Ask the Coach
Roger in Illinois asks:
I am coaching an 11-12 year old baseball team and would like to know the proper cut-offs for hits to the outfield. I have searched the internet and various baseball books but have not been able to find anything on this.
Coach Swift answers:
For all cut-offs there are a couple of things to consider when a ball is hit to the outfield.
Whether the ball was hit in front of or past the outfielders.
- If the ball was in front of the outfielders the cut-off man will only go to the backside of the infield.
- If the ball was hit or gets past the outfielders the cut-off man needs to move out into the outfield. The actual distance, normally about 20 to 30 feet, will be determined by how strong an arm your outfielders and infielders possess.
Determining the cut-off infielder.
Your cut-off infielder is determined by which half of the field the ball is hit to. The normal procedure is to divide the field in half by using an imaginary line running from home plate to second base and extending all the way to the outfield fence.
- For any balls hit to the left half, the shortstop will move out and become the cut man with the third baseman and the second baseman covering their bags for advancing runners.
- If the ball is hit on the right half of the diamond, the second baseman is your cut-off with the shortstop covering second base.
These scenarios will work whenever the ball is hit in front of the outfielder, and in both situations the first baseman stays at first to cover the batter/runner.
When the ball is hit beyond the outfielders the normal assumption is that all runners are going to try to advance two bases, so you need to have your players do something different.
Again, the second baseman or the shortstop is going to be the cut-off man based on which half of the field the ball was hit to. But what’s different is that the first baseman moves in line with home plate and the ball.
This will allow for a second option on the throw from the infielder towards home plate. The first baseman can cut it and throw to second or third base if there are runners advancing, or he can let it go through to home plate for the play there. It is important that somebody takes charge and verbally lets the cut-off man know what to do with the ball.
A Simpler Option
For youth teams, relays often lead to confusion and the potential for mistakes is real. With that in mind, here’s one more option for a relay system that works especially well for younger teams.
When I was in college my coach did relays a little bit different. It was his philosophy that relays from the outfield went smoother if the second cut-off was never used, so he never brought the first baseman into the picture. The cut-off man was always the second baseman or the shortstop and it was up to him to make the throw. Our coach believed it was a disadvantage to use the first baseman, as he just got in the way of a ball that was going to get to the catcher, even if the throw was a two hopper.
And yes, once a great while a runner took an extra base because the throw was to the plate and not cut off by the first baseman. But it was our team’s philosophy that we gained more by throwing to the correct base with only one catch and throw than by using a second cut and having to make another decision and a second throw.
The more chances your defense has to make an error, the more errors they will make. This “simpler option” is designed to cut down on errors.