By Ethan Guevin
The Situation: Runners are on 2nd and 3rd during a tight ballgame with 1 out in the 5th. The trail runner is getting sloppy and careless with his lead, figuring that with a runner at 3rd, no one is paying attention to him. As it turns out, the opposing team’s pitching coach is aware that the runner is an easy target for their timing pick-off play to second. The coach thinks it’s an easy way to get out of the sticky situation.
The Play: The catcher peaks in to the dugout to get the sign from the pitching coach. The coach calls a timing pick-off play to second to try to catch the trail runner snoozing. They have practiced this play dozens of times throughout the year. The pitcher toes the rubber and peers in for the sign. The catcher flashes down the sign for a pick-off attempt with the wiggle of his fingers, and flashes down a 2 afterwards, indicating the type of pickoff he wants. The pitcher is caught off-guard by this uncommon sign that he doesn’t know. He hesitates while trying to remember what the sign means and is forced to step off.
The Outcome: The third base coach notices the irregular rhythm of the pitcher taking the signs and senses that his stepping off means that something is up. He quickly assesses the situation on the field. Seeing the possible pick-off, he yells at the trail runner to be careful. The trail runner becomes aware of his risky lead and shortens up.
What Went Wrong?
The easy out at 2nd was lost because the pitcher didn’t do his homework and forgot the signs.During a game, you may have only one chance to capitalize on a mistake by the other team. The better the competition, the more likely it is that mistakes (like not knowing all the signs) will come back to bite you. At higher levels of baseball, coaches and players alike are much more in-tuned with the rhythm of the game and small adjustments are made all the time based on little pieces of information. In this scenario, the pitcher had one chance to get the careless runner at second. His lack of preparation spoiled the opportunity and instead of having a runner at 3rd and two outs, the pitcher must face the daunting task of avoiding damage with runners at 2nd and 3rd and one out. Don’t miss out on any chance to take advantage of a mistake, know all the signs and plays before you step between the lines.