When playing a runner leading away from the base, any infielder has these objectives-catch the runner off the base; make the runner run the full 90 feet to the next base. The latter objective is very important at 2nd, because it is the spot from which a runner can score on a good single.
The runner leading away from 2nd usually has the second baseman in his field of vision. If the second baseman bluffs a run for the bag, the runner will see him and start for the base. By the same token, if the second baseman doesn't pay any attention to the runner, he gives the runner an opportunity to stretch his lead.
While the second baseman does not always have a good chance to work a pickoff play with the pitcher, he can decoy the runner into such a play for the shortstop. Visualize this:
Runner and second baseman on the bag just before the pitcher steps on the rubber. Pitcher stretches. Second baseman moves to his position. Runner leads away. Pitcher waits. Second baseman runs back to bag, runner returns to bag.
As the second baseman turns his back on the runner and returns to his position, the runner instinctively leads off. At this instant, the shortstop rushes to the base, the pitcher whirls and throws. The shortstop is back of the runner and out of his field of vision, thus the runner must rely on the voice signal of the third base coach to realize he's in danger. If the play works, the defense has an out. If not, it has put enough pressure on the runner to keep him reasonably close to the bag.
The second baseman returns to the base after every pitch and does not leave again until the pitcher is on the rubber. Then he should always move to keep pressure on the runner. Cut It!
With runners on 1st and 3rd in anything below the high school level of ball the defense has a tough problem. If the runner on 1st breaks for 2nd and the catcher makes his throw to 2nd, the runner on 3rd can usually score. In college or professional ball, the second baseman can often go to the base to play the runner going from 1st to 2nd. Then, if he sees the runner on 3rd try for home, he probably has enough power in his throwing arm to fire to the plate to catch him.
But, in the younger groups, second basemen rarely have that power. Here's a cut-off play that will help the defense in this situation.
The offense, first of all, will probably order the runner to steal on the 1st pitch and have the batter "take" to avoid a double play on a line drive. If the defense expects the play, the pitcher should "pitch out", giving the catcher a good chance to get the ball away to 2nd.
The second baseman, instead of going to the 2nd, runs to a spot halfway between the mound and the bag and on a direct line between 2nd and home. The shortstop covers 2nd, the third baseman 3rd. The catcher fires right at the second baseman's head.
If the runner on 3rd does not break, the shortstop yells "Let It Go!" The second baseman does and ducks out of the way.
If the runner on 3rd is breaking, the shortstop should yell "Cut It!" The second baseman cuts the ball off and throws to the plate. There are these "ifs":
If the runner going from 3rd to home stops halfway down the line-charge him.
If the catcher's throw is off line, cut it off whether the runner on 3rd goes or not.
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