15 Ways to Pressure the Defense

by Dave Vaccaro
(Holland, PA)

Article average read time: 8-10 minutes


15 Ways to Pressure the Defense...


1) Hitters know your strike zone.

When a hitter knows his strike zone, he is less likely to go
chasing after pitches. This said, the pitcher will have an
option to either continue to pitch around the zone and risk a
walk or eventually challenge the strike zone. Either way, a
hitter who knows his strike zone will find himself ahead in the
count more often.

When ahead in the count, a hitter can sit on the fastball,
increasing his chances of putting the ball in play, ultimately
putting the defense to work.


2) Know your role.

A versatile hitter is one who can adjust to the situation. The
situation of the game changes with every new pitch thrown. He who
can adjust, is worthy of my trust.

Let’s say John is batting in the fourth spot today. Everyone
knows that John is the clean-up hitter. Most know that the
clean-up hitter is a home-run hitter. Some know that John is
expected to drive in runs when he comes up in an RBI situation.

However, does John know that he needs to be a lead-off hitter
too? If so, then he has just raised his stock as a player.

Let’s say that John leads off the second inning. Is there
anything to clean up? No! His role in this situation is to get on
base. Therefore, he needs to have a lead-off mentality.

A hitter who can make this adjustment is a very valuable weapon
when it comes to pressuring the defensive opposition.


3) Get on base.

Nobody on, nobody out. Nobody on, one out. Nobody on, two outs.
What is the common element in the last three phrases? You got it,
"nobody on." The defensive objective is the same in all three
cases, and that is to "get the hitter."

Where’s the pressure? Where’s the challenge? Where’s the decision
making on the part of the defense? There is none!! If you can’t
get on base, you can’t score. If you can’t score, then you can’t
win.


4) Fake a bunt.

Nobody on, nobody out. This is a good situation to fake a bunt
and pull back. This may cause the opposition to pull their
corners in to protect against the bunt. However, your bait has
just opened up hitting lanes by bringing in the corners.

Now, that routine ground ball to third base is now a tougher play
for him.


5) Fake a steal.

Create a sign for a fake steal. Use it during a first and third
situation. In this situation, opposing teams are already
expecting a steal to occur. Keep them guessing. Faking a steal
may cause the pitcher to speed up his delivery resulting in a
less than desired pitch outcome.

It may also cause an inexperienced catcher to rush to receive the
ball, resulting in a passed ball. It will also allow you as a
coach to get an idea of how the opposition is defending this
situation if the infielders commit.


6) Read the dirt.

Advancing from one base to the next dramatically changes the
situation of the game. One way of making this occur is to
anticipate a ball in the dirt every pitch. Take an aggressive
secondary lead and then react accordingly.

Too many runners anticipate the pitch not being in the dirt and
are therefore are not prepared for the dirt pitch.


7) Put the ball on the ground.

Every hitter in your line-up should know how to hit a ground
ball. This is true for numerous reasons. The reason that I will
emphasize in this section is what I call the "three to one"
comparison.

Three things need to occur for you to be called out on a ground
ball: 1) The ball must be fielded cleanly; 2) an accurate throw
must be made; and 3) the ball must be received cleanly.

All of this must occur before you run 90 feet. That’s pressure!
Only one thing must be done for you to be called out on a ball
hit in the air. The defensive player must catch it. You do the
math!


8) Move a runner.

Too many unproductive at-bats occur because of a
misinterpretation of the definition of a "productive at-bat." If
you are up to bat with a man on second base, your objective may
differ depending on the situation of the game such as score or
number of outs.

However, if you get behind in the count, your mentality should
change. If you walk away from that at-bat with your teammate
still standing on second base and you not even making an attempt
to just put the bat on the ball to at least move him over, then
shame on you!


9) Learn to bunt.

Everyone on the team should know how to bunt. As a coach, you do
not want to find yourself in a bunting situation with a hitter at
the plate who you classify as a "non-bunter," due to his
inability to put the ball down. Prepare your hitters for all
situations. Doing so will better prepare him for the next level
as well.


10) Extend your leads.

Why do we take a lead? Hopefully your answer isn’t, "because it
is part of the game." We lead off a base to shorten the distance
to the next base. The shorter the distance, the better the chance
you have of getting there safely.

Each runner should know his own boundaries. If a pitcher shows
what you feel is his best move, and you get back in plenty of
time, then your next lead should be a half step further from the
bag.

A runner who is always anticipating a move will always be
prepared for the move. It is a runner who anticipates a pitch to
the plate, who is not prepared to get back.


11) On third with less than two outs.

What a great situation! Talk about pressure. The opposition has a
decision to make. "Do we bring the infield in to cut off the
run?" or, "Do we keep them back, concede the run and get an out?"

Either way, you are in a great situation. If you can achieve this
situation every inning, then you are almost guaranteed to put at
least 7 to 9 runs on the board that day. However, you can not
rely on one of your hitters to hit a triple to get into this situation.

As a coach, you need to have a plan of action to make this
happen. This is where the other elements mentioned previously
come into play.


12) Take a strike.

There are so many red flags during a game that tell a coach when
it is appropriate to take a strike. However, there are too many
to mention in this small section.

Instead, I will assume that you are aware of these situations and
explain how they can benefit you offensively. Taking a strike
increases the chance of a deeper count. A deeper count adds to
the number of pitches thrown in the game. The more pitches thrown
in a ballgame, the sooner the chance of the pitcher tiring.

Besides, most hitters find themselves hitting with one strike
anyways, whether ahead or behind in the count. As a coach, be
aware of when the take sign should be used and when it shouldn’t.


13) Score early.

Scoring early makes the opposition question their defensive plan
and sometimes forces premature decisions or moves. However, the
important question is, "How did you score?"

If your lead-off man hit a solo home run, there’s not much
anybody can do about that. On the other hand, let’s say your
lead-off man walked, stole second and was bunted over to third.
Your third hitter then puts the bat on the ball to score the run.
You’ve just manufactured!!

A lot of defensive adjustments need to be made to prevent this
from happening again. This is what we call pressure.


14) Read your outfielders.

Train your base-runners to know where the outfielders are playing
with less than two outs. Runners on first base should be checking
the right fielder and runners on second base should be focused on
all three outfielders. Knowing where these outfielders are
playing will allow a runner the best possible jump off of the bat
on a base hit.

For example, let’s say that a runner at first realizes the right
fielder is shading toward the gap. If a line drive is hit over
the first baseman’s head, he is already prepared to keep his
motor running and expect to be waved to third.


15) Draw a move.

A good base-runner wants to see a pitcher’s best move, early in
the game. This type of runner will extend his lead right away
while anticipating a pick-off move. This anticipation will allow
him to get back in time. This is known as a one-way lead.

By getting a pitcher to show his best move early allows runners
to know how far they can extend their lead and still get back in
time.

Article written by Dave Vaccaro: Head Coach-Morrisville High
School, Yardley Post 317 and creator of HitMore.net.

Swing Smarter Response: this is the second article Mr. Dave
Vaccaro has written for us, and he brings a valuable coach's
perspective to hitting, obviously for coaches, but for players as
well. The better a player's game clock, the more valuable he/she will be to the team. Thanks again and nice job Dave!

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