A Conversation for Baseball Basics


Post 1


Can anyone tell me the difference between a 'hit and run', a 'squeeze', and a 'suicide squeeze?


Post 2


Sure. It's months later, but I was away from H2G2 for a long time. Now I'll answer your question!

First of all, you have to remember that in baseball, the baserunners are allowed to try to advance at any time the ball is "live." There's a complex set of rules governing when the ball is live and when it is dead, but for purposes of this discussion, it's enough to know that when the pitcher is holding the ball and preparing to pitch to the next batter, the ball is live.

Before answering your question, let me clarify what a stolen base is, because the plays you asked about are essentially variations on the stolen base.

The concept of basestealing is usually baffling to people from non-baseball countries, because the name makes it sound like a foul or violation. It is not (I had great fun explaining this once to a French student who visited me here in the States and who ultimately became a big baseball fan). The stolen base is a perfectly legal, if always risky, play.

Stealing a base simply means running from one base to the next without the assistance of the current batter putting the ball in play to help you. Generally, a steal occurs when a runner already on first base (occasionally second base and very rarely third base) gambles that the pitcher is going to pitch to the batter and not throw to the base the runner is on, and the runner takes off on the pitcher's motion and tries to get to the next base before the catcher (who crouches behind the batter while he is batting) can receive the ball and throw it to the fielder who is guarding the base the runner is attempting to "steal."

All of the foregoing paragraph assumes that the batter does not make contact with the ball himself. He either does not swing or he swings and misses making no contact at all. If the bat touches the ball, a stolen base cannot occur, because if the ball is hit fair the runner is then advancing on the hit and not stealing, and because if the ball is hit foul it is a dead ball and the runner must return to the base he originated from (and he is immune from being tagged out while returning).

So that's what a stolen base is. Generally, the runner and the batter will both have received a signal from the coaches telling them that the steal is on, and the batter will know not to swing unless he thinks the runner is likely to be caught, in which case he may deliberately hit the ball foul to protect his runner.

Now I finally get to the substance of your questions. At this point, you may have already guessed what the hit-and-run play is. In the hit and run, the runner takes off as if he were stealing, but the batter has been instructed TO swing, in the hope that he will get a hit. It's a gamble play, in other words. The runner, instead of waiting to see what the batter does with the ball, starts running as soon as the pitch is in flight and does not turn back. The advantage here is that if the batter DOES get a hit, the runner may advance by more bases than he otherwise would have, and may even be able to score all the way from first base if the batter gets a solid hit. But the disadvantage is equally obvious -- if the batter does not get a hit, the runner is in danger. Particularly, if the batter hits a ball that is caught on the fly, the runner must then turn back and run all the way back to his base of origin before the fielder who caught the fly ball throws it to the fielder guarding the base of origin. If the runner doesn't make it back in time, he too is out, and two of the inning's three outs will have been recorded in this "double play."

So that's the hit and run.

The two forms of squeeze plays have become less common in the current era of baseball, but you still see them from time to time. A squeeze play only occurs when there is a runner on third base. The basic idea is that the runner on third tries to run to home plate and score while the batter assists him by bunting. The difference between a "safety squeeze" and a "suicide squeeze" is this: In a safety squeeze, the runner does not begin his sprint for home until the batter has successfully bunted the ball. In a suicide squeeze, the runner takes off immediately as if he were trying to steal home, in the HOPE that the batter will get the bunt down. The reason this play is used is that it is much harder to steal home than it is to steal a base, because the catcher is directly behind the plate and to steal home, you have to actually beat the pitch to the plate or hope the pitcher throws wild or is deeply distracted.

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