Share the joy
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Baseball is often a game of mistakes. The more mistakes you can force an opponent to make, the better your chance of winning. On the amateur level, small ball gives your team the best chance of winning, because it puts pressure on the defense to make plays. Baseball is also a sport where the defense usually controls the pace of the action. Nothing happens until the pitcher throws the ball. The hitter must react to the pitcher. Small ball, which includes the bunting game and the running game, wrests control from the defense in many ways. Small ball can be likened to up-tempo, pressure basketball designed to make the opponent as uncomfortable as possible.

Most people equate the bunt with small ball and rightly so. The bunt is synonymous with one run at a time, sacrificing an out for scoring position. The play is often derided by advocates of gorilla ball and the statistical minds who caution against “giving away” outs.

But on the amateur level, getting the ball in play is one key to winning, even if it means a little 50 foot bunt. Getting a lead early is much more important in a seven inning game. Bunting a runner to second is a good play at any time in any close game. Even better is bunting with a man on second. It is amazing, and sad, how many amateur teams do not know how to defense a bunt with a man on second. Often, the offense will end up with men on first and third, the ultimate small ball situation.

Even if the defense gets the out at first, there is now a man on third with one out.
The defense might now play up, increasing the hitter’s chance of getting a base hit. The pressure increases on the pitcher and catcher and the infielders, which by itself might lead to more mistakes. All because of a little bunt.

A man on third with less than two out also opens the door to the suicide squeeze, perhaps the most demoralizing play to a defense if it is executed properly. Done properly, the suicide is un-defensible, unless the defense guesses right and pitches out. Done properly, of course, means the runner breaks without tipping the play and the hitter bunts the ball on the ground.

Let’s recap and expand the previous scenario to see how small ball can demoralize a team: the batter walks (knowing the strike zone and being able to take pitches is an underappreciated aspect of small ball), steals second (small ball), gets bunted to third (small ball), and scores on a squeeze (small ball). No ball has been hit more than 50 feet, the defense has given up a run, and the inning is still alive.

Even more devastating is the two run squeeze. With men on second and third, the runner from second breaks like he is stealing third. The runner from third waits until the pitcher is about to deliver before breaking for the plate, as he would normally do. The hitter must bunt the ball on the ground. If the coach wants the runner from second to keep going to the plate, he does not say anything and the runner keeps running. Most of the time, the defense will forget about the runner from second and get the out at first while two runs are scoring.

Demoralizing? Two runs score on a ball that goes 25 feet.

Is there potential for disaster? That is why it is called the suicide! But the rewards far outweigh the risks.

There are many, many other ways to use small ball. On the amateur level, getting the ball in play and putting runners in motion will win much more often than it will lose.