Think the Game

Unnecessary Bare-handed Outfield Play

The Situation:

It’s a 0-0 game in the 6th inning. There’s no one out and a runner at first base. The batter is in a 1-1 count.

The Play:

The batter gets a fastball and hits a chopper towards the right side between the first and second basemen. The batted ball causes the runner at first to have to wait so he doesn’t get struck by the ball but eventually finds its way to the outfield grass for a single. Having to stop and wait for the ball to pass puts an end to any thought of going first to third for the runner at first and he coasts into second. Meanwhile, the right fielder charges in, bare hands the rolling ball and throws it into the cutoff man.

The Outcome:

Nothing tricky in this outcome! The offense is in business with runners on first and second with no one out.

What Went Wrong:

Can you think of the mistake here? It’s not the base running. The runner was wise to ensure that he didn’t get struck with the batted ball, as we’ve discussed in the linked think the game. Given how runs have been at a premium and that the offense will be in a great position to do damage with two on and no outs, it’s a smart decision.

The reason why you may not be able to recognize the mistake on this play is because it doesn’t impact the outcome at all. The mistake we are referring to is the outfielders decision to bare hand a rolling ball. This is simply an unnecessary risk. Knowing that there will be no play or attempt to advance to third by the runner, the outfielder should play this ball straight up with the glove. Even though he doesn’t mishandle the bare hand, the chances of doing so are much higher than if he were to use his glove. In fact, there is hardly ever a situation where an outfielder would bare hand a rolling ball. There’s no way to say it other than to say that it’s an unnecessary risk and a lower percentage fielding play. Had the ball skipped up or gotten away from him, it’s possible that the runners could have moved up an extra base. The 0-0 score only helps to show the implications that such an error would have on the game. Baseball is a game where you want to take calculated risks, but going with a lower percentage play when there is no benefit to doing so is just bad fundamentals. It doesn’t cost the team anything this time around, but it’s still a think the game lesson to learn.