Baseball: Cutoffs and Relays
Players being in the right position on any play in a game can be the difference in winning or losing that game. When the ball is hit into the field of play all players have a job to do whether it is making the play, backing up throws, or being in a relay or cutoff position.
The easiest and most basic play is the ball hit directly to the outfield with no one on base. A ball hit to the left side of 2nd base the shortstop is cutoff, 2nd baseman covers 2nd, 1st baseman stays at 1st in case hitter rounds the bag to far, the rightfielder is moving in towards the infield to back up the throw. The pitcher is also moving that way in case the throw gets away. If the ball is hit to the right side of 2nd the 2nd baseman is the cutoff, the ss covers 2nd base, the leftfielder is moving in towards the infield to back up the throw, and the pitcher and 3rd baseman are watching the throw ready to back up the play. On both these plays the ball is going towards 2nd base to keep the hitter off 2nd.
With a runner on 1st the responsibilities are different. Since the runner on 1st base will get to 2nd base on a hit to an outfielder the play is going towards 3rd base. With a ball hit to the leftfielder the ss will line up between the leftfielder and the 3rd baseman. With a ball hit to the centerfielder the ss will line up between the centerfielder and the 3rd baseman. With a ball hit to the rightfielder the ss moves in onto the infield grass and lines up between the rightfielder and 3rd baseman. With young kids in this situation most rightfielders can't get it to the ss because of lack arm strength so you can use the 2nd baseman as the cutoff and the ss covering 2nd base. In the situations I have discussed the 1st baseman stays at 1st in case the hitter rounds 1st base to far. The 2nd baseman covers 2nd base. The pitcher is backing up 3rd since the play is going that way. He needs to be far enough behind 3rd base, lined up with the throw to give himself time to react to a bad throw. This is important because if a bad throw gets by him the runner will likely score. The outfielders are moving in towards the infield to also back up the throws.
With runners on 1st and 2nd or the bases loaded the responsibilities change again. The relay is now set up towards home plate. A ball hit to the leftfielder the 3rd baseman will move onto the infield grass between the leftfielder and the catcher as the cutoff, the ss will move to cover 3rd base, the 2nd baseman covers 2nd base, the 1st baseman covers 1st base, and the pitcher will back up home, again far enough back from the catcher to have time to react to a bad throw. The reason I mention this is because I have seen kids back up plays to close to the base they are backing up. They either can't make a play on the ball or get hit with the ball because they are to close to react. If a ball is hit to the centerfielder or right fielder the 1st baseman will move onto the grass either between the centerfielder and catcher or the rightfielder and catcher. Don't stand on the mound. Stand between 2nd base and the mound, closer to the mound. 3rd baseman covers 3rd base, ss covers 2nd base, the 2nd baseman will move over to 1st base, the pitcher is backing up home plate, and the outfielders are moving in towards the infield in case of a bad throw. Make sure the outfielders don't come in to close because if a ball gets by them there is no one backing them up. Every bag is covered in these situations because you might have a chance at an out at any bag in any giving situation.
A double cut is when a ball is hit in the outfields gaps and the hitter has a sure double and if there was a runner on 2nd base he will score easy. The goal here is to stop the hitter from getting to 3rd base or if there is a runner on 1st base to keep him from scoring. If the ball is hit in the leftfield-centerfield gap the ss will go into the outfield with the 2nd baseman trailing behind him 15-20 ft. They will line up with either 3rd base or home plate depending on where the play is. The 2nd baseman is trailing like a back up for the ss. If the ss has a tough hop to handle or the throw is over his head the 2nd baseman is there to handle the throw. The 3rd baseman covers 3rd base, the 1st baseman trails the hitter to cover 2nd base. If there were no runners on base the pitcher will be backing up 3rd base. If there was a runner on 1st base the pitcher will be backing up home plate but be ready to back up 3rd base if the play goes that way. The only difference if the ball is hit to the rightfield-centerfield gap is that the 2nd baseman will be the lead cutoff and the ss will trail him. How far the cutoffs go out depend on arm strength.
In all relay situations the infielder who is playing the base where the relay is set up for needs to line up the relay man. This mean you want a straight line from the outfielder through the relay man to the base. This is up to the player covering the base by telling the relay player whether he needs to move right or left and how many steps. Also he needs to know whether to cut the throw or let it go. If he needs to cut it, yell cut and what bag. For example, by saying cut three means to cut the throw from the outfielder and throw to third base. If the throw is good and you have a chance of getting the runner don't say anything. Just let the throw come on.
Knowing the situation and where the play will be before the ball is hit is important. For example, just because there is a runner on 2nd base doesn't mean the play is going home on a hit to the outfield. If the ball is hit towards the gap but doesn't get by the outfielder the chance of getting the runner out at home is probably zero. So we want to stop the hitter from getting to 2nd base. This keeps him out of scoring position for now and also keeps the double play in order.
Something else to think about is the age of the ball players. Alot of times at young ages the arm strength isn't strong to hit the relays on the infield so the infielders might have to move out towards the outfield some to take the throw. I just like to make sure the the players are moving and realize they are involved in any play on the field. Be patient with young kids. They might do the relays great in practice but in a game it is usually a different story. It takes time, just remind them where they should be each time and they will start catching on,