In general, baserunning is a tactical part of the game with the
goal of eventually reaching home to score a run. In fact, the goal
of batting is generally to produce baserunners, or help move baserunners
along. Runners on second or third base are considered to be in
scoring position since a normal hit, even a single, will often
score them. Part of the goal of a runner and a batter is to get
the runner into scoring position.
Of course, for any baserunners to exist, a batter must initially
become one. This happens when,
A runner who is touching a base which he is entitled to occupy
may not be tagged out. Runners may attempt to advance from base
to base on any fair ball that touches the ground. When a ball is
hit in the air, a fly ball, and caught by the defending team, runners
must return and touch the base they occupy— called tagging
up—after the ball is caught. Once they do this, they may
attempt to advance at their own risk. On a ball that touches the
ground in fair territory, if there is a force, runners are required
Baserunners may attempt to advance at any time while the ball
is alive, even before or while the pitcher is throwing a pitch.
The catcher—or pitcher, in lieu of delivering the pitch—often
tries to prevent this by throwing the ball to one of the infielders
in order to tag the runner. This pick-off attempt is usually unsuccessful
in tagging out the runner but is effective in keeping the runner
closer to the base. If the runner is tagged out while diving back
to the base, it is called a pick-off. If the runner attempts to
advance to the next base but is tagged out before reaching it safely,
he is caught stealing. A successful attempt by the runner is called
a stolen base. If a pitch gets away from the catcher, runners may
also try to advance. This may be a wild pitch, if the pitcher is
held responsible for the ball getting away, or a passed ball if
the catcher is deemed to be at fault. Sometimes the defending team
will ignore a runner who is trying to steal a base; in this case
a runner is not credited with a steal, and the base is attributed
to defensive indifference.
The standard dimensions of a baseball field, with 90 feet (27.4
m) between bases, generate many close baserunning plays. On one
hand, an infielder who cleanly fields a ball hit on the ground,
then throws it quickly and accurately, will usually get the ball
to a base before the runner reaches it. However, any hesitation
or mistake on the part of the fielder may allow the runner to reach
the base safely. Teams that are familiar with their opposition
may attempt to run when a certiain player has the ball. For example,
on a deep fly ball to center field with a man on second base, if
the center fielder is known to have a weak arm, the runner on second
base may attempt to tag up to get to third, even though that is
a risky play.
Baserunning and hitting are often combined to produce better results.
Smart, quick base running is a key element in the squeeze play.
The hit and run, and similar plays involve baserunning. When the
count is full and there are two outs, runners with a force behind
them will always run as if they were stealing, since they cannot
be caught stealing: a strike is the third out and a walk entitles
him to the next base. Also, good runners will often try get extra
bases when a play is being made at a different base. For example,
when there is someone at second and a player hits a shallow single,
if there is a play at home plate, the runner who hit the single
might try to get to second.
Sometimes runners can be helpful even after they are out. The
most common way to do this is during a potential double play. If
a double play has begun, and the runner running to second knows
he will be forced out, he will often try to aid the runner running
to first base by performing a take-out slide, to stop the player
with the ball from throwing to first. Some versions of such a slide
could be considered offensive interference in amateur competition,
but this maneuver is traditionally tolerated in professional baseball.
Some tag plays are so close that the slide performed by the runner
affects the outcome. The right type of slide, with the right location
might allow the runner to be safe, while a conventional slide might
allow the defending player to lay down the tag in time.