The Squeeze Play and the Suicide Squeeze Play


#1

The following is designed very competitive clubs - varsity at a minimum, and those highly structured talent organizations.

The Squeeze Play and the Suicide Squeeze Play

These two plays are similar in name but very unique in their own right. As a pitcher, you should be aware of the tendencies that promote such plays, why and what you can do to minimize their effectiveness against you.

The first thing you must realize is that you can not, and should not, attempt to take on the defensive efforts with respect to these to plays all by yourself. It takes a competent infield in harmony with your pitching. In other words, a game plan – practiced and practiced, so as to move in one solid direction when either the squeeze or suicide squeeze is on.

There are levels of competition and talent initiatives that can endorse these two plays, and only those levels and talent initiatives. Also, in the amateur game there are specific batting order players that can pull off their part in the squeeze and suicide squeeze. Certain game scenarios can lessen this kind of play(s), like the bunt with 2 strikes on the batter.
Championship varsity clubs and similar talent are usually well suited to compliment these plays. Lesser clubs are usually not equipped, talent wise, to pull off the squeeze and suicide squeeze.

With respect to the batting order, don’t anticipate either play with the bottom of the batting order, starting with the 6th batter in the order and lower. The only exception is with using a designated hitter or a pinch hitter/sub.

So, one of the most overlooked “it’s on”, is to take note of the runner on third and his body language and that of his third base coach. If the runner on third is studying your body language with a tense upright body, and his third base coach is discreetly talking to him at the same time, give a quick glance to the batter and take note of his feet in the box. If the batter has a slightly open stance, both elbows down to the belt line, shoulders slightly rounded in, then these are good signs that a squeeze or suicide squeeze may be “on”.

In any event, your third baseman and your shortstop should be in concert to “form-up” in anticipation – which by the way, can sometimes call off these two plays from the opposing bench.

One of the hardest pitches for a batter to handle, when the squeeze is on, is the high inside fastball.

Why?

Because the key to the entire squeeze working is for the runner on third taking off, getting at least, just about half way down the third baseline while your just about on your stride, and the batter giving an honest effort to make contact. Just remember not to take too long with your set position to deliver. A relaxed set stride will bury you and any chance to defend against these two plays.

Top clubs practice these two plays – both offensively and defensively all the time. It’s part of their game plan(s) and they can be very surgical about using both or either play.

A warning here - once you commit to your set delivery motion, never interrupt your motion by getting caught off-guard when that runner on third takes off and the batter changes his body posture in the box. Continue with your deliver without even a hint of hesitation. Why? Because hesitating during your delivery will be a balk.

There are, of course, other details and considerations here, but the groundwork for going into the defensive action(s) on your part is to understand the basics and then work with your infield coach or other staff to perfect your game plan(s).


#2

I will never forget what happened on Sept 17, 1951, in the bottom of the ninth inning of that crucial game between the Yankees and the Indians. This is an example of how a plan can go haywire. Here’s what transpired.
The score was tied, 1-1. Yogi Berra grounded out. Joe DiMaggio blooped a single over third into left field. Gene Woodling demonstrated how to put on a hit-and-run, and the Yankees had men on first and third. Then the Indians pulled a rock: they ordered Bobby Brown walked intentionally to load the bases—first, manager Al Lopez did not want to pitch to Brown again, not after that double that led to the Yankees’ first run; second, Phil Rizzuto was the next batter and the Tribe was hoping for a ground ball so they could get a double play, get out of the inning and go to the tenth. Two rocks. But there was one thing they forgot about the Scooter, and he made them pay.
With the count 0-1, he stepped out of the batter’s box and started complaining to the plate umpire, and while he was doing that he was futzing around with the bat and ended up holding the bat at both ends—a seemingly casual, offhand maneuver no one would pay any attention to, but that was the signal to DiMaggio on third: SUICIDE SQUEEZE IS ON. Now, Bob Lemon had an idea that the Yankees were going to try something, and he decided to pitch up and in to Rizzuto—but the ball got away from him and started to come in behind the batter’s head. The Scooter saw it coming, twisted around, got the bat on the ball and laid down the most beautiful dead-fish bunt between the mound and first base—where nobody could make a play on it. DiMaggio, who had broken from third with the windup, scored standing up, and Indians catcher Jim Hegan saw that nobody could make a play on it so he picked up his mitt and walked off the field. On top of that, Rizzuto beat it out for a hit!
The funniest part of the whole thing was that Casey Stengel, who was prone to micromanaging and calling all the plays from the dugout, knew nothing about it. The only two people in the whole ballpark who knew were Rizzuto and DiMaggio who had been working on the play all through spring training and during the season, just waiting for the right moment. And this was it.
Which goes to show you, one can’t always plan for such eventualities.


#3

… DiMaggio, who had broken from third with the windup

I had a few solid “must do’s-n-don’ts” when I was coaching and one was NEVER A WINDUP WITH A RUNNER ON 3rd.

Now some would tell me straight up…" Never had a problem with it coach."

Ok, but I tell you what,” I’d reply, " you screw up with that once and it’ll cost you $$$ - got it."

After that kind of conversation, I never had a pitcher risk it. Never. Stay with the set with a man on third, stay focused, keep off the slab until you’re totally ready, keep your head in the game - that’s why you’re out there. I rarely messed with my staff, rarely. I had rules and expectations - one complimented the other.


#4

These are plays that are nearly extinct. The sabermetricians believe the sac bunt is a waste of an out and would probably only recommend the squeeze play in the home half of the last inning with 0 or 1 out.

Personally, I will always trade an out for a run and I will usually trade an out to get a man to third with less than two out. I like big innings, but I take what I can get. If I can get one run every inning, I like my chances to win the game. Why wait for the crooked number or big inning. Take the pressure off your pitcher by giving him an early lead–no matter how small.

Slightly contrary to what @Coach_Baker says above…at the youth level, I make sure my 6 through 10 hitters can bunt a ball. It’s probably their best chance to get on base successfully by making the youth defense handle a pressure situation. It also helps me get back to the top of the order faster than watching 3 strikeouts from my bottom part of the order. If you can get a run from your bottom third once or twice a game, it takes a lot of pressure off the heart of the order.

I love squeeze plays and safety squeeze plays. The most exciting plays in baseball are:
Home run
Theft of a home run
Stolen base
Caught stealing
Steal of home
Squeeze play
Successful back picks
Successful pick off
Wild pitch
Comebacker


#5

Too bad nobody thought to tell Bob Lemon, a pitcher who should have known better. With the bases loaded and speed demons on every base, he should have gone to some other move instead of trying to pitch up and in to probably the best bunter in the league! (yuk yuk yuk)