Ok Infielders it’s your turn!
In the two previous Pet Peeve blogs the focus was on coaches and players and some of their pointless or irrational thoughts or actions on and off the diamond. This blog will be dedicated to position players, specifically the infielders and some of the unwise and sometimes ridiculous decisions they make and do that will drive any coach up the wall. Again, like many of these Pet Peeves that have been mentioned previously, lacking the thought processing for what they are doing, lacking experience or simply not ever been taught what to do can lead to these Pet Peeves never ever being changed. Each one of these Pet Peeves is and can be changed and altered, if time, thought and practice is brought into the equation. This may sound easier said than done, but the reality of it is if we as coaches want to eliminate these types of Pet Peeves then attention to detail is a necessary evil.
1. Lack of verbal communication...this is a never ending problem with infielders. Hey infielders, do you actually understand how important verbal communication is? Well many actually do not, so who is to blame? It is part player and part coach no doubt. Coaches, don’t assume they know how to communicate nor don’t assume they know what to communicate. As simple as it may seem, verbal communication doesn’t come easy for all players. Some innately have it pre-wired in them, while others don’t. Players need to take the onus of responsibility to learn to talk, communicate and let your teammates know what is going on. The number of out; who has coverage; where you or your teammate should be positioned; pick plays; and cut off’s are just some simple, yet often assumed verbals. As a result, coaches are left wondering and puzzled why infielders are just unable to do this. Hey coaches, they are all wired with different circuit boards and experiences, assist them to understand. Infielders take some responsibility and learn when, what and why you need to create verbal communication.
2. Poor throwing habits between innings...this is a cardinal sin for any aspiring baseball player. Infielders need to realize and understand that creating good throwing habits, like moving their feet, creating momentum and throwing the ball crisply across the infield on a line builds arm strength, durability and confidence. Moreover, it sends messages to the opposition that you have a good arm and will use it. Additionally, you never know who is in the stands watching. That college coach or pro scout could never see you make a long, hard throw in the game, but you are showing arm strength on those throws in between innings. Many players take this part of the game off, as it may appear to be non-competitive...hey infielders, make it competitive and gun the ball over to first base and show off those throwing skills like you can.
3. Not wanting to catch an infield pop up...that’s right infielders, many of you just don’t want the ball, yet you will assume your teammate will make the catch. Go after the ball, don’t be afraid to take charge, and don’t look for another infielder to make the catch. It’s yours, make it yours.
4. Not knowing base coverages...well where does this start? That’s right, back to point number 2, lacking verbal communication prior to the pitch or play. Infielders, do you think this drives coaches nuts? Well it does, flat out! How does it look when no one is at the base when a throw is made or when a throw can’t be made? It looks brutal, either way the ball ends up in the outfield or the ball remains in the hand of another defender. Then, to make matters worse, the blame game comes out...from coaches blaming players to players blaming players to players blaming coaches. Hey, guys get it right, know your coverages, communicate either verbally or non-verbally and get it done!
5. Trying to one hand ground balls for no reason...infielders, why? You are all taught to field a ground ball with two hands, then use them! Unless there is absolutely no chance to field the ball with two hands, in other words, it becomes a do or die play, use two hands, field the ball by the most efficient means and get the job done. It is making the routine plays over and over again that creates success. Hey, I will bet more players make errors on those one handed plays than they do cleanly and making a great throw.
6. Throwing the ball off balance...here is a piece of simple advice...sacrifice quickness for control, accuracy and velocity. I can’t really make it any easier. You are already off balance why compound the problem and make an errant throw? Well infielders do, because they want to make the superstar play. The superstar play or better yet, the most prudent play, is not to throw off balance, but set the feet and make a strong, accurate throw instead of a throw that has zero reason to be made.
7. Pump fakes during a rundown...the only player you are faking out is the potential tag defender. Pump fakes...why? Do you think the tag defender then knows when the ball is coming? Don’t think so. Get the ball up into a throwing position or release slot, keep it there until the tag man defender verbalizes “ball”, then feed it. You want confusion, then keep pump faking!
8. Late to the cut off position...yes, that’s right, getting to the cut-off position late. How can this happen? Well, it happens for numerous reasons; could be out of position to start; not knowing where to go; or forgetting you are the primary cut defender. What are the effects of this? Outfielder has no one to throw through; outfielder hangs on to the ball in outfield; outfielder is in a confused state not knowing what to do; the throw comes indirect and is off line and there is no one to cut and re-direct the ball or simply cut and observe lead or trail baserunners. Know your job and responsibilities that are part of your infield development.
9. First basemen pre-stretching at the base...so you want to pre-stretch before the ball is thrown do you? Well good luck adjusting to a throw. First basemen need to stay square to the infield defender until they see the ball come out of the hand and then set the feet for the putout. Geez, pre-stretching only serves to create major issues with the actual catch of the ball and the potential not to come off the base to make a play on a poorly thrown ball. Once the first baseman commits to a direction with a pre-stretch before reading the flight of the ball, they will be in no position to handle a the throw unless it is perfect.
10. First basemen trying to pick ball out of dirt when they have no chance...why first basemen try and do this is beyond me. Hey guys, keep the ball in front of you and avoid at all costs the low throw from getting to the fence. First basemen need to know what their own reachability factor is...that is, how far can they reach to dig or pick a ball out of the dirt? Moreover, they need to learn to do a better job at reading throws and knowing what they can and cannot get too cleanly. Don’t try to be the hero because that hero can quickly turn into a zero with poor decision making.
11. All infielders (and outfielders) not getting to the ready position...if the pitcher or combination of pitchers for that game throw 120 pitches, then each defender must get to the desired ready position with each pitch and at the right time. The ready position has to be one that promotes athleticism and movement, not one that promotes little to no movement at all. Far too often, with each pitch, infielders (and outfielders) do not get to the ready position...they just stand there and only decide to move when the ball has been hit. Hey infielders, anticipate, prepare and prepare to move anywhere when the ball is in the hitting zone, not after it has been hit.
12. Holding a baserunner on base for no reason...how many times have we seen a second baseman or shortstop hold the baserunner at second base by almost acting like a first baseman? Well, guess what middle infielders, we don’t hold the baserunner on second base in that manner. But, they continue to do so...hey infielders, let it go, concern yourself with covering your side of the infield, not holding the baserunner on base. Worse yet is when a third baseman is holding the baserunner on base. Once again, why?
13. Sitting back on ground balls...probably the biggest pet peeve of any pet peeve by any infielder. Letting the ball play them; lacking aggressive yet controlled movement toward a ground ball; waiting to get the hop rather than seeking and attacking the great hop. Infielders must train themselves to attack and move toward ground balls in a manner that will allow them to select and field the ball on the best hop possible. Hey infielders, keep sitting back and see what happens...errant throws; rushed movement patterns; fielding mistakes with the feet and hands. Boy oh boy, the struggle will continue.
14. Complaining the arm is sore after a bad throw...If your arm was that sore, then why are you playing? Geez, the throw before was perfect and now you make an error and the arm is sore? Doesn’t make sense, but yes this happens. Hey infielders, you’re going to make errors, don’t try and disguise an error with “oh my arm is sore”. Man up.
15. Poor job at throwing the ball around the infield after a strike out, no one on base or a put out at first base, no one on base...that’s right infielders, all you are doing is playing catch, making 3-4, short, under no pressure throws and what happens? The ball's air mailed. That looks professional. Hey, if you can’t throw the ball around crisp and clean, just don’t do it!
These are just a small slew of Pet Peeves that infielders inspire, that they may or may not even know they carry out. Of course there are numerous other Pet Peeves and I would like to hear from others as to some of theirs. Stay tuned for additional Pet Peeves to come out as part of The Baseball Zone’s Pet Peeve Series.
Rick Johnston, Head Instructor - The Baseball Zone