May 2, 2009

D -- LF/SS - Fly Ball Communication

With one out in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Nationals' Nick Johnson hit a pop fly to shallow left field.

Cardinals' left fielder Skip Schumaker charged toward the infield, simultaneously, shortstop Tyler Greene raced toward left field, both tracking down the descending ball.

In these situations, the usual tact is for the left fielder to take any of these fly balls he can, and should call out, loudly, as soon as he is sure he can make the catch, or, as soon as he is sure he wants to try to make the catch, if indeed, he feels he will have the best play in on a ball he believes will be difficult for either player.

The shortstop (or any infielder) heading into the outfield, should attack the pop fly as if he is the one who will be making the play, not trying to guess that the left fielder (or any outfielder) will call him off.

(Knowing these zones where pop flies can drop and which defenders are likely to be in range is helpful for any defenders involved.)

In the game situation used as an example, left fielder Skip Schumaker would be the defender whose call for the ball would then halt shortstop Tyler Greene's progress toward a potential reception. It did not appear that Schumaker made any call, but failed to continue to attempt to make the catch. Greene backed off his reception attempt at the last moment, although there seemed no call made by Schumaker.

The defensive miscue here is that both players seemed to guess that the other would make the play, which resulted in a scored double for Nick Johnson, and a Nationals base runner in scoring position with one out where otherwise there would be two outs and no Nats base runners.

As Tyler Greene is new to the squad, Schumaker may have had second thoughts about whether he was "up to snuff" on these "tweener" types of fly balls, choosing to back off for fear of collision. But we speculate on the former.

In any case, Schumaker could easily have made the catch, and whether or not he uttered a sound, he should have called for the ball.

It would be okay for Greene to make a call for the ball, but only if he knows he can reach it, and only if he is just as prepared to back off if Schumaker makes the "priority" call.

Strict observance of fly ball communication as it relates to this play does not guarantee a successful defensive result, but it can reduce the instances of losing what are often thought of as "easy outs" to the opposition.

photo by Barbara Moore

Cardinals/Nationals -- May 1, 2009 (8th inning)