defense plays it likewise.

I often always agree with that philosophy, but that's how they play it.



If you can safely get an out why wouldn't you? IF you could possibly remove a runner from third why wouldn't you?
   31. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 19, 2017 at 09:56 PM (#5517128)
A pitcher heading out to the runner has his back to the field.


I'm sure he's allowed to keep his eye on the runner as he moves back toward the guy at second. And handing the ball off to anyone is going to take more time than simply turning and firing the ball home.


If you can safely get an out why wouldn't you? IF you could possibly remove a runner from third why wouldn't you?


Because they don't have confidence they can safely get an out before the runner scores, which is one reason why the opposing team would try such a play in the first place.

This wouldn't work at the major league level. It's designed for players who don't convert situations like this into outs/quick outs.

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