Explained: What is a Pickle Play in Baseball and Softball?

Green Ball on Sand

Baseball and softball are strategic games that involve different types of plays, including the pickle play. A rundown, or a pickle play, occurs when a baserunner gets caught between two bases, forcing them to try to evade the defense’s attempts to tag them out. In this article, we will look into the meaning of the term “pickle,” how this play works, and how to defend against it.

Why is a Run Down Called a Pickle in Baseball / Softball?

The word “pickle” has an interesting origin, dating back to 16th-century England, where it meant “a difficult situation.” In a baseball or softball game, when a baserunner gets caught between two fielders, they are in a difficult situation, and thus the term pickle was used to describe it.

What is an example of a Pickle in Baseball?

A pickle play can occur in several ways, but the most common example is during a rundown between second and first base. If the runner realizes that they can’t reach second base safely, they may turn back to first base. If the fielder at second base gets the ball, they can throw it to the first baseman, creating a pickle for the baserunner, who must evade the defense’s attempts to tag them out.

How Do you Get out of a Pickle in Baseball and Softball?

To get out of a pickle, the baserunner needs to know where the ball is between the two fielders. They should break for a different base when the fielder throws the ball with their throwing hand to another fielder. The baserunner must stay in the base path to get out of the pickle and can’t go into the infield diamond grass to avoid a tag from a defender. The timing is crucial for the baserunner, who must choose when to fully sprint to another base and avoid a tag via a slide.

Do Baserunners Purposely Get into a Pickle on Plays?

In some cases, baserunners will intentionally get into a pickle to move up another runner on the basepaths. For example, if there is a runner on third base and a runner between first and second base, the defenders may catch the runner between first and second in a pickle and forget to watch the runner on third base. The runner on third can then break towards home plate to score, especially if there are less than two outs.

How Should the Fielders Defend against a Pickle in Baseball and Softball?

To defend against a pickle play, the defense should always have a defender at the base ready to apply a tag against the runner. The player who catches the ball should run up the base path towards the base they are going towards, and another player should take that spot once the fielder leaves the bag to run. The thrower can fake a toss to a base to trick the runner, but they should ensure that they don’t confuse their teammates. A clean tag is essential to take away the space between the runner and the base.

Conclusion: What is a Pickle in Baseball?

A pickle play is a common play in baseball and softball that occurs when a baserunner gets caught between two bases. It is important for both the offense and the defense to practice this play and learn how to get in and out of it. While the defense’s objective is to tag the runner out, the offense can sometimes use this play to their advantage and advance another runner on the basepaths. The pickle play is just one of many strategic plays that make baseball and softball exciting to watch and play.