Making Good Decisions In The Outfield

Without a doubt, one of the most exciting things in baseball is a good, old play at the plate. To even have a chance, the outfielder has to consistently make strong, level throws that hit the catcher’s chest on-the-fly or on one-hop -- so, to put it lightly, it isn’t easy. The footwork, preparation, and mechanics of the throw need to be flawless, especially if it’s a speedy runner in scoring position. In fact, it’s just important to know your limitations and effectively hit the cut-off so other runners can’t advance any extra bases.

You can’t expect to hit a home run every time, so the same concept should apply to attempting to throw a runner out as well. Keep your expectations in check and that will constantly have you making the right decision. Just be sure to line-up correctly on fly balls, practice good habits, and make the most of your best opportunities. Here are some classic CoachUp tips in order to prepare for making throws from the outfield -- take them with you the next time you try to hurl a lightning bolt from right field!

Shoulder Strength

First of all, you’ll need to spend some time in the gym in order to mow down runners like the Tigers’ Yoenis Cespedes! Shoulder strength is essential to throwing the baseball across the field, especially at far distances. Without properly working your shoulders, a career-ending injury could occur to the rotator cuff -- so try this workout!

Start by holding two five pound dumbbells at your side. Keep your arms straight and raise them in front of you until you’ve hit a 45 degree angle -- remember, your thumbs should be pointed up! Then, raise your arms to about shoulder height and then lower them slowly. Repeat until you feel the burn and then keep going!

Footwork

Even though you’ve got some extra shoulder strength working to your advantage, you still won’t be able to throw from the deep outfield accurately and efficiently without the crow hop. First, get behind the ball before catching it, so you can take a couple steps into a running start. That way, you’re already through the power-generating portion of the throw before you even have the ball. When you’re trying to throw somebody out at home, effectively using the crow hop can be the difference.

Catch the ball while moving in the direction you want to throw it with your glove-side foot forward. Hop with your trailing foot and turn it perpendicular to the target and launch it ahead of your front foot. This will generate some serious forward momentum, so if you follow through with the throw, it should land right where you want it. Which then poses the question -- where should I throw it?

Throwing Home Versus Hitting the Cut-Off Man

The ESPN highlight reels are full of clips where an outfielder throws somebody out at home and saves the day. But, it can’t always end in glory and just as many throws home end in errant throws, ultimately resulting in extra bases for the baserunners. Before going through with a major throw, a player should look at a couple different elements of the game and feel out whether or not going home is a risk worth taking.

What does the situation tell you? If your team is up by eight runs in the 7th inning, it typically isn’t worth the risk to throw all the way home. An error on an unnecessary might just lead to extra runs for the other team, so keep it in perspective! Of course, if the very the game hangs in the very balance of your decision, like in a bottom of the 9th situation, then fire away! If the scenario doesn’t particularly warrant a throw home -- which could be for any number of reasons: score, distance, speed of the runner, outs in the inning, etc -- then quickly hitting your cut-off man will keep other runners from getting closer to home. It’s a push and pull question that’s always unique to the ebb and flow of the game, but be careful!

(Related: Read about being an effective outfielder here.)

Huddle Up

In the end, you’ll have to make a lot of preparations and decisions in the matter of an instant -- are you up to the task? Outfielders are often judged by their arm strength and ability to save runs or make the right choice behind the ball. If you’re constantly bombing the throw up and over the catcher, or to the right of left of the cut-off man, you’ll be a tough player to consistently utilize. However, if you’re nailing the long throws and playing as an effective outfielder -- which doesn’t always mean making the highlight reels! -- then you’ll be hard to sit.

Of course, if you’ve got a strong enough arm and confidence in your ability, don’t be afraid to let it fly. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig has created a cult following thanks in part to his countless throw-outs. Although he’s missed his catcher completely at times, Puig’s risk-taking mindset has made him a fan-favorite in the MLB. If you’re still struggling with making throws out of the outfield, consider booking one of CoachUp’s private trainers! They’ll have you crow hopping and hitting the cut-off like a professional in no time -- what are you waiting for?

Be prepared for the biggest moments by mastering the small ones off the field. 

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