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Cutoffs and Age Appropriate Strategies

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  • #31
    Great post Joe

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    • #32
      Originally posted by JoeG View Post

      I just finished going through 10 years of rec baseball. Whatever triggered you - I think it's causing you to miss the bigger picture of confusion and bad long-term habit creation caused by coaches yelling at kids who try to make plays. One of the worse patterns I see in rec ball goes like this:

      A kid really wants to make an out. They do something that the coach considers risky, such as trying really hard as an outfielder to run for the ball and missing it rather then letting the ball bounce once or twice to get to them (so ball rolls past them by 10-15 feet). Or they make a throw from right field directly from RF to 3rd or home to try to get the guy out. Or the 9yr old third baseman tries to throw a bullet to the 1st baseman to get out a fast runner. I have heard coaches yell at kids for any/all of these things at age 8, 9, 10, 11, etc. And guess what?

      As a coach of 11-12 year-olds I had to try to undo the damage from years of this kind of coaching. Because what have the kids learned? They have learned to not try for any play unless it is easy or routine. So fly balls that are relatively easy for a 12-year old to catch if they run in 20 feet just bounce in front of them for a single. Runners round third for home with impunity knowing the throw will never come, etc. It is really hard to coach this out of the kids when you inherent them after years of being yelled at for trying to make a difficult play.

      As a coach of 11-12 year olds who have played baseball for a few years, I LOVE kids who try to make difficult outs and I will never get upset with them. I might try to teach them the best times to go for it, and the best times to play it safe when doing a section of practice on a specific situation - but no way do I want to critique the kids over and over until they play scared and therefore play safe.

      What happens at the younger ages DOES matter. Not what stats they produce - but what habits they develop. And I, for one, want to see kids develop habits of going for it.

      So, for example - if a kid fields the ball in shallow right - I coached that you do NOT try to lob the ball to a cut 25 feet away (which I saw other coaches teach). I taught them to field the ball in a way that to immediately set their feet for a throw in case there's a shot to nail a runner and if you hear your teammates yelling "3" or "4" while you're setting your feet, you let loose.

      I have seen real extremes of "play it safe" and they do not throw line drive bullets to the cut man. They lob it at the cut man, and then the cut man just slowly walks in to the field to make sure that the runner they could have easily nailed at 3rd doesn't run home.

      Yes - I know the way you really want to do it is to throw a frozen rope through the cut - but most kids can't do that so a strong second best is to just try to nail the runner as best they can. Because that will help reinforce long-term habits that I personally think are good, in the long-run. Go for it.
      I labored through this post. Why is it so good? What the heck is the point? Is it "I, for one, want to see kids develop habits of going for it"? If so, how does that factor into OP"s questions? I've no idea.
      Last edited by omg; 09-06-2019, 01:36 PM.
      Major Figure

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      • #33
        Originally posted by skipper5 View Post

        Joe, that's a great post.

        I did some similar things when I was coaching 4 sons thru pre-teen rec ball:

        For example, I'd emphasize to our first baseman that they should react aggressively to groundballs to their right.
        I wanted them to err on the side of over-aggressiveness.
        I told them, if it doesn't work out, no problem, our pitcher will be covering first.
        At the same time, we emphasized to our pitchers to react quickly in the direction of first on groundballs to the right side.
        (But since they were pre-teens, we didn't yell "get over!")
        By mid-season, our pitchers were reacting pretty consistently because they knew they might get burned.
        Of course our fans were perplexed when it didn't work out, lol
        Now, many years later, coaching HS kids, my team's fans are still perplexed, such as when I run the contact play with r2/r3 and it results in an out at home, lol
        Heck, my assistants, who played in college, are also perplexed.
        Many attend. But few understand.


        This is perfect and perfectly illustrates the difference between a coach who wants to develop players and win games later rather than today. If you don't teach the 1B to do that, then a ball slips through and it's not a big deal. However if you teach the 1B to go to the ball then it relies on the P to execute. When he doesn't execute people notice, even though the result is the same...a single. But once you get both player executing you've turned a single into an out.

        Great coaches will take that initial lump (sometimes it's just the way it looks, sometimes it is actually a net negative) so that at the end of the season everyone is executing at a higher level.

        Outfielders should always come up firing +2 which is typically home. It's his responsibility to throw it in a cutable fashion in the right direction. It is the infielders responsibility depending on the situation to cut it and get an out if it's off-line or there's a better out elsewhere

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        • #34
          Originally posted by andre8 View Post
          Outfielders should always come up firing +2 which is typically home....
          Even in the bigs this is not exactly true. A very advanced skill for outfielders is knowing when to throw the ball to second base rather than 3rd or home.

          Major Figure

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          • #35
            Originally posted by omg View Post

            A very advanced skill for outfielders is knowing when to throw the ball to second base rather than 3rd or home.
            Ideally, who should be making the decision about where to throw the ball?

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            • #36
              Originally posted by bbrages View Post

              Ideally, who should be making the decision about where to throw the ball?
              The guy who's got the ball.
              Major Figure

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              • #37
                Originally posted by bbrages View Post

                Ideally, who should be making the decision about where to throw the ball?
                Keeping it real, the coach.
                Second and third, less than two outs, 270 ft flyball to LC, an all-conf. high school OF with high baseball IQ will make a hopeless throw towards home plate instead of throwing to third base.
                I'm not going to debate this. I live this.
                Skip

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                • #38
                  Originally posted by omg View Post

                  The guy who's got the ball [should ideally be the decision-maker on where to throw the ball].
                  This is not how I coach it nor how it's described in the couple coaching books I've read. If you look to see what to do with the ball, you lose 0.5 to 1.0 seconds and by then it's too late. I don't know what most coaches teach, but I taught the catcher to yell out instructions and for the cut man to repeat them. The catcher has the best view of the field. Not all my catchers were alert/smart enough to do this so if they didn't do it, then the shortstop.

                  For example - if the catcher sees that the runner is 3/4 of the way to 3rd and not slowing down while RF is fielding the ball, he'll yell "4! 4! 4!" really loud, and then 1st baseman will position himself between RF and home and also yell really loud "4! 4! 4!". The right fielder never looks at anything but the ball he is fielding and launches a throw to home.

                  Ideally this is a frozen rope through the cut man, but if it is a 9 year old throwing with a little arc and it goes 7 feet above the head of the cut man, that's fine by me.
                  Last edited by JoeG; 09-07-2019, 07:09 AM.

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                  • #39
                    Originally posted by omg View Post
                    What the heck is the point? Is it "I, for one, want to see kids develop habits of going for it"? If so, how does that factor into OP"s questions? I've no idea.
                    In OP, the coach critiques the kid for trying to trying to make an out, bypassing the cut. Have several coaches do that over several years' time with any kind of play where a player has a chance of making a difficult play, and the usual long-term result is kids who "plays it safe" and never attempt difficult plays.
                    Last edited by JoeG; 09-07-2019, 06:50 AM.

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                    • #40
                      Originally posted by JoeG View Post
                      Ideally this is a frozen rope through the cut man, but if it is a 9 year old throwing with a little arc and it goes 7 feet above the head of the cut man, that's fine by me.
                      Originally posted by JoeG View Post
                      In OP, the coach critiques the kid for trying to trying to make an out, bypassing the cut. Have several coaches do that over several years' time with any kind of play where a player has a chance of making a difficult play, and the usual long-term result is kids who "plays it safe" and never attempt difficult plays.
                      Joe, I think "frozen rope" as I used it it my earlier post was or has been misunderstood by some since that time. What I meant was that a majority MLB OFers have the ability to throw 90+ mph, and thus have the capability of making a throw from the OF to the plate on a low arc ("frozen rope" was just to emphasis the arm strength difference, not necessarily that that's the actual trajectory) much more direct to the plate than even the above average HS player is able to do (much less a pre-teen OFer), and why it is so important for these players to be taught how to correctly use the "cutoff" or "relay" person...and not attempt to make the glory play of trying to throw out a runner at the plate with a rainbow arc, hail Mary throw missing everyone enroute to it.

                      That said, that doesn't mean that an OFer of any age shouldn't attempt make the play at the plate...just do it correctly with a strong throw that travels in the vicinity of the cutoff/relay man, or what's the reason for even coaching the cutoff/relay person...if they OFers aren't expected to use or "throw through" them? IMO, playing/coaching and expecting the game played correctly...does not mean that you're developing "kids who "plays it safe" and never attempt difficult plays", but rather developing smart players who understand the game, and will be the more sought after players down the road for not only their physical skills of it, but their mental skills as well.

                      In memory of "Catchingcoach" - Dave Weaver: February 28, 1955 - June 17, 2011

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                      • #41
                        Originally posted by mudvnine View Post
                        That said, that doesn't mean that an OFer of any age shouldn't attempt make the play at the plate...just do it correctly with a strong throw that travels in the vicinity of the cutoff/relay man, or what's the reason for even coaching the cutoff/relay person...if they OFers aren't expected to use or "throw through" them? IMO, playing/coaching and expecting the game played correctly...does not mean that you're developing "kids who "plays it safe" and never attempt difficult plays", but rather developing smart players who understand the game, and will be the more sought after players down the road for not only their physical skills of it, but their mental skills as well.
                        Sounds good to me. One issue I see sometimes with young kids is the player trying to cut off the ball does not position himself on the line between the thrower and the intended target base. When that happens, I'd rather the thrower ignore the mispositioned cut and try to gun the runner.

                        I see the main purpose of the cut man is that sometimes you DON'T want to make the throw. If it's clear that the runner is slowing down on his way to 3rd, and the other runner is just getting to 1st, hopefully your catcher yells "cut 4!" as opposed to "4" because you're better off with the ball in the hands of the cut if you're pretty sure the runner isn't going home. That way the runner on 1st doesn't have a free pass to 2nd.

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                        • #42
                          Originally posted by JoeG View Post
                          Sounds good to me. One issue I see sometimes with young kids is the player trying to cut off the ball does not position himself on the line between the thrower and the intended target base. When that happens, I'd rather the thrower ignore the mispositioned cut and try to gun the runner.
                          Why wouldn't you just coach the cutoff man to position himself correctly, instead of having the thrower do what he shouldn't be doing...just picking up the ball and winging it towards the plate?

                          I see the main purpose of the cut man is that sometimes you DON'T want to make the throw. If it's clear that the runner is slowing down on his way to 3rd, and the other runner is just getting to 1st, hopefully your catcher yells "cut 4!" as opposed to "4" because you're better off with the ball in the hands of the cut if you're pretty sure the runner isn't going home. That way the runner on 1st doesn't have a free pass to 2nd.
                          The main purpose of the cutoff man is to limit the other team from automatically getting additional free bases when they see that the rainbow throw from the OFer all the way to the plate...has no way of being caught by the guy who should be able to "cut" it if thrown correctly...if/when F2 sees the throw is way off line, and/or has no chance of getting the runner at the plate, and starts yelling "CUT!" (just catch and hold it), "CUT2!" (catch and attempt to get the B/R at 2b), or even "CUT1!" if the B/R rounds the bag too far thinking the ball's going through...but is instead caught by the cutoff man.

                          Much rather have the run score and the B/R standing at 1B...instead of the run scoring anyway, and because of an improperly thrown ball from the OF...we now have the B/R standing in scoring position once again at 2B. But that might just be me....
                          In memory of "Catchingcoach" - Dave Weaver: February 28, 1955 - June 17, 2011

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                          • #43
                            Originally posted by JoeG View Post

                            This is not how I coach it nor how it's described in the couple coaching books I've read. If you look to see what to do with the ball, you lose 0.5 to 1.0 seconds and by then it's too late. I don't know what most coaches teach, but I taught the catcher to yell out instructions and for the cut man to repeat them. The catcher has the best view of the field. Not all my catchers were alert/smart enough to do this so if they didn't do it, then the shortstop.

                            For example - if the catcher sees that the runner is 3/4 of the way to 3rd and not slowing down while RF is fielding the ball, he'll yell "4! 4! 4!" really loud, and then 1st baseman will position himself between RF and home and also yell really loud "4! 4! 4!". The right fielder never looks at anything but the ball he is fielding and launches a throw to home.

                            Ideally this is a frozen rope through the cut man, but if it is a 9 year old throwing with a little arc and it goes 7 feet above the head of the cut man, that's fine by me.
                            The catcher yells all the way out to the left fielder/centerfielder/right fielder?? No, I don't think so. Anyways, catchers always yell "four, four, four- as soon as the ball is hit" (that was a joke- but they do).
                            Major Figure

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                            • #44
                              Originally posted by JoeG View Post
                              If you look to see what to do with the ball, you lose 0.5 to 1.0 seconds and by then it's too late.
                              Really Joe? An outfielder is not going to "look", they should just wily-nily throw the ball two bases ahead of the runner? Really? Aside from looking, a good fielder learns to have a "clock" in their head factoring in things such as how hard the ball is hit, whether they have to back hand it or go glove side with a spin, etc., etc. Not saying little leaguers would be expected to get this but, you know, isn't it maddening when, with a runner on 2nd with two outs and the batter hits a soft flare that drops in right center that the ofielder zings it in to home? Even with three coaches yelling two, two, two (catcher still yelling four though)?

                              Major Figure

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                              • #45
                                Originally posted by omg View Post

                                Really Joe? An outfielder is not going to "look", they should just wily-nily throw the ball two bases ahead of the runner? Really? Aside from looking, a good fielder learns to have a "clock" in their head factoring in things such as how hard the ball is hit, whether they have to back hand it or go glove side with a spin, etc., etc. Not saying little leaguers would be expected to get this but, you know, isn't it maddening when, with a runner on 2nd with two outs and the batter hits a soft flare that drops in right center that the ofielder zings it in to home? Even with three coaches yelling two, two, two (catcher still yelling four though)?
                                I learned recently that outfielders, don't back hand balls. As they charge the ball they adjust their path to field glove side, slightly in front, in order to come up throwing. They have way more time to react to the ball then 3rd base or short. Was that the wrong take away? Just checking in, because it was a super fun thing to practice with my kid and we were going to work on it more this afternoon. He also wants to practice "robs" at the fence, so I was going to look into the technique there. Baseball - fever -> any advice on practicing robs at the fence? Thanks all for your help -> I find the nuance to the game super fun to learn about.

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