Shortstop and second baseman need to know how to hold a runner at second base, as well as how to initiate and execute a pick-off play.

Holding runners close to second base is a skill, and it takes understanding between you and your pitcher. Here are a few things to think about when trying to keep the runner as close to second base as possible.

Tips from a Pro

Who are you holding on?

Who is your strategic oponent in this situation? Here’s a tip, it’s not only the runner.

If the runner has his eyes on the baseball like he should, then it is the 3rd base coach who is watching you. He is the base runner’s eyes, and the runner is trusting the coach to let him know if you are going to try a pick-off move. You can use this to your advantage by keeping the coach wondering if you are planning a pick-off move. If you can make him say “careful” or “back,” the runner will probably stay close to second for at least one more pitch. So keep in mind what the third base coach is saying to his runner and try to disrupt him.

The runner is usually not watching how far or close you are, but if he is, you can use it against him. When his attention is on you, its not on the pitcher. If you run hard toward the base, the baserunner has to get back to safety because he doesn’t know where the ball is. He is probably not going to steal third if he is too worried about where you are playing.

Keep them guessing.

Use different techniques and switch them up quite often. Sometimes per inning, sometimes, every hitter, or even every pitch. Just keep them guessing. At times be really quiet so the runner doesn’t know where you are. Sometimes this can be a little tricky because as a runner you may be a little nervous about getting a huge lead if you really aren’t sure where the second baseman is. Or you can try talking loud, hitting your glove and keep him thinking about you.

Know your pitcher

Be the Pitcher’s Eyes.

Your pitcher will be more focused on the hitter than the runner at 2nd, which is a good thing. But it is your job to be his eyes and if you see something a little out of the ordinary, put a pick off attempt on or go out to the mound and talk to him.

Know your pitchers time to home plate.

The pitcher’s time to home plate is the time it takes from the beginning of his motion to the moment the ball hits the catcher’s glove. Is he fast or slow? I guarantee the runner knows, so you should know as well. If he is slow, you need to keep the runner closer or tell the pitcher to speed it up a bit.

Look for tendencies in your pitcher.

Is he looking the same amount of times to second base every time? If he is very systematic and predictable, then it is a good idea to get your pitcher to change up his looks. If the runner is getting a read on him, have your pitcher get his sign and then throw home without looking at the runner. This is one of the best moves to throw in on occasion. The runner has nothing to time if he just delivers the ball home.

Know the situation

How many outs are there?

Runners are much more likely to attempt a stolen base of third base with one out. With nobody out, they are letting the hitter move them up. With two outs they are already in scoring position.

Another thing to think about is… Is holding the runner on base your priority? This is dictated by the situation as well. Your manager would much rather a runner steal third base with 2 outs than a ground ball get through the infield, on a play you could have made if you weren’t worried about keeping the runner close to 2nd base. The old unwritten rule for base runners is never make the first or third out at third base.

What is the score?

If there is a big run differential, it may not really matter if he steals 3rd base. It may be better suited to play deeper and increase your range so you can get to more batted balls.

Off speed pitches.

Know if the runners have a tendency to run in predominately off speed counts. Most runners would rather pick to steal on a curve ball or change up, because it takes longer to get to home plate and it is usually a little more difficult for a catcher to catch and throw on an off speed pitch.

Did the runner just steal 2nd base?

It has been proven that the best time to steal 3rd base is the next pitch after you just stole 2nd. The pitcher usually relaxes a little and thinks you are where you want to be, so often times he is not worried about you. It is your responsibility to get the pitcher locked in to keeping him close to the bag.

Know the runner

Is the runner fast or slow?

This you should at least be able to see by body type, and by watching how he ran to 1st base. Also, the positions people play will tell you a little about a persons speed. A centerfielder will run better than a catcher, usually.

Written for second basemen. How to hold a base runner close to second base. Keep the runner from stealing by being prepared with information and watching for signs.

SWB Yankee Luis Nunez holds a base runner on at 2nd. Image by Frank Lauri.

This is also a good time to cash in on some pre game preparation you could have done. Just check the stats and see how many attempts and steals each runner has.

You don’t have to memorize stats, but it helps to know if a guy has a lot of steals or doesn’t really like to run.

Check his lead.

You should have an invisible spot in the baseline where if the runner gets to this spot you need to flash your hand and put a pick off attempt on. Also you should try to see where his lead is and if he is getting a little bigger, smaller, or staying the same with every pitch.

Pitcher’s moves

You have two moves that each pitcher uses, one is the daylight play or flash play, and the other is the inside move.

1.The daylight or flash play

is when the pitcher comes set and is looking back at the runner. When you decide to break, throw your hand out (or glove if you are playing shortstop) toward the bag so the pitcher knows you are not bluffing. The pitcher will spin and throw right over the bag. You need to get to the second base bag and straddle it, wait for the ball, and apply the tag.

2.The inside move

is when the pitcher picks up his leg like he is starting his pitch home and then continues that move around so that foot lands on the backside of the mound. He will deliver the ball to 2nd base. This move is to try to get the runner to commit early and we can get him in a run down. This is a great move if the runner is getting antsy.

Read more about infield strategy

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 13 years. Most recently, Doug signed with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, where he logged time at every infield position except 1st base in 33 Major League games. Currently Doug is with the Twins' AAA team in Rochester, NY

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