It’s a 1-0 game in the top of the 7th inning. The visitors have the lead, with a runner on first, and two outs. The batter, a left-handed hitter, has a tough matchup against a ¾ slot left-handed pitcher, and has fallen behind in the count 0-2.
The pitcher delivers a left-on-left breaking ball that catches a little too much of the strike zone. Still, the batter is caught out front and hooks a top-spin chopper towards the first baseman. The first baseman plays himself into a trick in-between hop on his glove side. The ball hops over his glove untouched. Luckily for the defense, the pitcher broke towards first base right away so he is in position to receive the throw from the second baseman who has to make a hurried play to have a shot at the runner. With the runner bearing down on first base and the throw on the way to the bag, it will be a bang-bang play. As he approaches first, the runner dives for the bag. The dive slows the runner down just enough for the ball to beat him and the umpire punches him out.
After a replay challenge, the call is upheld. The runner is out at first and the inning is over. The first baseman who whiffed on the initial play breathes a sigh of relief as the defense heads back to the dugout down only 1-0.
What Went Wrong:
You may think we are going to harp on the first baseman here, which is fair. He likely could have done a better job to at least get his body in front of the ball and knock it down. However, what we want to focus on is the batter-runner’s decision to dive. Unless a runner is trying to avoid a tag, he should NEVER dive into first base. There are 2 reasons for this:
- It is slower! Don’t believe us? It has been proven time and again. Just watch this Sports Science video that tested it out. The additional time saved by running hard through the bag in this play (a play in Game 3 of the 2016 World Series) would have made the runner safe. Watch the play here.
- You are much more likely to get hurt diving into first base than you are running through the bag. Avoid the unnecessary risk and get there faster. Sounds like a no brainer, right?
We will let the science do the rest of the talking for us. When you are headed to first, think the game and always run through the bag unless you are diving to avoid a tag!