Baseball Management Coaching
Making Correct Situational Defensive Decisions
Avoiding big innings by the opposition usually keeps teams in games, giving teams a chance to win games. Managing games with this philosophy usually pays off. Many baseball games are lost because coaches fail to position players correctly. Additionally, many coaches fail to teach players “what to do” in defensive situations, leading to failed execution of crucial baseball plays. Of course, many baseball coaches do not possess the game management coaching skills to win close baseball games.
Many of these management-coaching skills take split second decisions, which often take years of experience to learn. Once learned, baseball coaches will notice that their teams begin to win more games than previously. Additionally, good players begin to recognize these situations and adjust accordingly, making them coaches on the field, so to speak. Of course, good baseball coaches take nothing for granted and call out the game strategy before pitches, based on the game situation and age of players.
Common and crucial baseball management coaching decisions:
- Infield Depth – knowing which infield depth to play is necessary. Rule of thumb – Early in games, playing infield back and going for all double plays with runners on third and less than two outs, is best. As mentioned, avoiding big innings that takes a team out of the game is the goal, so allowing a run here or there to get an out is OK. Of course, this may change slightly when facing the other team’s ace, when runs may be in short supply.
- No doubles outfield – generally with two outs, it is best to back outfielders up to make sure it takes three hits to get a run instead of an extra base hit and a single. Taking into consideration a player’s power potential is necessary in this situation, of course.
- No doubles infield – late in games, first and third baseman play closer to the baselines with no one on base, for the same reason as number two above.
- 1st and 3rd situation – deciding to throw through to second base, throw to third or fake the throw to second is important with base runners on the corners. This decision is predicated on many factors, as players’ arm strength, inning, score, and numbers of outs.
- Throw to second or throw home – There are times when it is best to keep a double play in order by throwing to second base when a single goes to the outfield and a runner is on second base than trying to throw the runner out at home. Other times it is best to try to nail the runner at home, but always insisting that players hit the cutoff man.
Additional Management Coaching Advice
- Let runner steal second – sometimes, it is best to allow runners to steal second base than to disrupt the infield and risk giving up cheap hits. This may be even more important in certain game situations at the youth level, when catchers are not adept at throwing out base stealers.
- Take pitches or swing – this is a sensitive area at the youth baseball level, determining whether using a take sign with young ball players is good or not. I would suggest that coaches use the take sign very sparingly until high school baseball and to be consistent with its use, keeping it the same for all players and not just some. Having kids take pitches because the opposing pitcher is wild is not good sportsmanship. Allowing kids to learn the strike zone on their own is best.
- Deciding which players take cut off throws is important also, as shortstops at the young age genearally have much stronger arms than second basemen.
- 1st Baseman playing behind runner – there are times, usually with a left handed batter up, where it may be best to not have the first baseman holding the runner on first base.
- Dive plays – teaching infielders and outfielders when it is best to dive for balls is important. For example, having infielders learn to dive on ground balls in the holes with runners on second base is necessary. Similarly, teaching outfielders situations where diving may not be worth the risk is good.
Of course, baseball coaches have many situational-offensive decisions to make, too. Teaching players how to run the bases, based on game situations, is another coaching responsibility that helps win close games. As mentioned, many coaching decisions are determined by the skill level of the players and score of the game. No matter the level, coaching decisions based on avoiding big innings works for the best management coaching decisions to win the close games.