Improve Your Baseball IQ

By Dan O'Connell •  Updated: 06/29/18 •  14 min read

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.

Test You Baseball Intelligence With Our Baseball IQ Quiz

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.

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.

Hitting IQ

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:

Advanced Hitting IQ

“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

Defensive IQ

A fielder always knows:

Advanced Defensive IQ

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.

Handling Bunts

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.



Infielders need to know their responsibilities before the pitch, on a ball hit in play and after the ball is fielded. 

First Baseman

Third Baseman

Middle Infielders

Second Baseman


Similar to second base, the shortstop needs to know who is taking throws on steals, holding the baserunner close, 


Outfields With High Baseball IQs Know:


Left Fielder

Right Fielder

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:

Knowing the Rules

A player with superior knowledge of the rules will be able to make quick decisions during hectic plays. 

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.


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:

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Quizzes for Baseball Players

Essential Equipment for Your Baseball Player

Pitching Drills That You Should Use

Hitting Mechanics Videos

Infield Basics and Fundamentals



Dan O'Connell