The 1st and 3rd pick play and the defense
This was a chapter in my first book. Probably not news to experienced coaches but maybe useful to newer coaches. Enjoy.
THE 1ST AND 3RD PICK ã 1999,2001
The 1st and 3rd pick play, sometimes called the 1st and 3rd pick off play. This is an offensive base running tactic that is used, at almost every opportunity, by all the best teams. Everyone is familiar with it. If you don't practice and use it on your team, you have surely seen it used against you by the other teams you have lost games to.
Normally there are less than two outs; the other team has runners on 1st and 3rd. Your pitcher throws, the runner on 1st breaks for 2nd, your catcher comes up and fires the ball to 2nd going for the out, the runner on 3rd trots in home safely and the other team scores another run. You may get the out at 2nd and maybe not. Your team just fell victim to the 1st and 3rd pick play.
What were your choices for defense in that situation? Many coaches will say there were only two,
1. Throw the ball to 2nd and go for the out.
2. Don't throw the ball, hold the runner on 3rd and prevent the run from scoring.
Choice #1 may get you an out but it costs a run scored against you. The out is not guaranteed and the run against you is almost certain.
Choice#2 will not score them a run or get you an out, however, if their next batter connects deep, they may score 2 runs on one long hit. Neither of these options will give you the opportunity to prevent a run against you and get an out against the other team as well.
THE BEST DEFENSE IS A STRONG OFFENSE. Here is the simple offensive tactic that can stop the run, get you an out and make that play BLOW UP in the other team's face.
Here is the same situation; runners on 1st and 3rd. The third base runner and the 3rd base coach are waiting for the catcher to come up and make that throw towards 2nd as the 1st base runner takes off. As soon as the ball leaves the catcher's hand, the runner heads for home with the coach urging her on.
Now, the catcher comes up and makes the hard throw the 3rd base runner is waiting for and she breaks for home. HOWEVER, this time the catcher makes that hard throw RIGHT BACK TO THE PITCHER!!
You now have the 3rd base runner between 3 and 5 steps (normally) off the bag. The pitcher must then immediately throw the ball to home, throw to 3rd or charge the runner to make the tag. That runner is now in a run down!
Who cares if that 1st base runner made it to 2nd. That runner is not the immediate threat to the score. The 3rd base runner is the lead runner and that is the runner who IS the immediate threat. Once the out is made, stay alert and heads up. That 1st base runner is already at 2nd and may try for 3rd, turn it into a double play when you can.
You must also realize that the first time you use this tactic against the other team they will probably think it was a fluke, a heads up play on the pitcher's part to intercept the throw. The second or third time they see you use it, they will realize it is a planned response and they will know what to do when you try the 1st and 3rd pick against them.
Another variation to this is for the catcher to come up and throw the ball to the second baseman that is on the run and charges the runner or throws to the 3rd baseman or catcher.
This next offensive tactic can be used anytime there is a runner on 3rd base.
This third variation requires some practice and a strong arm on the catcher. This move is also covered in the chapter called "The fake out pick off". The catcher comes up after the pitch, looks at 3rd base and lets the 1st base runner have 2nd. If the 3rd base runner is 3 or 4 steps off the bag, the catcher comes out 2 steps past the plate towards the pitcher. While still facing and looking straight at the pitcher, the catcher draws back as if to throw back to the pitcher.
The catcher then quickly throws sidearm, across the front of her body, to the 3rd baseman while turning towards 3rd base. The catcher does not look toward 3rd base until the last instant WHILE THROWING.
If the catcher is not looking at and facing the runner, the runner does not feel threatened, or at least not as threatened, compared to when the catcher is facing them.
It will take them by surprise and catch them off the bag; however, it is very easy to make a bad throw. Be sure someone is backing up the play.