Baseball is a game of moves and counter moves to win games. Managers usually stick to a playbook during a match, but will sometimes try new things to increase their scoring chances. One high risk and high reward play, when done perfectly, is the hit and run baseball play. So what exactly does this play in baseball mean? Find out more below!
What is a Hit and Run Play in Baseball?
The Hit and Run play sets a baserunner in motion on a pitch (usually on first base going to second base), which creates a defensive gap in the infield. The play can be successful even if the batter records a ground ball out because the runner running on the pitch eliminates the double play if there are less than two outs. A hit and run play can also move the runner up another base if the batter records a base hit, and the baserunner can get to third base or home plate.
When Would You Use a Hit and Run Play in Baseball?
A typical scenario for a hit and run play is when you have a contact hitter at-bat, you have less than two outs, and you have a decent runner on the base paths. By having a decent runner taking off on the pitch, they (baserunner) still have a chance to record a stolen base if the pitch was a ball or the batter was unable to make contact.
Another way to increase your odds of performing a hit-and-run play is to execute the play in hitter counts. Some of the best counts to try the play include 1-0, 1-1, and 2-1. These counts are more likely to have the pitcher throw a strike, so you as the hitter have a better chance of putting wood on the ball.
What are the Risks of the Hit and Run MLB Play?
The two most common risks of the play include:
- The hitter does not make contact with the ball, and the baserunner running to second base or third base is thrown out, which takes a runner off the base paths
- The hitter lines out to an infielder, which then creates a double play since the baserunner was unable to get back to their original base
How Do You Execute a Hit and Run Baseball Play?
The best way to execute the play is for the baserunner to get a head start running when the pitcher commits to throwing to home plate. However, the baserunner needs to look at the batter as they run for two reasons. The first reason to watch the hitter is to see if they make contact with the ball. If no contact is made, you as the baserunner need to try and get to next baes safely. If the hitter makes contact with the pitch, you need to determine if it will be an out, or if you can get an extra base running.
For the hitter, your job is to practice situational hitting by making contact with the ball and hitting it to the middle infielder who left their position to cover the potential stolen base. If possible, you as the batter should hit the ball to the right-field because there could be a gap in the defense, and that gap allows the ground ball to roll into the outfield. If the baseball goes into the outfield, you give the baserunner a chance to get an extra-base to increase their scoring position chances.
Is a Hit and Run Play the Same as a Run and Hit?
The phrase Hit and Run should be a Run and Hit play since the baserunner takes off to the next base before the batter hits the ball.
Is a Hit and Run Similar to a Sacrifice Bunt?
The primary difference between a hit and run and a sacrifice bunt is what the baserunner does. The baserunner on a traditional bunt does not take off on the pitch, except for a squeeze play. A traditional bunt moves a baserunner while sacrificing an out. The baserunner does not take off because the hitter may pop the bunt up in the air, which leads to an easy double play situation. If you are looking to learn what a squeeze play is, you can visit that link.
Why Don’t More Teams Use the Hit and Run Play?
The first reason pertains to the decrease in scoring potential with each out your create. Having a runner take off to second base might lead to an out on the base paths. According to Greg’s Toll, you have an 18% chance of scoring one run with no outs and a runner at first base. The percentage of scoring drops to 10% if there is one out and nobody on base if that baserunner is out stealing. While a runner at 2nd base with no outs has a 35% chance of scoring, teams don’t want to risk the 18% chance to 10% chance. Also, you can easily create a double play if the batter swings at a bad pitch and creates an easy fly ball out, which doubles up the runner.
The second reason why the hit-and-run plays don’t happen often is that teams are stealing bases less frequently. According to ESPN, total stolen bases dropped from 3.5k in 1987 to 2.5k in 2017. Part of the decline pertains to the rise of instant replay. Finally, teams don’t want their players to injure their fingers sliding into a base.
The third reason the hit and run play is declining pertains to sabermetrics. Sabermetrics, like Baseball WAR, run the show today for organizations. If you have a baseball hitter up to bat who can hit a home run, you would rather have them not swing at bad pitches via the hit and run. In this instance, you want your hitter to hit the ball hard instead of general contact.
Conclusion on the Play
Baseball today focuses on individual stats like OPS and home runs for teams to project potential runs. Groups and organizations put out lineups that can drive runs and minimize the risk of creating unnecessary outs. While the strategic play happens in baseball games today, it’s declining. It all comes down to the game’s situation, what batter you have at the plate and the base path, and how confident you are to perform this play to your advantage.