Baseball Magazine

3rd Base Coach: Send the Runner?

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
A third base coach rarely gets much attention, especially at the higher levels where the manager stays on the bench.  Quick, name five MLB 3rd base coaches.  See what I mean?  It seems the only time a 3rd base coach ever gets his name in the paper is when he gets a runner thrown out at the plate.  It's a thankless job.  If you find yourself as a 3rd base coach one day and you want to do a better job at knowing when to send runners, here's a couple tricks 3rd base coaches will use:

3rd base coach:  Send the runner?

Knowing where the outfielders are in relation to the
infield holes can help a third base coach.

Pay attention to the holes.  By holes I mean the areas between the infielders.  There are three.  One between the third baseman and the shortstop, one between the shortstop and second baseman, and one between the second baseman and the first baseman.  Knowing where the outfielders are playing in relation to these holes will save you time in deciding whether to send the runner or keep him at third base.  Let's take the third base hole as an example.  Let's say the left fielder is playing right in line with this hole (as the photo shows).  If a ball is smoked through that hole you immediately know before the ball enters the outfield that it is traveling directly at the left fielder.  You don't even have to look because you knew where he was playing before the pitch in relation to that hole.  In this example a left fielder will be able to charge very hard on the ball and will have a very good chance of making his strongest throw possible.  Now let's say the left fielder is shifted slightly in line with the shortstop.  You now know that a ball hit through the third base hole will be to the left fielder's right.  Therefore he will not be able to charge directly at the ball and come up throwing as easily.  The same rule applies to all the holes in the infield.  Know where the three outfielders are in relation to these holes and you will know how difficult a play it will be for the outfielder prior to the ball leaving the infield.

3rd base coach:  Send the runner?

The farther a coach moves down the line, the
easier it will be for him to read the throw.

Move down the line.  As a 3rd base coach, you'll know pretty quick whether there will be a chance for a close play at the plate.  Where the ball is hit (read above), how hard the ball was hit, how fast the runner is, and how good the outfielder's arm is are all factors that are involved.  Of course, a lot of this needs to be known before the ball is even hit.  However, sometimes it will just come down to how well the outfielder picks up the ball and how good of a throw he makes.  This is where moving down the line helps.  It gives you more time to see these two things.  If a 3rd base coach stands right near the bag and waves the runner home he may be able to see whether the outfielder fielded it cleanly but he probably will not be able to see his throw in time because the runner will either be right at the bag or beyond it.  By that time, the coach would have had to make a decision on whether to send the runner.  If, after the ball is hit, the coach moves farther down the line - say about halfway to home and in line with the runner's path - he will be able to see both the outfielder's pick-up as well as the throw to home.  If the outfielder bobbles the ball, the coach waves the runner home.  If the outfielder's throw is week or going to be wide, he continues to wave the runner home.  If the outfielder fields it cleanly and appears to have thrown a strike towards home plate, the coach puts up the stop sign and the runner stops and hustles back to third.
Similar to playing defense, being a good third base coach involves knowing a lot of information before the ball is put into play.  There are a lot of variables to consider but the more you do it, the more you develop a sort of sixth sense.  You don't really think about it, you just react.  Knowing where the outfielders are positioned and moving around the third base coaching area as needed are two things that can help.

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