“Just Ask Earl” 2nd Edition: Bogaerts to 3B? Hit-and-Run play?

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Gonzalo Robles <[email protected]> asks:

Earl, why do so many people say that Bogaerts will move to third and Middlebrooks to first? Will is a pretty good defensive [3rd baseman] and Bogaerts could move to left field. 

Earl: I am so glad you asked this question, Gonzalo.  You are correct: why take Middlebrooks, a very solid defensive Third baseman, even a potential All-Star at that position, and ask him to learn a new position?  Recall that Middlebrooks was drafted as a SS.

Here is the case for moving Bogaerts to First base immediately:

  • He will need to continually work on maintaining his skill at SS; playing 1b would be less mentally taxing, take pressure off, and allow him to focus on his hitting.
  • Why move Bogaerts to 3b, when you have Middlebrooks, a young player, who is a potential All-Star?
  • Why put Bogaerts in a corner OF slot, where he can run a greater risk of injury?
  • While he may have “footwork issues” at SS, he is considered a very good infielder and would become a defensive plus at 1b.
  • Assuming he adds height and weight, he will outgrow SS and 3b, but his size would not be an issue at 1b. [Red Sox: David Oritz, Mo Vaughn, George Scott , and Andres  Galarraga, Frank Howard, Ryan Howard, and Prince Fielder.]
  • Instead of a career of being a great hitter, but just an average defensive SS, why not let him be a greater hitter and a perennial All-Star First basemen?

Given the hole at 1b, currently covered over with a platoon of  catcher “Uno Ano” Napoli , Mike Carp [.235], Mauro Gomez [weak D] and Lyle “Over The Hill” Overbay, wouldn’t it make sense to let Bogaerts “own” that position now, so he could focus on his extraordinary hitting potential and become an All-Star defender at 1b?

Then, GM Cherington’s Next Great Sox Team could play an all-homegrown infield:

1b  Bogaerts

2b  Pedroia

SS Marrero

3b  Middlebrooks

Gonzalo, great thanks for your insightful question and keep ‘em coming!

 

Sophie <sophie****@gmail.com> asks

My dad takes me to Red Sox games.  What is a “hit and run” play?

Earl:  What confuses fans is that the term “hit and run” is backwards:  it should be called the “run and hit” play, since the runner is told to take off for the next base [usually Second base], BEFORE the batter tries to hit the ball.

Why give the “hit-and-run” sign to the runner and the batter?

OK, let’s take the case where there is a runner on First base.

The defense is hoping for a grounder to start a Double play for 2 outs.

FACT:  Anticipating a possible steal of second, either the SS or 2b will take the catcher’s throw.

Mostly, if the batter is left-handed, the SS will cover the bag; if the batter is right-handed, the 2b will cover the bag.

This is because it assumed that a right-handed will more often hit the ball to the SS and a left-handed will more often hit the ball to the 2b.

Now, following this assumption, the offensive team will use the “hit-and-run” play to cross up the defensive team.

With a right-handed batter and man on 1b, the 2b, when he sees the runner starting for second base, will start toward the bag.  This leaves a “hole” or space between first and second base.  A hitter with good control of his bat can intentionally hit to ball right into that hole, vacated by the second baseman.

There are two other advantages to “starting the runner,” as the pitcher goes toward the plate with his pitch:

  1. It is less likely that the defense can make a Double play.
  2. A runner in motion will be more able to take an extra base with forward momentum.

EX:  A runner on first base, who takes off early for second, will be able to go all the way to 3b on a single by the batter.

So, why not use the “hit-and-run” all the time?

  1. If the defensive team smells a “hit-and-run,” they can have their pitcher “pitch out,” or throw a pitch so wide and high that the batter cannot hit it.  Here, the catcher signals for a pitch out to the pitcher and, expecting the ball to arrive wide and high, he can jump into a standing position, which allows him to throw the ball to second more quickly.
  2. Suppose the defense does not call for a pitch out and throws it in the normal zone, but the batter fails to hit the ball.  The catcher can take the pitch and throw the runner out.
  3. If the runner goes, the batter swings and misses the third strike, and the catcher throws the runner trying to steal second base out, you have the “Strike ‘em out/Throw ‘em out” Double play.

If you are the defensive manager, you are aware that the “hit-and-run” play will most likely be used with a man on first, or men on first and third.  The offensive manager knows that you are more likely to call for a pitch out, when your pitcher is “ahead on the count.”  Since a pitch out will be called a “ball” by the umpire, the defensive manager will usually try it with the count in his favor:  0 balls, 1 strike; 1 and 2.  With an even count:  1 and 1, or 2 and 2, there may be a less than 50-50 chance he will pitch out.

What is the origin of this “hit-and-run” play?  Origins of anything in baseball history are very difficult to pin down.  After sifting through what players and baseball writers claimed, you can sometimes hone in on the most likely answer.

It appears to me that the first “hit-and-run” play was an accident:

“Pete Browning was the originator of the hit-and-run game.  He was hard of hearing, and one day he couldn’t hear the coacher [First base coach] after getting to first on a hit, and he started  [on his own] for second on the first ball pitched. He ran like a wildcat and got to third on a single.”

While it appeared that it was a brilliant move by Pete’s manager, it was just Pete unable to hear his coach’s instruction to stay on the bag at first.  “Hugh Jennings heard of it, and the “system” was introduced in Baltimore and worked with great success [Detroit Tribune, March 16, 1905]”

Sophie, great thanks for your question about a term that confuses many fans and keep ‘em coming!

Ask Earl any question related to baseball.  Examples:  rating prospects, fantasy trade advice, baseball cards, history, pitching techniques, strategy, rules, Red Sox issues, HOF candidates, MLB policies.

Send questions here:  [email protected]

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