Baseball – Where to be positioned around first base?

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When it comes to fielding percentage, first base is often dismissed as being the position where little to no fielding skill is required. This is due to the fact that the first baseman has fewer opportunities to field batted baseballs.

However, while first baseman do have fewer chances to field ground balls, their skills set cannot be measured similarly to that of their infield counterparts.

The requirements of the position are different than that of the third baseman, second baseman and shortstop. And those positions rely heavily on what the first baseman can bring to the table, as the first baseman quietly makes his teammates shine.

Playing back and off the line.

When playing deep behind the first base bag, you should be able to play slightly farther off from the foul line than you normally would. This will depend on your range and the range of the second baseman. Doing so will give you the added benefit of being able to cover more ground area because of the added time it will take the baseball to reach you – making it more likely you’ll make a play on any hard ground ball hit your way.

Playing too far from the line while deep can easily hurt your fielding percentage, as it can cause you to be late getting back to cover first for a throw. Being late back to the bag can easily cause an infielder to delay his throw, giving the batter a chance to beat out the throw.

Another con to playing too far back is that you may not be able to give your fellow infielders a chance to visually establish a strong target. By you having to move a distance to get back to the bag, you become a moving target and aren’t able to offer them a stationary glove target. This may force the fielder to throw to the base wildly, potentially leading to a throwing error.

Baseball   Where to be positioned around first base?

The hitter and the situation must be taken into account when factoring in both the pros and cons of playing back. For example, having a left-handed pull hitter at the plate with no outs may suggest that you play back. Whereas, your coach may have you play equal to the bag if a right-handed pull hitter is up with no outs.

One of the toughest decisions for a first baseman to make – when to range to his right.

When a ball is hit to your right, you need to quickly judge whether you have a play on the baseball, or if you should let the second baseman handle the hit while you retreat back to cover first base. This judgement call is often very difficult to determine because you have to make a fast decision while truly knowing your fielding range.

Don’t try to protect your fielding percentage by taking the easy way out, leaving too much ground for the second baseman to cover. Often times you’ll see a first baseman retreat to the first base bag on a roller he may have had a play on, with the baseball rolling into right field because it was far outside the second baseman’s range.

When you stray from first base, your pitcher should come over to cover the bag. So, if you aren’t sure the second baseman will have a play on the ball, go ahead and commit to make the play yourself. Don’t back off from your decision. If you can’t get to the ball, the second baseman should be attempting to back you up while the pitcher should be helping to cover first.

If the baseball does indeed reach the outfield for a hit, you know that you did all you could to prevent it from happening – meaning that you made the right decision, regardless of your fielding percentage.

Improving your fielding percentage by making the play at the bag.

When you’ve fielded a ball deep, you now need to decide based on how far from the bag you are and the speed of the runner whether you can run to tag the bag yourself, or need to toss to the pitcher covering.

On any play where you believe you can beat the runner to first base, go ahead and improve your fielding percentage by taking the ball to the bag yourself. Throwing increases the risk of a misplay on either end, it’s often difficult for the pitcher to find the bag and the ball at the same time on close plays, and the pitcher may get tangled up with the runner and risk injury.

When you do throw to the pitcher, use underhand tosses where appropriate, leading the pitcher to the bag. If you’re a fair distance from the bag, you may need to throw sidearm to get more power on the throw.