The Importance of Small Ball

The importance of small ball can NEVER be underestimated!  My team was playing in the championship game of a Father’s Day tournament when we found ourselves tied, fairly late in the game, against a team we probably should have been beating rather easily, although this really doesn’t exist in baseball.  We made a few mental errors, and a few more physical errors, which let the other team hang around and play even with us through 5 innings.  After getting our first two batters on base in the 6th inning, our cleanup hitter – a big kid, strong as an ox - the type of imposing figure who when he steps to the plate has the other team waving the outfield back 30 or more feet – came up, ready to do significant damage with a line drive to the gap, or even better.   Only he had been struggling recently.  He had a small case of tendinitis and his shoulder was bothering him, and it clearly affected his swing throughout the tournament.  So when he stepped in to the batter’s box, and looked down third, I’m sure he was shocked to see the bunt sign.

But he saw it, and he put down an absolute beauty, and next thing we knew we had runners on second and third and one out.  It was then that our number 5 hitter laced that line drive to the gap to drive in two runs.  We never looked back after that and an hour or so later we were receiving our hardware for another tournament victory, thanks to the small ball we successfully executed!

There were many reasons we won the tournament…great pitching, clutch hitting, fairly sound defense to name a few. But when we absolutely needed to, we were able to manufacture a much needed run or runs, so although we trailed several times throughout the entire tourney, we never allowed ourselves to let the opponent to get of reach.

Photo Courtesy of Ed Schipul via FLICKR, Creative Commons,

Small Ball Strategy Manufactures Runs

Manufacturing runs is a critical part of the game and in many ways shows the sign of a good group of players willing to train and work hard, and learn the proper techniques to allow this. But it also shows the signs of a good coaching staff. I believe Earl Weaver of the great Orioles teams of the 1970s would often play for the three run homer. Davey Johnson of the Mets teams in the 80s was the same way. Many successful managers relied, sometimes too heavily, on his team’s ability to hit a 3 run dinger when needed. But some teams don’t have that luxury, where there is a potential homerun hitter in every lineup spot, so they are often required to improvise and find other ways of putting crooked numbers on the board. Teams with good pitching and sound defense win a lot of close games by manufacturing runs and teams may incorporate a small ball strategy for a variety of reasons, including confidence in their own pitching staff to not allow many runs, facing an opposing pitcher that doesn’t allow many, the lack of consistent hitters in their own lineup, and involvement in a close game in late innings where a single run can be the sole difference maker.

To be able to successfully manufacture runs takes a great deal of practice and working many hours’ worth of drills in order to get the proper techniques, fundamentals and skills required to make it work. While there are many different ways to manufacture a run, including sacrifice bunts, moving runners, beating shifts, and so on, good, creative managers and coaches will improvise, adapt and overcome to keep finding new ways to score that ever elusive run. In fact, they will get so creative in playing small ball that it almost becomes a game within the game, and can lead to quality competition amongst the staff for developing different techniques.

Read this article for methods of small ball or ways of manufacturing runs.

› Small Ball Strategy

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