Baseball Defense Strategy & Defensive Positions

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HomeBlogsJack Perconte's blogBaseball Defense Strategy & Defensive Positions
Baseball Defense Strategy & Defensive Positions
Jack Perconte

What is Straight Up Positioning and Why so Important to Defensive Baseball Strategy?

straight up positioning for defensive strategy Defensive Strategy begins with this

I was in a conversation one day with the great, baseball Hall of Famer, Cal Ripken, and he mentioned how many youth ballplayers did not understand "straight up positioning." Of course, I agreed with Cal Ripken, who would not? Both Cal and I agreed that understanding straight up positioning was the whole key to defensive baseball strategy, and just as importantly, is the key to smooth baseball coaching. Straight up positioning is the equal distance between the bases for middle infielders and corner outfielders, and directly in line with home plate and second base for centerfielders. For first and third baseman,it is the correct distance from the base, as far as distance towards the outfield and distance away from the line. This distance from the bag varies depending on whether left handed or right-handed batters are up to bat. Coaches must explain and demonstrate this distance to corner infielders. Often, corner infielders and corneroutfielders tend to "hug" the base lines, which is why this coaching is necessary.

Straight Up Positioning Baseball Defensive Strategy Drill

Coaching youth ball players the concept of "straight up" for defensive baseball strategy takes time, especially because players change positions often at the youth level. The following drill is effective for teaching players correct straight up positioning. All players begin at the pitcher's mound and coaches assign players a position, except fro pitcher and catcher positions. When coaches yell now, players run to their assigned position and set in the spot they feel is "straight up." Coaches analyze these spots and make the appropriate adjustments. Coachesbring players back in and repeat the same assignments, or give players different assignments, before doing the same thing. Coaches perform this drill until they are satisfied players know the correct player defensive placement. Once this positioning becomes second nature to players, all defensive baseball strategy begins with having them start every batter in the straight up position. Coaches then use hand signal adjustments to move players from those initial spots. Thus, defensive baseball becomeseasy, with the ability to move players around from batter to batter. Without that knowledge, baseball defensive placement of players requires too much communication, which is difficult from batter to batter, or pitch to pitch, as is often necessary in baseball. With runners on base, players must learn to make the correct defensive adjustments from their initial positioning, also.

Finding Defensive Position that Agree with Baseball Skills

Determining the best defensive position for young ball players based on their baseball skills requires some advanced knowledge of baseball. Each defensive baseball position requires necessary baseball skills, so players have a chance at defensive success. Youth coaches must begin to determine the best defensive baseball positions for players, especially as they reach the little league level of baseball. Youth baseball coaches must learn each player's defensive strengths and weaknesses for determining the best position for them, near and long term. Following are defensive baseball tips that coaches should use to help players find a suitable position. Of course, learning many positions at a young age is never a bad thing, as many kids play different positions in future years, as the competition level increases.

Baseball Skills Baseball Skills for Defensive Position

Best Baseball Skills for Each Defensive Position

1st Base A big target helps, of course, along with good flexibility.

First base is a good position for players who have not mastered the two-hand catch approach, as first base is mainly a glove hand position. There is value in having a left-handed first baseman, when possible. Left handed first baseman have a big advantage with covering the whole between them and the second baseman, with holding runners on the bag, with the throw to second base to start double plays on ground balls to them and with throws to second and third base on bunt plays.

Second baseman can get away with having a weaker throwing arm, as long as they are quick of foot. That quickness is necessary, as they have to cover first and second base at times, as well as for turning double plays. Shortstops no defensive position player needs the total package of baseball skills as the shortstop. Shortstops should be fleet of foot for range, have as strong arm for that long infield throw, and have great hands, as any slight miscue usually leads to errors.

Third baseman fearlessness is the main attribute of the third baseman that baseball coaches should look for, as the ball gets to them quickly. Great range is not necessary, but quickness is for the "hot corner."

Outfielders Players, who can judge fly balls and have trouble with fielding ground balls, are best suited for the outfield. The strongest armed player generally plays right field, with the best and fastest outfielder in center field.

Catcher another fearless position, as the willingness to be hit by balls, and block dirt balls, is necessary. Finding a player, who has leadership capabilities, is good, as catchers are the conduit between the coach and the defense. Running speed is not mandatory for this defensive position, but a strong arm certainly helps, or at least a quick release. Of course, having the good baseball skills of quick hands and feet for all baseball positions is best. Having players in the correct positions and having the knowledge of each player's defensive capabilities, helps teams execute and win.  

Constant Baseball Defense Coaching Reminders

Each defensive baseball position has a few plays that need constant game reminders, no matter how much practice coaches have players perform of these plays. At no position are these coaching defensive baseball reminders more important than with the pitching position, they have other things on their mind, as making good pitches. It is relatively easy for pitchers to forget about game situations because of pitching, itself. Baseball defense has so many possible scenarios, especially with runners on the bases, which require players to think about before each pitch. Even pitchers at the major league level misplay these plays, at times, so constant baseball defense reminders are necessary so pitchers do not forget what might occur, and so they anticipate all possible scenarios. Without that anticipation, pitchers neglect their defensive responsibilities, leading to missed out opportunities and possible lost games because of that forgetful nature.

Baseball Defense Below are some of the necessary and constant baseball defense reminders that good coaches give pitchers:

Necessary Baseball Defense Reminders for the Pitcher Position

  1. Check to know who covers the second base bag, shortstop, or second baseman, on ball hit to pitcher with runner on first base and less than two outs
  2. Hold the runner on the bases, especially with a good base stealer on base
  3. Cover first base on any ball towards the first baseman (above the little league level). At the little-league baseball level, the second baseman generally covers first instead
  4. Back up the appropriate base on throws from the outfield
  5. When first baseman is playing behind the runner on first, so they do not forget and decide to throw there that results in a balk
  6. Which base line is their responsibility on bunt plays
  7. Help determine who catches infield pop ups around the pitcher's mound, as pitchers allow other position players to make these catches at the higher levels of ball
  8. To cover home base with runners on third base for balls that get by the catcher
  9. To get out of the way on throws to second base from the catcher, even though this is not a normal reminder, but still important for younger pitchers, especially on first and third steal plays
  10. To help fill in on run down situations, when other players are not in position to do that

As you can tell by all these responsibilities, baseball defense begins with the pitcher, not to mention their most important responsibility of beginning the defense with their pitching. Of course, coaches do not want pitchers minds to wander so much that they forget their main responsibility of making good pitches, but good baseball defense only occurs when pitchers do their part.  

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About Jack Perconte

After playing major league baseball, Jack Perconte has taught baseball and softball since 1988 and offered valuable coaching training too. He has helped numerous youth players reach their potential, as well as having helped parents and coaches navigate their way through the challenging world of youth sports. Jack is one of the leading authorities in the areas of youth baseball training and coaching training advice.

All Jack Perconte articles are used with copyright permission.

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