Double Cuts

Double cuts are often improperly taught throughout amateur baseball.  Not a lot of time is spent teaching it, and therefore it seems like coaches would rather avoid it than try and get better at it because they simply aren’t sure of the best way to go about it.

Most coaches know that double cuts are necessary, but if you’re not quite sure of all of the little nuances of the double cut then this article is for you.  Before reading this article however, I would suggest checking out Regular Cuts and Relays to get a basic understanding of what we’re talking about here.

What is a Double Cut?: A double cut is when two infielders (most of the time the middle guys) go out together to cut the baseball from a batted ball that has broke the outfielders perimeter (imaginary arc from the outfielders starting position).

Why do you do a Double Cut?: We double cut for one really important reason and that is to have a backup to our primary cut guy in case the outfielder overthrows or short hops the cut.  This happens all the time and when that ball gets by the primary cut without a backup guys there the team that’s hitting can run around the bases forever.

How do you know when to do a Double Cut?: As I mentioned above it’s when the batted ball breaks the imaginary perimeter of the outfielders starting position.  As a rule of thumb, if you see the outfielders numbers as they’re going for the ball then you’re going to need a double cut.

How far should the infielders be apart in a Double Cut?: Infielders should be around 10 to 15 feet apart.  This is another thing that’s consistently done wrong throughout amateur baseball.  Teach it this way – you want to be close enough to where a ball that would sail over the primary cuts head would hit the secondary cut in the chest, or a short hop for the primary infielder would end up being a long hop for the secondary infielder. For more information on what exactly a short hop and long is click Here.

Double Cut to LC Gap – Man on 1st

Double Cut LC - Runner 1b

Situation – So, if you’ve read the article about regular cuts and relays then you know that we’re trying to think two base ahead from where the runner starts. When we are in a double cut situation we try and think three bases ahead.  So if you have a runner on first and a ball hit in the LC gap like above, then the double cut would be redirected to home (3 bases ahead) with the option to redirect the cut to third and try and get the trail runner.

P: The initial reaction from the pitcher should be to back up home plate.  He should automatically do this making sure that he gets as much room as possible between himself and the plate.  If he sees that there is not going to be a throw to home and the relay is being directed to 3rd (often by the catchers call), then he has to hustle to back that throw up as well.

C: This is where having a catcher that understand the “feel” of the game helps a ton. When I say that, I mean that they know when they do or do not have a chance at a certain play, or they know the situation of the game and if it would be more advantageous to change the call to 3rd to get the trail runner and trade a run for an out because the score dictates that it’s the correct play.  This “feel” comes from practice and correct coaching.  If any player should be getting more attention defensively than any other it should be your catchers.  On this particular play, ideally your catcher should have already went through this possible scenario in his head prior to the play.  So his initial call should automatically be “four” but in the back of his mind he should know that he has the option to change the call to three.

1B: The first baseman will have no obligation to be at first base because in this situation we’re giving the hitter a double for sure.  The thing that the first baseman does is called “trailing” the runner.  This means that he waits for the trail runner to go past him and simply follows him to second base.  The reason for this is in case the runner takes too big of a turn around second, we have someone there for an optional back pick on the trail runner.

2B: The second baseman will be the secondary cut. If the ball is over the primary cuts head, he should be able to catch it in the air without a bounce and continue the relay.  If it’s a short hop to the primary cut then the secondary cut guy (2b) should be able to catch that ball off a long hop and continue the relay.  One thing I like to have the secondary cut guys do is verbally relay info from the catcher.  Again, it’s just another reassurance for the primary cut man that he’s in the correct place and he’ll be throwing the ball to the correct base.

3B: The third baseman will cover third in case of the play being redirected to the trail runner.

SS: The shortstop will be the primary cut man and should line himself up with the proper base.

LF: The left fielder will go to the ball and if he gets there first will start the relay. The key here is to make sure that the outfielder gets rid of the ball as quick as possible and gets it into the relay man’s hands.  The reason we place so much importance of getting rid of it quick is because the quicker the ball gets into the primary cut man’s possession, the more likely the 3rd base coach will be to hold the runners.

CF: Same as the LF

RF: The right fielder will back up second base in case of a back pick opportunity on the trail runner

Double Cut to RC Gap – Man on 1st

Double Cut RC - Runner 1b

Situation – This situation is almost identical to the situation above, but with the ball being hit to the opposite gap. When we are in a double cut situation we try and think three bases ahead.  So if you have a runner on first and a ball in the RC gap like above, then the double cut would be redirected to home (3 bases ahead) with the option to redirect the cut to third and try and get the trail runner.

P: The pitcher will back up home plate.  He should automatically do this making sure that he gets as much room as possible between himself and the plate.  Since the LF should be backing up 3rd in this situation he won’t have to adjust in case of the relay being redirected to third.

C: This play will be identical to above. So his initial call should automatically be “four” but in the back of his mind he should know that he has the option to change the call to three. Make sure he’s loud, assertive, and he repeats himself multiple times.

1B: The first baseman will have no obligation to be at first base because in this situation we’re giving the hitter a double for sure.  The thing that the first baseman does is called “trailing” the runner.  This means that he waits for the trail runner to go past him and simply follows him to second base.  The reason for this is in case the runner takes too big of a turn around second, we have someone there for an optional back pick on the trail runner.

2B: The second baseman will be the primary cut and should line himself up accordingly knowing that if the thrown ball path is above his head or going to be a short hop, he’ll let it go as apposed to jumping for it or trying to pick it.

3B: The third baseman will cover third in case of the play being redirected to the trail runner.

SS: The short stop will be the secondary cut. If the ball is over the primary cuts head he should be able to catch in the air without a bounce and continue the relay.  If it’s a short hop to the primary cut then the secondary cut guy (ss) should be able to catch that ball off a long hop and continue the relay.  One thing I like to have the secondary cut guys do is relay info from the catcher.  Again, it’s just another reassurance for the primary cut man that he’s in the correct place and he’ll be throwing the ball to the correct base.

LF: Backs up third.

CF: Goes to the ball and gets it in as quick as possible

RF: Same as the CF

Double Cut Down the LF Line:

Double Cut LF - Runner 1b

Situation – This situation is done a little different than normal double cuts.  Instead of having the two middle guys going out, it’s easier to have the 3b be the secondary cut because it’s such a long run for the second baseman (a lot of times he won’t even make it to the correct position if he’s assigned to be the secondary cut).

P: The initial reaction from the pitcher should be to back up home plate.  He should automatically do this making sure that he gets as much room as possible between himself and the plate.  If he sees that there is not going to be a throw to home and the relay is being directed to 3rd (often by the catchers call), then he has to hustle to back that throw up as well.

C: So his initial call should automatically be “four” but in the back of his mind he should know that he has the option to change the call to three.

1B: The first baseman will have no obligation to be at first base because in this situation we’re giving the hitter a double for sure.  The thing that the first baseman does is called “trailing” the runner.  This means that he waits for the trail runner to go past him and simply follows him to second base.  The reason for this is in case the runner takes too big of a turn around second, we have someone there for an optional back pick on the trail runner.

2B: The second baseman will go directly to third in case of a trail runner trying to extend this play into a triple.  It’s imperative that he gets to third right away, if he forgets then 3b will be open for the runner to take.

3B: The third baseman will be the secondary cut. If the ball is over the primary cuts head he should be able to catch in the air without a bounce and continue the relay.  If it’s a short hop to the primary cut then the secondary cut guy (3b) should be able to catch that ball off a long hop and continue the relay.  One thing I like to have the secondary cut guys do is relay info from the catcher.  Again, it’s just another reassurance for the primary cut man that he’s in the correct place and he’ll be throwing the ball to the correct base. *Depending on arm strength you can swap the 3b and the SS if so desired.

SS: The shortstop will be the primary cut man and should line himself up with the proper base.

LF: Starts the relay.

CF: Honestly this may be the one time an outfielder really has no place to be.  They’ll usually float towards the infield.

RF: The right fielder will back up second base in case of a back pick opportunity on the trail runner

Double Cut Down the RF line:

Double Cut RF - Runner 1b

Situation – Again, this situation is done a little different than normal double cuts.  Instead of having the two middle guys going out, it’s easier to have the first baseman be the secondary cut because it’s such a long run for the SS baseman.

P: The  pitcher will back up home plate.

C: So his initial call should automatically be “four” but in the back of his mind he should know that he has the option to change the call to three.

1B: The first baseman will be the secondary cut. If the ball is over the primary cuts head he should be able to catch in the air without a bounce and continue the relay.  If it’s a short hop to the primary cut then the secondary cut guy (1b) should be able to catch that ball off a long hop and continue the relay.  One thing I like to have the secondary cut guys do is relay info from the catcher.  Again, it’s just another reassurance for the primary cut man that he’s in the correct place and he’ll be throwing the ball to the correct base.

2B: The second baseman will be the primary cut, lining himself up.

3B: The third baseman will cover third in case of the play being redirected to the trail runner.

SS: This is a unique play for the shortstop.  There’s no reason for the SS to cover 2nd or first since we’re assuming a double off the bat.  So the SS has the ability to float somewhere in between first base and the plate in case of a bad throw or the ball getting over both cut guys heads.  Remember the famous “Jeter Flip Play” from the playoffs in the early 2000s against the Athletics?

LF: Backs up third.

CF: So the center fielder is able to float towards third base in this play. If he has the opportunity to hop in the infield and cover second for a back pick, then he’s able to do that as well.

RF: Starts the relay.

Summary:

So remember with a double cut, we want our cut guys to be around 10-15 feet apart. We want the outfielders to get rid of the ball quickly as possible and we need our catcher to be loud and assertive as to where the ball is going.  All the examples above have a runner starting at first, but if you’re thinking three bases ahead you can apply to any situation.  If there’s no one on and no out out and it’s a double cut situation, breaking the outfielders perimeter, the cut would be automatically to three.  On the same token, if there’s a runner at second and there’s a ball to the gap, we’ll assume the lead runner will score easily so the cut will again be to third automatically.  Another situation will be bases loaded and in this case we’ll run the double cuts exactly the same as if there were just a runner on first base since the runners on 2nd and 3rd will score easily.

Hope this helps! Please comment with any questions.

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