Base Running Tips 5: Reading Batted Balls from 2nd Base

Base running tips and instruction for how to read batted balls as a base runner on second base.
Free baserunning tips. Good players can read batted balls and know whether they should run

Base runner Chris Dickerson leads off second. Image by Frank Lauri.

Second base can be the most difficult place to be a base runner.  This is the only one where you don’t have a coach to help you out.

Knowing when to advance and when to stay at second will prevent any embarrassing base running mistakes that can cost your team valuable runs.   The read you make on a batted ball can be the difference in scoring or being thrown out at the plate.

Look at the infield and outfield positioning

First things first…    Be able to have a feel of where everyone is playing, so when a ball is hit, you may be able to get a great jump and anticipate a hit, rather than wait for a ball to fall before you commit to running to third base.  Knowledge of the defense will help with getting a better jump.

Know the number of outs

This is important because you will play batted balls differently depending on whether there is 0,1, or 2 outs.

– 0 outs –  Your goal is to get to third with one out.  You are trying to do this so you can score on a sacrifice fly or a ground ball in the infield if the infield plays back (number 1 depth).

On a fly ball hit to the outfield, you want to tag up and try to get to third.  Don’t worry about getting half way and watching to make sure the outfielder catches the baseball.  Be in a position if he catches the baseball where you can tag up and move up to third.  Let the hitter knock you in, don’t try to do to much and make a mistake.

– 1 out –  With one out you are already in scoring position and tagging up and moving up to third doesn’t help too much.  Being at third with 2 outs is not much different than being at second with 2 outs.

On the same fly ball that was hit with 0 outs, you want to play it differently with 1 out.  As the baseball is hit, you want to get at least half way between 2nd and 3rd base.  This will allow you to be able to score in case the outfielder makes a mistake and drops the ball.  If he catches the baseball, just get back to second and hopefully the next hitter will get a hit to bring you in.

The mindset with one out is different than with 0 outs because with one out we want to be in a position to score or get back to second base.  With 0 outs we want to be able to move up to third base, that is our priority.

– 2 outs –  Our goal is pretty simple with 2 outs, once the baseball is hit we run.  Make sure you anticipate a swing and if you see contact, run hard and expect to score.

When to advance on ground balls in the infield.

The idea is basic, but there are a lot of mistakes made when a runner tries to advance to third when he shouldn’t have.

Most mistakes are caused because the hitter makes an unproductive out and the runner tries to help out the hitter and make a great base running play.  This usually backfires and the runner will be at fault, and you will take yourself out of scoring position.

Basic rule 

  • If a batted ball is hit to your right (after you have completed your secondary lead) stay at second base.  The throw to first is long and a much easier play for the shortstop is to come up and throw to third base.
  • If a batted ball is hit to your left (after you have completed your secondary lead) advance to third base.  If the shortstop is moving to his left, he will just continue and take the out at first.  A ball hit to the second baseman is too risky of a play to try to get the out at third.

Exceptions to the rule

  • If a batted ball is hit to your right and the third baseman is playing deep and has to go a long way to his right or left to make a play, you may be able to move up to third base.  If you leave early enough he may be in a bad position to tag you before you can get to the third base bag.  His only play will be at 1st base.
  • If a chopper is hit where the third baseman has to charge in hard and field the baseball on the run somewhere on the infield grass, move up to third base.  His momentum will take him away from the bag, and if you read it early enough you should be able to get into third easily.  Just make sure you can beat the shortstop over to third base.

Understanding when and when not to move up to third on a batted ball can help your team or really hurt your team if you aren’t sure what you are doing, or don’t react properly.  If you talk to yourself about the situation, and you know what you are going to do before it happens, it makes reading balls a lot easier.

I hope this series of base running tips has been helpful for you.  I welcome you to leave feedback and questions in the comments section below.  Play hard!  – Doug

More tips for running bases and stealing:

About Author

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. Where is he now? After batting .200 in 45 at-bats and fielding .950 during 2017 spring training with the Rangers, Doug was assigned to the Ranger's AAA team the Round Rock Express. You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier

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