Baserunning: 3 Steps To Follow For Low Line Drives

Whether playing defence or running the bases, reading lines drives may be the most difficult skills to master and develop. You hear it all the time and you see it all the time: People talk about how poorly players are at reading the ball flight on the line drive, and worse, what to do when a line drive is hit.

Line drives (LDs) come in two forms: the low line drive and the high line drive. Today, I am going to talk about low line drives and how baserunners should best read and react to them with 3 simple steps.

The low line drive is the LD that most baserunners have the most difficulty reading. It is the LD that when hit is no more than the height of a basketball net. It is the LD that generally any infielder can make a play on within his normal vertical jumping ability, with his glove on. So now think about that … that would mean the average infielder (MLB height and vertical jumping ability) is able to leap upwards, with his glove on about 10 feet. These types of linedrives, when hit and caught, will cause more baserunners to get doubled off than any other. However, if any baseunner were to adhere to three simple principle rules when reading line drives, the risk of getting doubled off at any base is greatly reduced.

The first element a baseunner must always assume on the low LD is that the ball will be caught and consequently, the baserunners first movement is then a non movement…in other words, the baserunner must freeze at the completion of their secondary lead off.

Second and probably most important, is the baserunner must unequivocally take one or two steps back.

The third component is the assumption should be one base for sure if the ball gets past an infielder, two bases if it gets past the outfielders.

Now going back to the second element … the back one or two steps! Yes, this is a fundamental absolute. What is heard out there on the fields is simply to freeze … that truthfully is not good enough. Why? Well, can a baserunner still get doubled off at the completion of their secondary lead off if they just freeze? Yes, they can. In fact, some baserunners may be off the base as much as 21-24 feet when their secondary is completed and boom … they are doubled off. Heck, even if the baserunner goes back a step he can get doubled off, so why just freeze and give the defence more time and inches to work with?

When the linedrive does get through and the baserunner has accomplished the desired movement of what to do on the low linedrive, the primary focus now goes to the batted ball location. Batted ball linedrives that are hit directly at the outfielder will for sure provide the baserunner a single base advancement and that is usually it. Again, if the expected advancement is only a single base, why would a baserunner even consider just freezing on a linedrive? Makes no sense! Take 1-2 steps back and if it gets though, you will undoubtedly advance that one base. Now, should that same line drive actually force the outfielder to move away from the baserunner’s lead base, the number of bases that could be advanced would be at a mimimum now of two!

When a linedrive is hit directly at the first baseman, even if a baserunner (at first) dutifully follows the linedrive baserunning principles, it is very likely they will get doubled off. However, if these three principles or elements are followed with the ball hit anywhere else and/or with the baserunner on another base, the risk of getting doubled off will greatly be reduced and thus more outs preserved for the offence to generate runs.

Good Luck with your baserunning and reading and reacting to low line drives!


Rick Johnston

Head Instructor – The Baseball Zone