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Baseball Defense

What is the defense in baseball? How does the defense get outs and prevent runs? Get ready to learn about defensive gameplay in baseball.

The Defense

In baseball, the team that is positioned around the bases is referred to as the defense. The primary object of the defense is to prevent the offense (the team at bat) from scoring hits and runs.

The Defense Positions

There are nine positions in baseball defense: pitcher, catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, left fielder, center fielder, and right fielder.

The Pitcher

Every baseball play is set into motion when the pitcher throws the ball from the pitcher's mound to the catcher. The main goal of the pitcher is to throw the ball in such a way that (1) the batter will swing at the ball and miss it; (2) the batter will decide not to swing at the ball, but it lands in the strike zone or (3) the batter makes contact with the ball at a poor speed or angle, resulting in a pop fly or ground out.

Baseball Pitcher

The Catcher

Crouched behind the home plate, just in front of the umpire and facing the pitcher, is the catcher. The catcher is responsible for catching the ball thrown by the pitcher if it is not swung elsewhere by the batter. Once the ball is caught, the catcher must then also quickly throw the ball towards a baseman to successfully put out a baserunner.

Baseball Catcher

The Basemen

In addition to the home plate, there are three more bases, first, second, and third, and a corresponding baseman at each one. Every baseman is responsible for fielding the area around his or her assigned base. This means that they must be prepared to catch the ball, whether it was hit by the batter or thrown by a teammate, and make contact with their base, all before the baserunner does. Due to the positioning of the bases around the field, first basemen are typically left-handed, while second and third basemen are usually right-handed.

The Shortstop

Located between second and third base, the shortstop is widely considered to be one of the most difficult defensive positions. Statistically, the majority of hit balls are batted towards the region between second and third base, and it is up to the shortstop to quickly catch the ball and throw it towards a baseman in order to put out the baserunner. In addition, depending on the batter, the shortstop will adjust his or her position accordingly. For instance, right-handed batters tend to hit more towards third base, while left-handed batters tend to hit more towards first base.

The Outfielders

Just as there are three basemen, there are also three outfielders the center fielder, left fielder, and right fielder. Each is responsible for a region of the outfield, and hence, it is critical that fielders are able to accurately throw and catch the ball over long distances. Because of the large areas that they need to cover, fielders must also be able to run and react quickly. Similar to the shortstop and basemen, the three outfielders are primarily responsible for catching the ball if it is batted or thrown towards their assigned regions, and to quickly pass it back to a baseman in order to put out a baserunner.

The Defense Strategy

There are two main defensive strategies in baseball: the pitching strategy and the fielding strategy.

The Pitching Strategy

In order to strike out the batter, the pitcher will ideally throw the ball in such a way that would deceive the batter. For instance, the pitcher may choose to first throw a high-speed fastball, which may take the batter completely by surprise and miss it altogether. Hence, the batter may then logically anticipate and prepare for another fastball. However, the pitcher may, in fact, choose to launch what is known as the change-up, in which the initial arm motion resembles that of the fastball, but the ball travels at a significantly slower speed, causing the batter to swing too early and miss the ball yet again.

Another common pitching technique is known as the curveball, in which the ball approaches the batter at a straight line, but then suddenly dives down as it nears the home plate. Similar to the curveball is the slider, which is thrown as hard as a fastball. It also approaches the batter at a straight line, but then sharply veers off to the side at about two-thirds of the way.

Baseball Pitching

The Fielding Strategy

In order to successfully put out the baserunner, the basemen, shortstop, and fielders will shift their positions slightly accordingly depending on whether the batter is left-handed or right-handed, as well as whether the pitcher will throw infield or outfield. In addition to correctly reading and anticipating the offense, being able to communicate well as a team is a key defensive fielding strategy.

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