Baseball Magazine

Tip for Leads off First Base

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
When it comes to base running, where a runner takes his lead is just as important as how far off the bag he goes.  The base path is the three foot area between each base and different runners stand in different places on that path.  When runners take leads off first or second base, some stay forward on the infield side of the path and some are one the back or outside side of the base path.  Which one is better?  For this post, I'll concentrate on the leads at first base and give my thoughts as to what that answer is.  
A lead off first base should put the runner in a position to do three important things.  
  1. Get back to the bag quickly to avoid getting picked off by the pitcher or catcher.
  2. Put the runner in a good position to either steal second base or just reach it quickly on a batted ball.
  3. Enable the runner to round second base and go to at least third base quickly and efficiently.

Keeping those three goals in mind, the best place for a runner to take a lead off first base is on the line extending from the back of the first base bag to the back of the second base bag.
Let's go back to the three goals and see why.
1. On a pick-off attempt by the pitcher or catcher, the runner will be able to dive to the back side of the base which is farther from the throws by the catcher and pitcher.  On pick-offs coming from the pitcher, the first baseman will also have to reach farther back after catching the throw to tag the runner since he is always positioned on the infield side of the base.

Tip for leads off first base

Diving back to first.

2. The same principle applies when getting to second base.  If a runner steals and runs directly down the line to the back side of second base, he'll be a little farther away from the catcher's throw since he is sliding to the outfield side of the base.  A runner who leads off first on the infield side of the base would have to run diagonal to second base instead of a straight line which would take a bit longer.

Tip for leads off first base

Running line to second.

3. This straight line run also helps a runner round second base and proceed to third.  When realizing he can make it to third the runner can veer a couple feet towards the outfield on his way to second, drop his left shoulder, touch second, and continue to third in a smooth, efficient arc.  Taking that diagonal path to second base creates a sharper, more difficult angle for the runner when rounding second base on his way to third.  This usually slows him down.  

Tip for leads off first base

Running 1st to 3rd

As players get older and move up in levels, these little things become more important and, if done, can allow runners to keep up with the faster paced game.  As many coaches know, the best runners are not always the fastest ones.  They are the runners that take the best leads and the best angles around the bases and do all the other little things that good base runners do.

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