Who Is the Cutoff Man for Center Fielders?


Outfielder Throwing Baseball

In baseball, a cutoff man intercepts a throw from an outfielder and redirects the ball to any of the four bases depending on the situation. However, a cutoff isn’t the same thing as a relay, even though most people use the terms interchangeably. But a lot of people wonder, who is the cutoff man when the ball is hit to center field?

The cutoff man for center fielders is usually the shortstop or first baseman. However, the second baseman will become the cutoff man if the ball is hit towards right field and the centerfielder is throwing to second base. The third baseman will become the cutoff man when the ball is hit towards left field and the centerfielder is throwing home.

Although, depending on the play, any infielder can be the cutoff man for outfielders. A cutoff man simply redirects the throw from an outfielder to another base while a relay is when an infielder is a middleman to where the outfielder wants to throw the ball.

The good news for center fielders is that both the cutoff man and the relay man are typically the same player. So let’s discuss the common scenarios for knowing which player is the cutoff man for center fielders.

A Center Fielder’s Guide for Knowing Their Cutoff Man: 4 Scenarios

Cutoff Man For Center Fielders Infographic
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The cutoff man for center fielders depends on various real-time factors, such as the number of base runners, where those base runners are located prior to the pitch, and what is currently happening during the play.

Also, a few general rules apply when outfielders are throwing to a cutoff man: 

  • A cutoff man should be directly in the line of the throw to the center fielder’s targeted base
  • For ground balls, the target base is usually two bases ahead of the lead base runner
  • For fly balls, the target base is usually one base ahead of the lead base runner
  • The center fielder should try to throw through the cutoff man 

The center fielder should always attempt to throw through the cutoff man because this allows the cutoff man to let the throw pass or catch the ball and redirect in reaction to the situation.

Furthermore, a cutoff man may serve as a decoy to discourage base runners from advancing or to try to influence the base runner to make a mistake.

The following real-world scenarios elaborate on how teams decide who the cutoff man should be for the centerfielder.

Scenario 1: No Base Runners

When a batter hits the baseball to center field, a center fielder will default to targeting their throw to second base. This is true for both a fly ball and a ground ball.

When there are no base runners and a ball is hit to center field, the shortstop will be the cutoff man for the centerfielder.

The one exception to this rule is when the ball is hit more towards right field. If the center fielder fields the ball more towards right field, the second baseman will become the cutoff man.

Scenario 2: Lead Runner on 1st Base

With a runner on first base, the center fielder’s cutoff man will be the shortstop. Although the shortstop will line up with either second base or third base depending on whether the batter hits a fly ball or a ground ball to center field.

When a batter hits a fly ball and the lead runner is at first base, the center fielder’s cut off man will be the shortstop, but the center fielder will be throwing towards second base. This means the shortstop should also be lined up with the throw to second base.

When a batter hits a ground ball and the lead runner is at first base, the center fielder’s cut off man will be the shortstop, but the center fielder will be throwing towards third base. This means the shortstop will also be lined up with the throw to third base.  

In the situation where the ball is hit far enough, the runner on first base may have an opportunity to score. In this situation, the cutoff man for the center fielder will be the first baseman.

Scenario 3: Lead Runner on 2nd Base

When a lead runner is on 2nd base, the center fielder has two options for their cutoff man: the shortstop or the first baseman. This is because the center fielder will either be throwing it to home or to second base, depending on how the ball is hit.

When a batter hits a fly ball to center field with a runner on second base, the center fielder’s cutoff will be the shortstop because the center fielder will be throwing the ball to third base.

When a batter hits a ground ball to center field with a runner on second base, the center fielder’s cutoff will be the first baseman because the center fielder will be throwing the ball to home.

After the cutoff man receives the throw, they can decide the best base to throw it to.

What if There Are Runners on First and Second Base?

When the center fielder receives a fly ball with runners on first and second base, their cut-off man will be the shortstop. This is because the center fielder is throwing to third base to prevent the runner on second base from advancing.

When the center fielder receives a ground ball with runners on first and second base, their cut-off man will be the first baseman. This is because the center fielder is throwing the ball home to prevent the lead runner at second base from scoring.

Scenario 4: Lead Runner on 3rd Base

The lead runner on third base will naturally attempt to advance home so when the center fielder fields the ball, they have two options on which player is their cutoff man. The two most common scenarios that determine where the center fielder throws the ball is whether the hit is a ground ball or a fly ball.

When a batter hits a ground ball, the center fielder’s cut-off man will be the shortstop when there is a runner on 3rd base. This is because there is no chance the center fielder can throw out the runner at home so the center fielder will be throwing to second base to prevent the batter from advancing to second.

When a batter hits a fly ball with a runner on third base, the center fielder’s cut-off man will be the first baseman if they are planning on throwing home or it will be the shortstop if the center fielder is planning on throwing to second base. The center fielder will usually make this call by determining how deep the fly ball was hit.

What if There Are Runners on 1st and 3rd Base?

With runners on 1st and 3rd base, everything above still applies, but center fielders now have the additional option of throwing the ball to second base.

When a batter hits a fly ball to center field while runners are on 1st and 3rd base, the center fielder will throw the ball to the first baseman as their cutoff man, who should be located within the baselines. Once the first baseman receives the throw, they can decide on whether to relay the ball towards home or redirect the ball to second base to try to get an out.

When a batter hits a ground ball to center field while runners are on 1st and 3rd base, the center fielder’s cutoff man will be the shortstop, with their throw heading towards third base. This is because the center fielder does not have a chance to throw out the runner at home so they need to prevent the other base runner from advancing to third base.

What if There Are Runners on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Base?

When the bases are loaded and the center fielder gets a fly ball, the first baseman will be their cutoff man. Once the first baseman receives the ball, your teammates will be yelling at how that player should redirect the throw.

When the bases are loaded and the center fielder fields a ground ball, the first baseman will be the center fielder’s cutoff man. This is because the runner on second base will be trying to score.

On Rare Occasions the Third Baseman is the Cut Off for the Center Fielder

The one exception to the scenarios outlined above occurs when the center fielder needs to get the ball to home, but the ball is fielded well into left field.

When a center fielder fields the ball in left field and they need to throw home, the third baseman will be the cut-off man.

Conclusion

The most critical function of a cutoff man is redirecting the throw from the center fielder towards any base that has the highest chances of getting a runner out. Because hitting your cutoff man is vitally important as a center fielder, it’s also vitally important to understand which of your teammates will be your cutoff man.

Steve Nelson

I'm the owner of Baseball Training World. I live in Denver, Colorado and I enjoy playing baseball on two different adult baseball teams in the surrounding area.

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