April 9, 2009

D-5-3--Slow Roller

Cardinals' third baseman David Freese gets extra credit for his fielding ability on the "slow roller."

With the Pirates leading 7-3 in the top of the seventh inning, Bucs' hurler Zach Duke hit a two-out double, followed by a Nyger Morgan single. Duke was unable to score, leaving Pirates' base runners on the corners. If the Cardinals were to keep the score within a grand slam, they needed an inning-ending out.

Freddy Sanchez topped a Trever Miller pitch, creating what is termed a slow roller but often, as was the Sanchez batted ball, a low-mph hopper. Regardless of description, the batted ball was headed in the direction of Freese.

Freese charged, his only play at first base, fielding, throwing, and nipping Sanchez by a half-step as first baseman, Albert Pujols, put on a stretch for the reception.

To be noted was Freese's technique in making this sometimes difficult defensive fielding play. Also note that most of what makes these plays difficult is when there is a tremendous rush, as was the case here.

Approaching the slow roller, Freese employed proper footwork to give himself a better chance of completing a successful force out at first base, fielding the ball with his right foot (for RH infielders, which is taken for granted for 3B, SS, and 2B) forward and landing. (On this play, Freese's right foot may have been a smidgen late, probably unavoidable on this extreme hurry-up instance.)

Ideally, the throwing hand is right along side the glove, but this is often difficult when going "all out" just to get to the ball ASAP. In this instance, Freese's throwing hand was far apart from his glove, but he managed to make a successful transfer from glove to throwing hand during his next step, which was the left foot. Freese then properly made his cross-body throw to first base while on the run and while his right foot had landed on the next step.

On such a play, Freese would never have been able to stop after fielding the ball, then plant his feet, then stepped toward his target (first base), and thrown. There simply would not have been enough time.

In fact, Freese did an excellent job of letting his momentum carry forward, pretty much toward home plate, but not trying to lean left, in any case. Instead, the technique utilized by Freese was to "open up" the left side of his body to make the throw, something pitchers and fielder's normally avoid doing early because of a power loss to the throw, but concerning slow roller technique, opening for the cross-body, side-armed or submarine-style throw is about the only way to get the throw accomplished.

Freese executed the slow roller technique quite well, with the exception of risking a bad transfer due to the "split" hands while fielding. In defense of Freese's defense, however, on some rushed plays, reaching down with both hands during the moment of fielding can cause some fielders to lose balance. Much of this choice depends on the athleticism of the player and what "works for him."

Game #2 -- vs. Pirates --April 8, 2009