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Re: Need Major Help With Lead

Posted by: skip (piks5@sbcglobal.net) on Wed May 16 11:54:31 2007

> Hey guys I am worried about my lead, and my role this year at the very least on the varsity level will be to courtesy run. I am one of the fastest guys on the team but my instincts need work. I have a tough time determining whether or not the pitcher is going to try to pick me off or throw home. Do you guys have any tips on that, or just leading off in general. I am just looking for anything at this point to try and correct my problem before a real game situation comes up. Thanks.

When you're in the dugout, watch EVERYONE taking their leads, etc. The quickest way to learn is by imitation.
First of all, let's just talk about leads in general. Primarly lead: there are 3 reasons to take a "risky" (rather than play-it-safe or one-way lead) primary lead from first base. Reason one is to get you closer to the next base if you're stealing. Reason two is to get the defense used to your bigger lead so that if going later in the count, you won't suddenly be pushing your lead and tipping off you intentions. Reason three is to attract the pitcher's attention/annoy him so the batter gets a better ball to hit.(a great way to do this is to take one less step than normal on your primary lead, then do another shuffle step the moment he comes set.) If it weren't for these 3 things, you'd always take a safe,one way lead at first, as long as your ultimate secondary lead got you the proper distance towards the next base as the ball nears the plate.
Reason to "push" your primary lead off of second: Same as above, but add the fact that pushing your primary lead plays with the heads of mid-infielders and can open up holes for the hitters if it's hot out(they get tired), or they're not hardworking or experienced enough to get all the way back into position.
Leads at first: RH pitcher: let's say for whatever reason you're taking a one-way lead: by definition you shouldn't get picked off with this lead unless you're snoring. LHP: never relax.
Aggressive prim. lead vs. RHP(stealing or threatening steal): I'm old, stole lots of bases, but never had knowledgeable coaches, so here I'll tell you what everybody says, but which I didn't do myself: on RHP, as you know, key on first movement of rear foot-- tips off a pick; first movm't of front foot tips off a pitch to the plate. I can't remember; I think I more or less just used to stare at the pitcher's lower body rather than his feet. Maybe because I'm lefthanded.
Stealing off of LHP: ideally, the first baserunner of the game gets him to show off his "A" move by using a flashy one-way lead. Let's say he's shows a good one, take a short prim. lead. Great move, but lousy catcher? Make LHP commit to the plate then steal on the catcher. If the catcher's good, you've generally go "on first move" of the pitcher unless you're really fast. Of course there's risk here, of being picked off. But, if you take a short lead against some amatuer pitchers, they get mentally set to make a pitch and aren't good at making a last second adjustment to throw behind the stealing runner at first. If the pitcher is good at this last second adjustment, or if you have to assume he is, then all I can say is that "first move" steals with a LHP are usually more successful when he's in a breaking ball count.Since it takes a different more concentrated mindset to throw a curve (ie, keep it low, don't bounce it, don't hang it) they're less likely really "see" you and throw behind you as they lift their knee on a first move steal. So if you're on first, LHP ,the situation calls for a steal, and your coach smells a curveball, he may have you go not only b/c the curve takes longer to get to the plate.
Look I always try to be positive, but I've got to share something with you. Pinch running in HS, unless the coach is a saint, can be a tough job. You want to help the team in the only way you can--great baserunning -- but unlike hitting you're not considered a success if you do it right one out of three times. You're in a double-bind-- expected to maximize your performance but operating under a smaller margin for error. Most HS pinch runners I've observed play it much safer than regular postition players, who run with the confidence that if they smartly, instinctively push the envelope but get nailed, they can hit or field their way back into the good graces of the coach. For that reason, in a big moment, I'd rather have a competent but slightly inferior regular player running the bases than a "don't make a mistake or your on the bench" star pinchrunner, whose instincts and courage are blunted by fear of failure. For instance, to keep their jobs, pinchrunners would much rather get thrown out at second than picked at first,which looks bad, so they tend to take lousy primary leads, make SURE the pitcher is committing to the plate, and thus get caught stealing more often.
Finally, stealing third, I've twice this yr on our HS team seen our best baserunner get put out because he tried to steal third on first move from a RHP, who's looking right a him.
So remember, unless an aggressive primarly lead has a purpose (reasons are listed above), the only thing that matters is that you get the maximum safe secondary lead. If, by luck, your HS coach is a real reasonable guy, you might show him these words and see what he thinks. Maybe he'll say, "Run the bases as if you're batting .425 and are 3 for 3 on the day." Who knows. Ask around with the other players to see how you should play this to help the team as much as possible, but , realistically, give yourself a chance for continued playing time within the crazy double-bind situation that lots of coaches create. (They lose more games because of it, but feel OK because they and most observers don't notice that their scared-stiff baserunners are taking skimpy leads.)
So add another reason for safe prim. leads: to keep your job when unreasonable coaches don't understand that reward only comes with the acceptance of risk, and that people scared about losing their jobs tend to play it safe.
good luck, skip


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