Baseball – the theory and techniques behind the hit and run

Elvis Elvis

The hit and run is a play that can turn a seemingly innocent situation into a potential big inning for the offense. Its objective is to hit the baseball on the ground to the right side of the infield behind the base runner at first or second. This while the base runner takes off in an apparent stolen base attempt.

Doing so minimizes the threat of hitting into a double play or having the lead runner thrown out, while advancing the base runner into scoring position. Often the base runner is able to advance from first to third or from second to home on the play, if executed successfully.

Advantages of the hit and run.

One of the great benefits of the hit and run, benefiting the hitter, is that it forces the middle infielders to move into their steal attempt prevent defense, meaning that the second baseman and shortstop move to cover the bag at second base. This opens undefended holes in the infield that a skilled hitter can take advantage of by hitting the ball through these areas.

The hit and run also has the added benefit of forcing the first baseman closer to the first base bag, as he is likely to attempt holding the base runner close to first base. While the first baseman will jump back into position to play the field when the runner takes off and the pitch is thrown, very few first baseman are capable of fully getting back into their ideal fielding positions in such a short period of time. This often leaves a greater hole on the right side of the infield than normal. This is a hole that you, the hitter, can take full advantage of.

Baseball   the theory and techniques behind the hit and run

The hit and run also dramatically increase the likelihood of the runner advancing extra bases, more than what would be normally achieved with the same type of hit. This is due to the runner being set in motion on the pitch – giving him a head start toward the next base.

If running from first, because of the runner’s head start, any hit getting by an outfielder gives the runner an easy chance to score. And a normal base hit to the right side of the outfield, one that would normally stop the runner at second, often easily advances the runner to third putting him in close scoring position.

One last benefit of the hit and run is that by putting the runner or runners in motion, any ground ball that is fielded by an infielder makes it difficult for them to turn a double play. This is particularly useful if you or another player on your team hits into a lot of double plays or is a contact hitter that hits a lot of balls on the ground.

One big risk, however, is that with the runners off on the pitch, if you happen to hit a line drive caught by an infielder for an out, the runners become easy double play targets.

When to implement the hit and run.

The hit and run is most often implemented when you have a good contact hitter at the plate and a slow to average runner on first or on first and second base. Being slow makes it more likely that any ground ball to an infield position will result in a double play ball. Giving the runner that slight advantage toward the next base may make all the difference in him making it safely to the next base or the team falling short in that inning.

This play is more successful when the hitter is given a chance to hit the ball on the ground when he has a good hitter’s count (such as 2 balls – no strikes, two balls – one strike, or three balls – one strike). The play is less likely to be implemented when the hitter has three balls – no strikes, due to the chance of the hitter receiving a walk and moving the runner along naturally.

Having a hitter’s count means the pitcher should come with a pitch over the plate. Attempting to hit the ball to a specific location (the right side of the infield, on the ground, between the vacated 2nd baseman’s position and the first baseman) isn’t easy. So, having a decent pitch to handle makes it more likely you’ll succeed with your task.

The need to make contact when executing the hit and run.

When executing a hit and run when a slow or average runner occupies the base, it is imperative that you make contact with the pitch or the runner is likely to be thrown out in a stolen base attempt.

It is likely you’ll see a good pitch to hit as this play is often called when the count is in the hitter’s favor. If, however, you get stuck with a poor pitch that is difficult for you to make contact with, it is your job as the hitter to interrupt the catcher’s throw in order to help the runner steal the base, as he was off on the pitch. This must be done within the parameters of the rules.

Essentially, this means that you should swing at the pitch, maybe even doing so at a slow pace, just enough to disrupt the catcher’s normal motion. But know that you cannot make contact with the catcher in any way, or impeded the catcher’s throw in a manner outside of your normal swing. Doing so will result in the runner being called out.

Techniques of the hit and run.

When implementing the hit and run, you should focus on hitting a ground ball. This is to prevent hitting into a line drive out that would result in an easy double play. A 7% upward angle on your swing is considered to be the ultimate angle for hitting long line drives. You’ll need to adjust this angle slightly downward in order to hit a ground ball. The adjustment doesn’t need to be much, and try to avoid “chopping” the ball down into the ground. Chopping at the ball results in weak grounders. Rather, take a solid, level, swing that has slightly less than a 7% angle.

With an emphasis on hitting behind the runner to the right side of the infield, you’ll need to adjust your swing differently depending on whether you’re a right-handed or left-handed hitter.

If left-handed, you’ll need to start your swing early, with your hands leading your swing out in front of your body. Your lead foot should step slightly toward the first base side. Also, look for a low to mid-height inside pitch to pull, as this is the easiest type of pitch for a left-hander to pull on the ground.

If you’re a right-handed hitter, you should be looking for a low to mid-height outside pitch to knock to the right side of the infield. Your swing should start fractions of a second later than normal, with your lead foot stepping slightly toward first base. Your hands should trail your upper body as you swing.