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View Full Version : Strategy 101: Play near to, or far from, the foul lines?


Frater Perdurabo
04-13-2006, 08:47 PM
During today's XM radio broadcast of the Sox-Tigers game, in which we heard the Tigers' radio announcers, they remarked on the fact that the Sox corner infielders, Crede in particular, play farther away from the lines than most other teams' corner infielders.

It reminded me of the 1989 World Series, in which the announcers remarked on how 3B Carney Lansford and 1B Mark McGwire played very close to the lines. They explained/speculated that in directing them to do so, Tony LaRussa was willing to give up a few more singles between first and second and between short and third so as to prevent more extra-base hits down the lines.

So, I ask of the real baseball experts on here, do the Sox corner infielders deliberately play away from the lines because their ground ball pitchers, Buehrle and Garland in particular, tend to see their pitches batted more toward the middle of the field than down the lines? Or could it be because Crede has great cat-like reflexes moving to his right to stab sharp line drives? (Or does he have to dive so much because he plays so far away from the line?) Would Ozzie ask/order a different third baseman with different skills to position himself differently?

Moreover, is making the determination to play close to, or far from, the lines, or "somewhere in between" a matter of "playing the percentages" or simply more of a philosophy? Most of the baseball I get to experience is either on the radio or on TV, where fielder's positionings and strategies pertaining to them simply are not made apparent.

Thanks in advance for any insight you can share.

:smile:

daveeym
04-13-2006, 09:50 PM
During today's XM radio broadcast of the Sox-Tigers game, in which we heard the Tigers' radio announcers, they remarked on the fact that the Sox corner infielders, Crede in particular, play farther away from the lines than most other teams' corner infielders.

It reminded me of the 1989 World Series, in which the announcers remarked on how 3B Carney Lansford and 1B Mark McGwire played very close to the lines. They explained/speculated that in directing them to do so, Tony LaRussa was willing to give up a few more singles between first and second and between short and third so as to prevent more extra-base hits down the lines.

So, I ask of the real baseball experts on here, do the Sox corner infielders deliberately play away from the lines because their ground ball pitchers, Buehrle and Garland in particular, tend to see their pitches batted more toward the middle of the field than down the lines? Or could it be because Crede has great cat-like reflexes moving to his right to stab sharp line drives? (Or does he have to dive so much because he plays so far away from the line?) Would Ozzie ask/order a different third baseman with different skills to position himself differently?

Moreover, is making the determination to play close to, or far from, the lines, or "somewhere in between" a matter of "playing the percentages" or simply more of a philosophy? Most of the baseball I get to experience is either on the radio or on TV, where fielder's positionings and strategies pertaining to them simply are not made apparent.

Thanks in advance for any insight you can share.

:smile: There's a million different reasons why, including all the ones mentioned above. However, I'd imagine Comerica National Park itself might play into it a bit. Anything in the left field corner is a double no matter what but if you hit the gaps you're looking at potential triples. So if you're outfield is already playing the gaps you might as well concede that line rather than trying to compensate for the outfielders giving the lines away.

As far as crede and his dives, yes I think that is one reason he dives so much, rather than cat-like reflexes. He's more of a flopper/faller than diver. I've seen him flopping into foul territory alot so I'd say it had more to do with Comerica and game strategy than Crede generally being off the line.

maurice
04-14-2006, 12:44 PM
Crede almost never guards the line, even when a right-handed pull hitter is getting offspeed pitches. I don't get it.

Luke
04-14-2006, 02:06 PM
Crede might play off the line because he (or more likey the coaches) feel that he can get to almost any ball on the line. My understanding was that guarding the line was to prevent routine grounders from becoming extra bases late in the game.

I'm going to watch tonight and see how he positions himself in different situations, now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever seen him guard the line.

EastCoastSoxFan
04-14-2006, 02:11 PM
You can check me on this, but I'm pretty sure Crede generally plays a bit deeper at third base than most (unless there's an obvious slap hitter or good bunter at the plate), which would allow him to play maybe a step further away from the third base line since he has an extra split-second to react to a ball hit down the line and more than enough arm strength to get the throw to first.

Ol' No. 2
04-14-2006, 03:52 PM
Crede almost never guards the line, even when a right-handed pull hitter is getting offspeed pitches. I don't get it.I haven't seen too many get by him down the line. And the danger in adjusting your position with the pitch is that you can tip off the batter.

Frater Perdurabo
04-14-2006, 07:09 PM
I haven't seen too many get by him down the line. And the danger in adjusting your position with the pitch is that you can tip off the batter.

Pardon my ignorance, but with the pitcher in his windup (stretch), does the batter really have time, much less want, to look at how the third baseman is positioning himself?

Ol' No. 2
04-14-2006, 07:14 PM
Pardon my ignorance, but with the pitcher in his windup (stretch), does the batter really have time, much less want, to look at how the third baseman is positioning himself?It's also too late for the fielder to start moving. If the ball's hit behind him he has no chance. He wants to be set by that time.

ondafarm
04-14-2006, 09:12 PM
A couple of things I can say. Most fielders move left or right better than the other. It depends if you are left or right footed (which almost always goes with handedness.) Because of this most guys cheat one way or the other and managers know this and plan accordingly. The White Sox also do considerably more shifting of infielder location than teams. That is totally organization planned. There is also the situation in the game, normally lines are guarded a little more late in games. These are all things set up before the game.


The other big factors which affect player positioning occur during the game. Pitcher tendencies change during a game. As a pitcher tires his differential changes. His fastball slows (typically) and his breaking stuff and change-ups tend to quicken (more arm, less small control muscles.) As batter timing improves they tend to get more command over there swings and go more toward their tendencies (pull hitters pull more, slappers slap better.) Thus you go more toward the hitter's tend location. Bring in a reliever and you revert.

Also different guys adjust more by counts. David Eckstein of the Cardinals is a somewhat different hitter with two strikes (he chokes up, feet wider apart.) You position differently by count on some guys.

Different pitchers (sinkerballers mostly) get a very different mix of ground balls and fly balls as the game goes on. You adjust for that. Late in games, SS and 2B play toward the lines more (to cover more ground in the outfield and on foul pops.)

All pitchers have different tendencies on different pitches. Breaking balls get pulled much better than fastballs. You will shift your weight and maybe even be moving as the pitcher delivers. You don't move during the wind up but before the batter starts to swing you should be moving. I guarentee that Crede is always shifting his weight based on the coming pitch. Iguchi is also a master of this (in the opposite field on a pull likely situation you expect a flare and back up a shade.) Uribe's dive into the stands against the Astros was a classic example of this, he was already shifting his tendency as the ball was pitched.

One qualifying factor. A lot of guys do not want their head moving when the batter is swinging, especially in line drive fielding positions. Crede is like that. If he is expecting solid contact any ball hit to him would be a line-drive and you need every advantage you got. On the other hand, on Buehrle's cutter he will be shifting.

The Wimperoo
04-16-2006, 08:41 PM
Crede almost never guards the line, even when a right-handed pull hitter is getting offspeed pitches. I don't get it.

I was looking at this book called the "Fielding Bible" by John Dewan at Baseball Info Solutions. They use this system to try to measure fielding called the +/- system. It looks at how a fielder does on balls to left, right and straight ahead. When looking at Crede it shows exactly what you said, and something I have noticed as well. Crede was awesome last year to his left and to balls straight ahead, but poor on balls to his right. Since Crede is a very good defensive 3b it would suggest that he plays too far off the line.

Just something interesting that I have noticed and wondered about in the past as well.

Luke
04-17-2006, 10:26 AM
It's also too late for the fielder to start moving. If the ball's hit behind him he has no chance. He wants to be set by that time.

A lot of infielders like to find thier spot, then take a couple steps back. As the pitcher starts his wind or stretch, they take a couple steps foward to get back to the original postion. The theory is that it's easier to field a ball if you're already in motion, and it might buy you a small amount of time. I don't know if I agree with that or not, but it's one school of thought.