The “Wheel Play” is a strategic defensive baseball play used to defend against the sacrifice bunt. This article outlines the basic details and explains how to run this defensive baseball play.
We all know the situation. The offensive team has a runner on second or runners on first and second base. There normally one or less outs. It is very important that the lead runner not be allowed to advance to third base because the offense can score a run without a hit if there is a man at third with less than two outs.
The purpose or design for the wheel play is to get an out at third base. The name “Wheel Play” comes from the “rotational” movement or the fielders around the diamond being “wheel like”.
What does each Fielder Do? Here are the responsibilities of each defensive player:
As the pitch is throw, the third baseman charges home plate to quickly field the bunted ball.
The shortstop will make sure to be in a position at least a few feet ahead of the second base runner for the play to be successful. As the pitch is thrown, the shortstop will run to cover third base. The shortstop must beat the runner for the play to work
As the pitch is thrown, the first baseman will also charge home to field the bunt.
As the pitch is thrown, the second baseman has the responsibility to cover first base since the first baseman is charging to field the bunt.
The pitcher normally backs up the fielder on the side his pitching momentum and finish carries him.
The defensive goal is to have a defender field the ball and make a good throw to the shortstop that is covering third base. The shortstop should have arrived at the bag in time to apply a tag or get a force out.
It is extremely important that the fielders covering the bags get to the bag early enough to set up for the throw. Most of the errors and mistakes you see on this type play are caused by the ball and the fielder arriving at the bag at about the same time and the fielder does not catch the throw. It is also important that everyone know that the play is called or is “on”. If one of the infielders fails to get the call, a huge error or mistake may occur and the offense may have the start to a huge inning that may cost the defense multiple runs.