Baseball IQ: The Pump Fake Throw
By Eric Tyler of Baseball Rebellion
What is Baseball IQ?
Knowledge is Power
Scroll twitter for five minutes and you’ll find 10 different instructional drills/videos on how to become a better hitter and improve your swing. And to be clear, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. People genuinely trying to help others is typically a good thing. But, you rarely see anything besides hitting, pitching, and fielding. The big three and rightfully so. Those are the 3 core principle skills of baseball. But, as we all know, there are so many more valuable skills and traits a player can possess that makes them stand out in today’s game. In a world where amateur athletes are throwing harder and hitting farther than ever, baseball IQ seems to be dropping. How can we blame the athlete when a hitting or pitching tip is just a click away but nobody wants to teach base running, throwing behind a runner, and just general savviness needed to compete at a high level.
How to Win Awareness
I want to take the platform that I have at Baseball Rebellion and use it to teach the plays that you won’t see at a pro-style workout but are absolutely necessary. And don’t get me wrong, athletes should 100% hit, field and throw more than they work on these plays, but having an understanding of these plays and how to use them can make them stand out. Playing for Cliff Godwin at East Carolina University, we valued these plays immensely. These are plays we considered “How to Win Awareness”. The plays that when done correctly, can change the outcome of a game.
Defense- The Art of the Pump Fake
Outs carry significant value to a defense. Giving them away can be devastating while creating them can be beneficial. Anyone watching a game can understand the significance of fielding a routine ground ball or securing the lazy pop-up but, the difference-making outs can come when least expected. Creating outs can be found everywhere during a game: pick offs, throwing behind a runner, and pump faking can all lead to created outs. Today, we discuss the pump fake and how if used correctly, can lead to unexpected outs for your team.
As seen in the above video, a ball is slowly hit to 3rd Baseman Manny Machado with a runner on second base. Machado’s awareness of how hard the ball is hit and how that affects the chances of getting the batter out leads to a created out. His understanding that the pace of the ball makes the play at first unlikely helps him eliminate this as a possibility. His understanding of the situation and where the runners are allowed him to then turn his attention to the next possible way to record an out. But, simply fielding the ball and turning to find the runner advancing from second wouldn’t create an out. After all, his chances of getting the routine out were gone. This is where the creativity was needed to then create an out. Knowing that the runner on second would surely advance on the softly hit ball, Machado attempted to catch the runner being too aggressive, rounding third. By utilizing the pump fake Machado surrenders to the batter and attempts to create an out at third, which he does so successfully.
How to win awareness sometimes requires multiple players. The video above shows a similar play this time completed by the Seattle Mariners. Third Baseman Kyle Seager is faced with the same scenario and completes the same play. This angle shows that without the same level of awareness from the Shortstop, this play cannot be completed. Everything about this play comes from a pre-pitch understanding of the situation and the awareness to create outs.
In a similar situation as the last videos, Jose Fernandez fields a swinging bunt with runners on 2nd and 3rd. Understanding that the tempo of the play does not fair well to get the out at first, Fernandez pump fakes to first getting the runner at third to commit to advancing allowing for an out to be created. The easy thing on this play would be to just pick the ball up and hold on to it. Smart, high baseball IQ players, understand the situation and how to get creative to steal an out.
Nothing to Lose
Something to understand about this play and how to pull it off is that in every situation we’ve covered, the worst thing that could happen was the runners stayed put. Using a pump fake shouldn’t be a high-risk play so if there is a chance of a runner advancing because of it, don’t do it. However, if there is a pre-pitch awareness of the situation and some feel of the pace of the ball, this creativity can be a great way to steal an out for your team.
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