Cuts and Relays

Basic Cuts & Relays

Cuts and relays are another topic that a lot of coaches are not exactly sure how to teach.  In this article, I’ve included diagrams as well as detailed explanation on how to go about running a set of cuts and relays where everyone knows exactly where they’re going in any situation and how to teach it in a way that they’ll actually remember.

Let’s start with the difference between a basic cut and a double cut.  A basic cut will be used with one infielder.  A basic cut is used when the ball does NOT break the perimeter of the outfielders.  The perimeter of the outfielders is an imaginary arc drawn across the outfield starting positions. A double cut is when the batted ball breaks that said perimeter of the outfielders. A good rule of thumb to use is if you see the outfielders numbers when they’re retrieving the ball then you’re going to need a double cut.

Regular Cut Base Hit to CF - Man on 1st

Regular Cut to LF – Man on 1st: Okay, so some of the reasoning as to what player should go where is pretty obvious, so I won’t spend a lot of time on each position, but I will tell you that every single person on the field has a place to be.  So, make sure that they are aware when a ball is hit to the outfield and there are runners on base. EVERYONE should be moving in some sort of capacity. On base hits you always want to think one base ahead of where the lead runner will end up.  So in the case above, the play will be at third because there is no chance for an out at second.  Will the runner starting at first go to third on a base hit to LF?  Probably not, but since you have no play at second the correct base to cut to would be third.

P: Backs up third.  Make sure he gives as much room as possible in between himself and the base. All too often pitchers are too close to the base they’re backing up and the ball ends up getting by both of the fielders, which ruins the whole idea of having a backup.  I cannot stress enough the importance of proper back up!

C: Right away your catcher should be directing traffic and letting everyone know that the play is at third.  Although, he doesn’t have to physically move, he’ll be involved in every single play to the outfield. Not only should he be loud and assertive, but he should repeat himself often just to give the fielders with their back to the play reassurance that they’re in the right spot.

1B: Since the first baseman won’t be involved with the cut and the runners will probably only be advancing one base, he’s free to sneak in behind the trail runner for a possible back pick

2B: Covers Second

3B: Covers Third

SS: The short stop is the cut guy.  He should have his head on a swivel and line himself up.  He should also know that there probably won’t be a play at third so he’ll most likely be cutting the ball as opposed to relaying it.  Having said that, he’ll need to keep his ears open in case the runner tries to take the extra base.

LF: Fields ball and hit the cut

CF: Backs up second base in case of a back pick

RF: Backs up first base in case of a back pick

Regular Cut Base Hit to CF - Man on 1st1

Regular Cut to CF – Man on 1st: This is very similar to the situation discussed above.  With this play you have a higher likelihood of the lead runner trying to extend to third, so the way that the CF needs to field the ball and the overall alertness of the team has to be a lot higher.

P: Backs up third.  Make sure he gives as much room as possible in between himself and the base.

C: Right away your catcher should be directing traffic and letting everyone know that the play is at third.  Although, he doesn’t have to physically move, he’ll be involved in every single play to the outfield. Not only should he be loud and assertive, but he should repeat himself often just to give the fielders with their back to the play reassurance that they’re in the right spot.

1B: Since the first baseman won’t be involved with the cut and the runners will probably only be advancing one base, he’s free to sneak in behind the trail runner for a possible back pick

2B: Covers Second

3B: Covers Third

SS: The short stop is the cut guy.  He should have his head on a swivel and line himself up.  He really needs to listen for help from other players to find out if the runner at first is trying to take the extra base.

LF: Backs up third

CF: Fields ball and hits the cut

RF: Backs up first base in case of a back pick.  He’s also in charge of backing up second if the lead runner takes too big of a turn so this requires some feel and he needs to keep his eyes up and watch how the play is developing while he’s moving.

Regular Cut Base Hit to RF - Man on 1st2

Regular Cut to RF – Man on 1st: Again, very similar to the plays above, but the big difference being that if the runner has any type of speed there is a high chance that they’ll try and extend and take the extra base, so fielding this ball clean and making an accurate throw is much more important.

P: Backs up third.  Make sure he gives as much room as possible in between himself and the base.

C: Right away your catcher should be directing traffic and letting everyone know that the play is at third.  Although, he doesn’t have to physically move, he’ll be involved in every single play to the outfield. Not only should he be loud and assertive, but he should repeat himself often just to give the fielders with their back to the play reassurance that they’re in the right spot.

1B: Since the first baseman won’t be involved with the cut and the runners will probably only be advancing one base, he’s free to sneak in behind the trail runner for a possible back pick

2B: Covers Second

3B: Covers Third

SS: The short stop is the cut guy.  He should have his head on a swivel and line himself up.  He really needs to listen for help from other players to find out if the runner at first is trying to take the extra base.

LF: Backs up third

CF: Backs up second in case of back pick.

RF: Fields ball and hits the cut

Summary:

So let’s take a second to sum this up and understand that there are so many variables to these cuts and relays that there isn’t just one cure all answer that you can tell your players.  These plays require full team practice.  Believe me though, it is well worth your time. The best way to practice these cuts and relays is to call out the situation before you actually put the ball in play and have your players tell you where they are lining up and who is the cut before the play.  We always want to think one play ahead.  Practicing this often can save you games throughout a season. It also makes your players think.

Now, I know that I don’t every possible situation diagrammed above for basic cuts, but I just wanted to give you a basic idea of what’s going on during a cut play that’s NOT breaking the outfielders “perimeter”. The idea of the basic cut is to play one base ahead of the runner.  So in the instances above we’re always cutting to third.  If there was no one on we’d always be cutting to second with the balls hit in the same respective spots.  If there was only a runner on 2nd we’d be shooting to get the out at home.  Having said that, there’s always the opportunity for a back pick on runners, so it’s imperative that the outfielders are accurate enough with their throws to hold trail runners from taking the extra base.

After you have a grasp on this info, you should read my article on double cuts.  I describe what exactly a double cut is, when a double cut is appropriate and how to go about teaching double cuts in a way that makes sense.  This is probably one of the most neglected plays in amateur baseball.

 

Comments 6

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      Author
  1. Excellent site. Why would coaches have as their primary method of throwing from SS and 3rd with a right foot step behind.? It would appear to me to slow everything down and be very difficult to control the throw. You occasionaly see major league players use it but to me it appears to occur a situation where there is limited pressure on the throw.

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      Author

      Hey Tom, that’s a good question. We never really recommend the step behind in the infield for any play at any position. For starters, stepping behind takes the momentum of the fielder away from the play in pretty much all situations. Secondly, it creates the chance for the fielder to tangle their feet up and fall. Lastly, you definitely don’t gain as much ground towards the target as you do with other methods.

      For a long time, I was taught, and taught my players the step in front, thinking that it gains more ground towards the target. After I started to explore it further and watched big leaguer after big leaguer take routine ground balls I came to the conclusion that the step in front actually DOES NOT get a fielder closer to the intended target. We now exclusively teach the replace step or the right to left, left to the target. You gain just as much ground, all of your momentum heads directly towards the intended target, and finally there is no chance to get the feet tangled up. I talk a lot about it in two articles Here (Original Version) and Here (Corrected Version)

      Good Luck!
      Scott

    1. Post
      Author

      Mike, good question. With a man on 1st and a routine basehit to RF that doesn’t break the perimeter (see double cuts for explanation) we have the SS cut the play to third for a couple of reasons. Put yourself in the shoes of your middle infield here:

      1. On any play, once the ball is hit fielders have a natural tendency to move towards the ball. So, if your 2b is playing in normal double play position or even on the cut of the OF grass, he’ll instinctively take a couple steps toward the batted ball to right, even if he doesn’t have a chance at making the play. After doing so (if he’s the cut guy) he’ll have to backpedal or turn and run towards third base (usually on the cut of the infield grass approximately) to get in the correct cut position for a cut to 3b. He has to get to this spot because the RF is usually headed in towards the plate on a routine GB to him. So to prevent the 2b from being basically on top of the RF or so close that it wouldn’t even warrant cutting the ball, he’ll have to run backwards to get in the correct position. As a player a cut is extremely hard to line up and relay when you are running backwards and you’ll see that the 2b will often be late.

      2. Your SS is doing the same thing at the initial time the ball is being hit so he’s almost heading in the direction of 2b and probably a little more towards first base. He can get to the correct cut position with a lot less effort than the 2b can. He also has the runner going across his face as he rounds 2b so he has a better feel of if he actually has a shot and can relay the throw or if the runner holds up he can back pick to 2b.

      3. Since the 2b is going to be a little late getting towards the middle of the field it works perfect for a back pick because the runner never sees him coming in towards the base. If the SS were to cover 2b he’ll probably get there prior to the ball even being delivered from RF. As a runner, if you see the SS waiting at 2b, you know you have to be a little more careful on your turn because there’s a potential for a back pick.

      4. Usually your SS has the strongest arm in the infield, so whenever possible we want the SS to handle the ball. He’s probably also your best infielder or athlete and would be able to handle a throw that’s off line, or an in between hop better than the 2b.

      I guess the exception would be if you’re playing at a way younger age anywhere from 6-12 and your RF literally can’t throw the ball 90ft. In that case it would make sense to have the 2b cut because he would basically be in position at the grass of the outfield. Remember this is not a double cut, this is a routine basehit to RF that doesn’t break perimeter and we’ve already given the runner 2b no matter what. The cut will usually be in between the pitchers mound and 2b somewhere. So it’s much easier for the SS to get there effectively. This is a pretty standard way of doing it from ages 13 and above.

      Hope that helps.

      Scott

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