Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Infield communication: open and closed mouth

April 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Infield, Second Base, Shortstop

At the higher levels, we’ve probably all seen middle infielders give a signal to each other after the catcher gives the sign to the pitcher with a runner on first base.  The signal they give each other indicates who is going to cover second base on a steal attempt on that pitch.  At the lower levels, it’s not a very complicated process when determining who covers.  Basically, if a right hander is up to bat, the second baseman covers.  If a lefty is up, the shortstop covers.  However, the

The communication involved when deciding who is covering on the steal is an important job for middle infielders.

higher you go up in baseball the more variables come into play that can change the decision on who covers on a steal.   Here are just some that can cause middle infielders to switch up the coverage:

  • A batter with a very slow bat who rarely pulls anything.
  • A pitcher who throws very hard and makes it difficult for most hitters to pull the ball.
  • A pitch that is called on the outside corner.

At the high school level and above, it becomes more likely that teams will know a little more about the hitters’ and pitchers’ tendencies.  This information can be used when deciding who covers.  The point is, as kids get older, it’s not always so clear cut on who covers and middle infielders need to decide on how to respond to each situation.

Whatever the decision is on who will cover the bag, the middle guys need to communicate to each other who is covering and don’t have a lot of time to do it.  Like everything else in the game, there is a right and wrong way to do it. 

The wrong way is to announce it so all can see.  Unfortunately, this is what I still see to a large extent at the high school and even some college levels as well.  For example, the second baseman often taps his chest and literally says “I got the bag.”  At the high school level and below, doing just that probably will not matter too much.  However, a smart team with hitters who have good bat control can make an infield pay for that mistake.  (Tomorrow’s post will describe a play that the offense can use when this mistake is seen.)

To prevent the mistake, infielders can use a signal to determine who gets the bag on the steal.  Most often it is the “open/closed mouth” system.  It works like this.  One of the two middle infielders takes the lead in giving the signal.  After the catcher gives the sign to the pitcher, the lead guy turns his head and faces the other fielder, puts his glove up in front of his face, and either keeps his mouth closed or opens it wide.  A closed mouth means “I got the bag” and an open mouth means “you have the bag.”  Personally, I’ve never been a fan of both middle infielders giving each other the sign. They will eventually run into a problem where both fielders will give the same sign (open or closed mouth) and therefore get confused on who is covering.  When the pitch is on its way to the batter is not a good time to be clearing up who is covering.  Especially at the lower levels, I’d recommend having one trusted middle infielder decide and give the signal to the other guy.

Many college players and all major league middle infielders do this signaling before every pitch.  This is because at that level, the situation literally may change on every pitch.  At the high school level and below, it may only be necessary to give this signal once per batter instead of before each pitch. 

The point is, regardless on how you decide to do it, it’s never too early to begin this type of signaling so the offense cannot alter their strategy based on knowing who is covering on a steal.

Tomorrow’s postWhat the offense can do if they know who is covering on the steal!


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