Tag plays at the bag aren’t exactly a sexy aspect of infield play, at least they aren’t unless you’re Javy Baez. Baez’s rise in popularity has shed light on the tag play as a play that can be exciting and impressive but above all else an important skill that well rounded infielders should master. There are various preferences when it comes to positioning at the bag. Do you set up in front or straddle? That part of the tag play will depend on many things. It will depend on the level of baseball, the catcher’s arm, where the throw is coming from, and the individual’s athleticism to name a few. With the number of variables the set up of a tag play at the bag will vary. This post will dive into the timing of the ball in relation to the runner and how that effects our tags.
The ball will either arrive at the base after, at about the same time (bang bang play), or before the runner. Each of those scenarios will require a different tag. As the ball travels to us we need to determine which scenario will take place and apply the appropriate tag.
Runner Before Ball
When the runner arrives at the base before the ball in most cases the runner will be safe. As an infielder receiving the throw we can either give up on the play assuming the runner is safe or we can apply a hold and hope tag. The hold and hope is a tag where we apply the tag to the runner and hope they over slide the base. If we hold the tag on the runner as they over slide the bag we’ll be on the good side of an unlucky situation.
Bang Bang Play
It’s the bang bang play tags that Javy Baez is so good at. We always need to let the ball travel as close to the bag as possible, apply a quick tag showing the runner the back of the glove, and get the ball/glove out of the sliding zone. These are the tag and sell type of tags. Get the ball, tag the runner, and show the umpire to sell the out.
Ball Before Runner
When the ball beats the runner to the base there is an assumption that the runner is easily out. In today’s game base runners make an art out of sliding. They’ll use a swim move, a show one hand and pull it back while reaching with the other, a slide head first while turning to one side of their body, or I’ve seen some stop short of the base with a pop up slide and reach their toe in. The point is that these plays aren’t as easy of an out as they appear. In this scenario we need to use a wait and anticipate tag. We receive the ball and wait for the runner to slide in all the while anticipating the trick slide. The general rule of thumb is to place the glove/ball right in front of the base because the runner has to come to the base at some point to be safe. What get’s infielder’s in trouble is when they reach out to tag the runner. This leaves them vulnerable to the trick slide as the glove extends away from the bag leaving space to get another body part in to the bag.
Recognizing and applying the above tag timings with different types of tags such as a v tag or a swipe tag will turn runners into outs. Above all else arrive to the bag on time, let the ball travel, evaluate the tag timing, and show the runner the back of the glove, and make the tag.