Baseball IQ is one of the ways to be a complete baseball player. Baseball players that understand basic and complex game situations and factors in baseball game play are going to be successful players that will make a difference over a baseball season. A player with a high baseball IQ understands the variables and can anticipate baseball game situations before they happen, affecting outcomes in baseball games.
Baseball IQ is so important that teams at higher levels teach baseball curriculum designed to develop and reinforce baseball IQ. A player may have good baseball skills and be an exceptional athlete with a high skill level but be deficient in an assessment of baseball IQ.
College baseball coaches, when recruiting high school players, ask the high school baseball coach about that player’s baseball IQ. A college coaching staff want elite athletes but also want players who are dialed in and can lead their baseball team. Having a high baseball IQ is an essential part of the mental make up that affects baseball player performance.
Players with high baseball IQs stay calm and focused in tense situations. They don’t quit on plays and make good things happen. They usually have a passion for baseball that is unmatched by average players.
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Teaching Baseball IQ
Baseball IQ comes as much from watching baseball games as playing in them. Baseball highlights from the MLB show the good and the bad from players at the highest level. Lack of baseball IQ – Errors, mental lapses, not knowing the game situation and the number of outs.
Even at the professional level, pitchers regularly forget to pay attention to baserunners, hitters don’t know the count and outfielders throw to the wrong base or miss the cutoff man.
At all levels of baseball, a blown defensive assignment can be costly to a team. And if there is a baserunner with a high baseball IQ running the bases, that player could make it even more damaging.
There are many things that make up a good baseball player. You obviously need to be able to hit, field, throw and run to be really good. But what are the other traits that most good baseball players possess? If you said you need to be smart in how you play the game and are able to “think” the game as well as play it, you are right. That’s called having good baseball intelligence, or Baseball IQ.
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Books That Help Develop Baseball IQ
Baseball IQ – The Sixth Baseball Tool
The definition of a five tool player is a baseball player who can hit for batting average, hit for power, run, throw accurately and powerfully and field their position.The 6th Tool is Baseball IQ. A player with a high baseball IQ can be as valuable as a power arm or a middle of the order slugger. Thinking baseball and playing baseball are different skills. Players with all six tools can play at that alpha level.
Evaluating Baseball IQ
A baseball IQ is hard to evaluate for especially in a tryout. But in the heat of a baseball game, the players with high baseball IQs stand out. They anticipate plays, take extra bases, learn the opposing pitchers tendencies, and help their teammates to become better players and execute in the heat of battle.
So what are some of the elements that make up good Baseball IQ? Although there are not really any specific hard and fast rules for these elements, it could be any number of things. In this article we’ll detail some of the nuances of the game of baseball where your intelligence in playing the game can take you to the next level in your development.
Baseball intelligence is a major factor for hitters. Being a good hitter involves good body mechanics but also an awareness of everything that can factor into an at bat. Knowledge of the pitcher, the game situation leads to an advantage of what to expect from incoming pitches.
Things a smart batter is always aware of:
- The count (balls and strikes)
- Number of outs
- How to drive in a runner on third with less than two out.
- How to make productive outs.
Advanced Hitting IQ
- Understands situational hitting
- Pitcher’s Tendencies
- Umpire’s Strike Zone
- Game situation
- Best way to help the team
“Allard Baird, a longtime baseball scout and executive (and Boston Red Sox advisor) believes Manny Ramirez is such a good hitter, he will sometimes swing and miss at a pitch in April so that the pitcher will throw him that same pitch in September. The idea being: He won’t miss that pitch in September.”
Joe Posnanski, Sports Illustrated, 9/17/2008
A fielder always knows:
- Number of outs
- What to do with a ball hit to you or past you.
- Who has popup priority on tough to field popups.
- Understand the three B’s – ball, base or backup.
Advanced Defensive IQ
- Look runners on third base back on ground balls.
- Know bunt defense and coverages.
- Position themselves properly on cutoff plays and extra base hits.
- A player on defense with an advanced baseball IQ
- Looks for the next out or gets an extra out.
- Knows when to attempt to get the lead runner.
- Knows where teammates are positioned.
- What the current hitter did this game
- How fast the baserunners are.
- The pitchers tendencies, where they miss.
- Lesser known baseball rules like two players occupying the same base – try to tag the lead runner!
- Know the goals of a rundown and never let the runner advance safely to the next base.
- Takes time to learn the nuances of each baseball field, how much foul territory, length of the grass and which way a bunt will roll.
- Understands games situations and strategy at an advanced level.
- First and third base bunt defense positioning.
Baseball Game Situations and Baseball IQ
Infield Pop Ups
Believe it or not, knowing what to do on a ball that is catchable on the infield can make a big difference and show your baseball intelligence.
For instance, let’s say there is a catchable popup on the infield in which the infield fly rule was not signaled and there is a runner on first base. The base runner may be the team’s fastest runner while the batter who hit the popup is one of the slowest.
A smart infielder who understands the situation would let the ball drop. That way the runner ends up being forced out at second and the batter becomes safe at first base, therefore replacing a fast runner with a slower one.
Another situation that a smart infielder may take advantage of is a short popup hit in the air with a runner at first base. In this instance, the infielder can let the ball drop, throw to second to quickly get the lead runner and they can hopefully throw the ball back to first to get the batter and complete a double play instead of only getting one out.
How many times has a bunt been rolling on the line with a chance to go fair or foul? Making the smart play here is important for the infielder. Grabbing it just as it goes foul is a good move if you have no chance to get the runner. On the other hand a bunt that starts foul and then ends up on the line is a great chance to get a batter who didn’t run thinking it was foul.
Rundowns and Fake Throws
These are situations where smart players will always make the right play. When there is a rundown with multiple players on base, the smart player will always be aware of the lead runner. If they break for the next base, the smart player will be ready for the move and make the play on the lead runner.
Another great play for the intelligent infielder is making a fake throw at the right time. Let’s say they fielded a bunt and looked like they were throwing to first while a runner headed around third and headed for home. A fake throw to first will catch the lead runner off guard.
And don’t forget about the throw back to the pitcher on a pickoff throw. It may not happen often, but keeping the ball and tagging the runner if he steps off the bag can actually work.
Baseball IQ By Position
We start with catcher since it is arguably the hardest/most important position and one where baseball IQ is very important.
- Backs up first on ground balls.
- Directs players on defense especially
- Directs team what to do in 1st and 3rd situations.
- Manage and eliminate the running game
- Cover first on ground balls to the right side
- Backs up third base or catcher with runners on base
- Works with middle infielders on coordinating comebacker double plays.
- Keeps defense sharp by operating at a good tempo.
- Know the most effective pitch location for their various pitches.
- Understands what pitch sequences to use based on the count and game situation.
Infielders need to know their responsibilities before the pitch, on a ball hit in play and after the ball is fielded.
- When to hold runners on
- When to cover first base or be the cutoff on a base hit.
- Trail runner to second base on extra base hits to left field.
- Quickly know when to charge a ball and when to let a ball travel.
- When to cover third base and when to be the cutoff man.
- Knowing to attack a bunt that will stay in fair territory and make a play or see if it rolls foul.
- Footwork on different double plays.
- Knows when to be the cutoff on a center fielder throw.
- Cover 2nd base on steals
- Cutoffs and relays
- Covering first
- Knows in advance what to do on a ball towards shortstop depending on the game situation.
Similar to second base, the shortstop needs to know who is taking throws on steals, holding the baserunner close,
- Takes leadership on plays no matter where on the baseball diamond.
- Cover third on bunt with runner on 2nd base.
Outfields With High Baseball IQs Know:
- Fly ball priority rules
- When to attempt a diving catch and when to make sure the ball stays in front of them.
- Captain of the outfield
- Knows range and weaknesses of corner outfielders
- Backs up coroner outfielders
- May let a foul ball drop instead of catching it in late inning situations with a runner tagging up on third.
- When to attempt a putout at third base on an extra base hit.
Base Running IQ
This is an area of the game where a players instincts or intelligence can allow them to take advantage of a situation. The average base runner will normally be happy with settling for a single or a double or advancing one or two bases on a hit.
A baseball player with a high baseball IQ is always looking for an advantage. For instance, a smart base runner will know how strong the outfielders arms are and what depth and position they are playing at on any given play. This will give them an advantage in that if a ball is hit to a certain outfielder, or to a specific area, they can take advantage and take the extra base.
Another thing a smart base runner will do is understand the pitcher’s tendencies. That could involve what pitch they throw in certain counts, or if they have a move they make when throwing to the plate that’s different from their pickoff move.
Let’s say they always throw a breaking ball or offspeed pitch when they have two strikes on a hitter. That may be the best pitch to steal on since the odds increase of you being successful.
Or if the pitcher has an obvious tell move when they deliver the ball to the plate instead of throwing to first to keep you close. Knowing that can let you take off for second quicker on a steal attempt, also increasing your chances.
Base runners with high baseball IQs know:
- Get a good lead on time, a good secondary lead and return to the base on time.
- Freeze on a line drive – let hits get through the infield
- Don’t get picked off with runners ahead of them.
- Don’t make the first or third out at third base
- Get their signs from their base coach
- Pickup their base coach as early as possible when advancing on the bases.
- How to watch for trick plays
- The pitcher’s best and secondary pickoff moves.
- Never to retreat on the base paths.
- Retagging a base if passed on a caught fly ball.
- How to avoid a tag while staying in the base path.
- Know how to distract the pitcher – possibly inducing a balk or wild pitch.
Knowing the Rules
A player with superior knowledge of the rules will be able to make quick decisions during hectic plays.
- Dropped third strike is in play.
- Infield fly
- Difference between obstruction and interference.
- When a player has attempted to advance to the next base.
- Catcher’s Interference.
- What the hitter can and cannot do on a stolen base attempt.
How to develop baseball IQ in Youth Baseball
Here are tips for a youth baseball coach to teach younger baseball players to have a high baseball IQ. Knowledge of the game and the mental side of baseball are key components of baseball instruction regardless the age of athlete.
You’d be surprised how many extra plays a smart player can make in an actual youth baseball game. Deliberate practice of game situations and player responsibilities pay off in games.
- Well thought out practice plans with drills that include baserunners.
- Practice at game speed so players can get repetition at making game speed decisions.
- Make playing smart baseball part of your practice regimen.
- Recognize high baseball IQ games during games as well after in postgame meeting with your team.
- Tournaments create an additional set of tournament rules to be knowledgeable of – extra innings with a runner on second, time limits and pitch counts. Be prepared!
- Let players compete with teammates in practice to up the pressure and competition.
- Work on late inning strategies before they come up in a game.
- Make notes during the game of things that come up that players need to be knowledgeable about.
- Encourage parents to watch games with their player and as about game situations, executing different pitches in different pitch counts
- Master situational baseball!
Players with high baseball IQs can elevate a team. Smart plays, such as getting a lead runner or taking an extra base fire up teams and elevate the collective experience.
Practice situational hitting, base running, and game strategies.
You don’t want to find out in the ninth inning which players need to work on their baseball IQ!.
Test You Baseball Intelligence With Our Other Baseball IQ Tests Quizzes
Additional Resources to Develop Baseball IQ
Hitter’s Approach in Different Situations
Defensive Situational Responsibilities By Baseball Positions
Game Strategy in Later Innings
Pitcher’s Approach By Game Situations
Skills By Defensive Position
Baseball Signs and Signals
Questions About Baseball IQ
How do you improve a team’s and individual player’s baseball IQ?
Same way you make Broadway (and the MLB!), practice, practice, practice.
How do you teach baseball situations?
The best way to teach baseball situations is in practice with many repetitions. Make sure each player rotates through the different positions so they understand each positions responsibilities in the given game situation.
Who covers 2nd on a steal?
Depends on the game situation. Traditionally, the middle infielder on the hitter’s weak side (Shortstop for left handed batter, second base for right handed batter) covers on a steal but that could change based on other factors such as pitch selection.
Why is the catcher so important in baseball?
No other player has more responsibility on a baseball field than the catcher. The catcher’s responsibility can include:
- Calling pitches
- Setting defense
- Putting on plays – like pickoff plays
- Directing traffic on cutoffs an
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