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                            The Art of D.D.Defense 

                                                 by the Blake Lansing


       “Defense, we’re talking about defense ?”  At first glance, most would think that defense

is not an important part of Wiffleball.   It seems like a simple equation, hit more home runs than the opposition,

score more runs and ultimately, win you the game.   Although I will not argue that the team with more runs win

the game, there is so much more to Wiffleball than just hitting home runs.   I will attempt to break down some

crucial elements of defense (besides the obvious like catching), while trying to give examples of players that

excel at each area.



       The first element of defense that I will delve into is effort.   Effort is vital in Wiffleball defense, because you

have to be willing to do everything that you can, in order to secure an out.   The game can hinge on each of the

15 outs in a game and teams can ill afford to not do everything in their power to get each and every out.


        In my opinion (which I will admit is biased based on the amount of great plays I’ve got to see him make

from left field), there is no one that better entails effort than our infielder Eric Lewis of “Uncle Muscles Hour.”   

Let’s face it; the dude loves to get dirty.   There is no one that will dive and be willing to inflict pain on himself,

in order to catch or stop a Wiffleball.   Another name that comes to mind is Dave Fisher of the “Pleasant Valley

Boys.”   I do not remember a time in which Dave did not get to a ball, based on lack of effort.   He will dive,

jump, or do whatever is necessary to reach a Wiffleball.   Dave will also play with/through more pain than anyone

else in this league that I know of.   That is why I think that these two players are perfect examples if you are

looking to find someone’s effort, in which to emulate.



        Speed is extremely useful in this game, in areas other than base running. Great speed, like effort, can make

a difference in getting to a tough out.  You will usually see speed make the difference more with your corner

outfielders.  It is a very simple formula; a player with greater speed can cover more ground and create more

outs than a similar player with lesser speed.  


         Two players that come to mind in this area both play corner outfield spots for the same team.  Levi Driggs

and Phil King are an absolute nightmare for a player trying to slap a base hit against the Legends.  With Ben on

the mound and Jerry at third, finding an open spot to slap a single is like looking like an optical illusion.  You

might always think you see something, but in reality it is not really there.  That is part of what makes them such

a tough defensive team and forces teams to hit home runs, if they plan on scoring runs.



         Surprisingly, the first step could be seen just as important as speed and/or effort.  Players can make up for

a slower 40 yard dash time with a great first step and great reaction time.  Personally, I believe that you see this

as more of a factor when dealing with pitchers and infielders.


        Two players that come to mind when dealing with this area are John Kepler of “The U” and Brad Miller of

“Redlegs.”   If you’ve ever had to face either of these two, then I do not have to tell you about their skills on the

mound (outside of pitching).  These two have the absolute best reaction times in the league. It is always a risk to

hit one up the middle against either John or Brad, because I can all but guarantee that they will either catch the

ball or at least knock it down and save you a short run to first by corralling the ball as soon as humanly possible.  


        While these guys may not have the best straight line speed (although their speed is not a negative by any

means), they more than make up for it by reaction time and a quick first step.  This is why I would be hard

pressed to start a discussion of best defensive player in our league, without mentioning these two guys.




         Pegging is the true risk/reward part of Wiffleball defense.   If you hit the runner, it’s all high fives and

compliments.   If you miss, however, you can be chastised by your teammates and told to “play smart”.    With

the perforations of the Wiffleball, it makes for a tough throw with the amount of curve involved.    That is why

it is a smart play to be more aggressive on a ball hit by a girl or young kid who hits a solid ball.   The solid ball

is a much easier throw, as the ball does not curve as much.   The only downside is you might be throwing the

ball as hard as you can at a girl or a younger kid (although with the way that Ashley Flautt and Gabe Fisher hit

the ball last year I doubt there are too many people that would hesitate to beam them after a streak of five or

more home runs in a row).


         The one player that sticks out in this area is Shondrick Locklear.   He is the best in the league that I have

seen at pegging and I don’t think it is even close. I do not know what his strategy is (although I wouldn’t mind

him sharing it with everyone), but the guy is the most aggressive at pegging and is also the most successful.



          I’ve included these two together, although I will separate them later, for a specific reason.   I think this

is where teams make the biggest improvements from year one to year two.   Teams become more familiar with

the field and how to maximize their range, while also learning their teammates’ strengths and weaknesses.   I

think this is why the longer teams keep the same roster, the more improved their overall team defense is.


         On to positioning.   With positioning, there is a huge advantage to knowing where everyone on your team

is going to be and knowing how they play defense.   I think we saw a perfect example of this with the Knights

last year.   Although they added additional players in Corey White and Josh Wonderleigh, we saw this team

really improve in knowing where each person was going to be on the field.   Dustin Weaver and Amos Jones

were given greater areas to cover and were able to easily cover the additional ground.   


         Although Knights greatly improved their offense, I think the improved defense is definitely also responsible

for their inclusion into the World Series (as evidenced by a hard fought 5 game series vs. PVB).   Team chemistry

might seem like an irrelevant a part of the game and might even sound a little “sappy” but I truly believe it is a

vital part of the game.   Knowing the difference of how players react after a good or bad play is crucial.   There are

some players that shut down after a bad play if they are yelled at by teammates.   Others are more motivated by a

similar tactic.   Teams that know each other and know how to properly motivate one another are more likely to

play better team defense.   As a member as the UMH/GDE, I think this is why we are consistently towards the

league leaders in total defense.   I do not think that we are a good defensive team because of one defensive

player or one pitcher, but that statistic can be more attributed to having a group of people that know how each

other and truly enjoy being on the same field as one another.


          Each of these areas are equally important as the others.   The key is to find a way to include someone who

excels at each of these areas on your defense.   I am sorry for the lack of inclusion of the Dirt Dogs;   I was unable

to watch them play this year.  However, I feel confident that their overall team defense will improve this year, due

to positioning and team chemistry.   One of the great things about this league is that there is such an emphasis on

defense and it is not just about hitting home runs.  I am truly looking forward to watching another year of great

defense in the league this year.

Editors Note:  Thanks to Blake for this excellent article.   I believe he is right on point in every area.   The stats

from the league support his claims – and having seen close to 1,000 games now, I would ditto all of his conclusions.  

Each year the number of runs per game has dropped, as have the number of HRs.   This in spite of these truths;

our fields have not gotten larger, we have more vintage bats, the pitching rules have gotten tighter (noodles) and

nearly every team has shown a dramatic improvement in hitting.  


These add up to a single conclusion – the teams in the league are improving steadily on defense – every area of

defense.  From pitching, to positioning, to response time to just knowing the ropes, it is much harder to score today

than it was in the 2010 or 2011 season.   I suspect this trend will continue – but it will be interesting to see if the

4-5 prospective new teams have a shortened learning curve because they are playing teams who have already paid

their dues and are examples of how to play the game at a high level of proficiency. 


I am reminded of an event that occurred after the 2011 season.  One of our teams invited members of a local softball

team to join us for our end of year tournament.   The softball team loaded up with 3 of the best hitters in Chillicothe -

widely known for being able to crush a softball - and they came in with expectations of winning the whole deal.  

Hoping to encourage them to join our league the next year, I put them in a pool with 2 middle of the pack teams

from our league and a so-so team from KY - and the powerhouse promptly went 0-3 and got waxed every game.  


They grumbled about illegal bats, stupid rules and bad umpiring.   Still hoping to inspire them to join us the

following year I placed them in the loser's bracket against a league team that finished near the bottom of their

division but gave good effort each game (3JT for those of you who remember).   I umped the game to ensure

things were kosher but given who umpired their 1st 3 games I was certain bad calls were not their problem. 


The game took place on CC field and the team (3JT) beat the loaded softball team 13-6.   Their problem was not

bad calls, illegal bats or stupid rules - it was DEFENSE.  They hit the ball pretty well for having very little

experience with the skinny little yellow bats - 5 HRs on CC field is a solid number.   Problem was - they didn't run

anything out.  If they did not hit a HR, they loafed to 1st and 3JT turned their loafs into outs with on field hustle.


For the same reason they couldn't get outs when in the field.   Tim Beavers consistently painted the right field line

for hits.   Jim Driggs hit 1 handed ropes to the right field fence while Cade Harper beat out base hits all over.  

3JT scored 13 runs without hitting a single HR - because the fielders from the loaded team were not in the right

positions, were too slow, couldn't remember to peg or simply gave very little effort. 


After being waxed in their 4th straight game I had to ask the Captain to leave the premises because he had become

so belligerent (the alcohol probably accelerated this).   Needless to say, they did not join us the following year and

probably have a very low opinion of our league - even though they couldn't beat a single team from it. 

The point being, teams do get better because they learn all the above things - and even the lesser skilled teams get

hard to score on with the refinements and improvements they make.   That is one of the things that makes our

league very competitive.  


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   Comment : replies from the Commissioners are in orange
02/14/2013 08:26 - I remember watching the game you are talking about and laughing my butt off when they got beat
02/14/2013 08:54 - Hey Jerry, maybe you should call the captain up and let him know his team could prolly compete now - if they came as a AA team and took the 6 run headstart !
02/14/2013 09:06 - We were one of the teams who beat them in pool play, something Colors was their team name they said we had illegal bats but it was just a vintage one we won by the run rule they spent their whole time griping, I think Blake reffed the game (lol)
02/14/2013 09:45 - Team name removed to protect the innocent and/or not embarrass the guilty.
02/14/2013 11:32 - Good article Blake. Thank you for putting me in it. John - The U
02/14/2013 12:18 - Jerry, Nick told us about your league and we would like to get a team from our baseball team.  Can we play or all you all filled up ? tkx Chris
02/14/2013 13:02 - Breaking News coming at 2:15
02/14/2013 16:52 - 2:15 eh?
02/14/2013 17:05 - I am coming out of retirement for the upcoming year - Ben
02/14/2013 17:12 - I waited for that ?  In other exciting news, my hair grew .0125 inches today...kt
02/14/2013 19:35 - interesting read Blake, the best games seem to usually be decided by the solid plays on D and not the big plays on O
02/14/2013 17:47 - well done Blake I liked the examples and I think you nailed it
02/16/2013 13:34 - pitching a very underrated part of defense, without a good pitcher the guys in the field can be all stars and it means nothing - I don't care how good your fielders are if the ball leaves the yard ain't no one gonna get it
02/17/2013 18:12 - I have ran into 4 people in the last 3-4 days who say they are getting teams together for this year - new teams with new players.  If we bat 50% on these we will have 12+ teams easy - and some really solid, competitive teams added to the mix.
02/18/2013 13:25 - 50 degrees today and need my wiffleball fix.  Where are those other articles located ?  Dv
02/18/2013 14:30 - They are not written yet, but never fear !  Phil is in process now and I think one will be coming your way shortly.  I will launch a text when it has been posted.
02/19/2013 10:57 - I think the team I played for, the U could be mentioned in the chemistry area.  None of us are great fielders individually but combined we are in the top half of teams on D almost every year.  We managed to find a way to get outs not with great plays usually but by just keeping at it
02/19/2013 18:45 - any discussion of good teams on D has to include Wall to Wall.  The stats show they held teams to the least runs in nearly every year.  The left handed guy in the outfield was unreal and got to everything.  Eric can fly and dives everywhere and the stocky one could play anywhere and did a good job pitching.  They were just one body short in right from being really good and winning more games imho
02/20/2013 09:53 - The team chemistry award is hilariously incorrect. I play for the Knights and our defense is despicable. We drop more pop-ups than any team in the league, missed peg attempts, through-balls that other teams field cleanly; if we could clean up our D we might be an OK team. We do have good chemistry regarding other aspects of the game, but can look porous on D at times.
02/20/2013 12:17 - you sure must have been good on offense to win so many games and be so horrible lol
02/20/2013 12:26 - I think the Knights improved dramatically as the year progressed - which probably explains why you went from .500 to competing for a championship.   The teams mentioned as solid have some things in common - a very good pitcher, an exceptional shortstop, a speedy outfielder and a 4th who can at least guard the right side.

02/20/2013 13:11 - the Legends belong in that group too, Phil is a highlight reel at short, Levi gets to everything in the field, Ben is good on the mound and Jerry knows how to guard the right side having seen everyone play numerous times, home field advantage

02/21/2013 09:37 - with the exception of the teams that struggle to get the same team there every time, I think all teams have gotten much better in the field with the pitching being a key part of that. Dv
02/22/2013 21:09 - My lack of inclusion on w2w involved them no longer being in the league...although I agree with the comments that Tyler and Eric would've been mentioned if they still played
02/22/2013 21:26 - We would certainly love to have W2W join us again this year...with multiple new teams - a couple with very solid athletes, a team from London and some of the old teams retrenching this looks to be a the most competitive year yet, and with the possibility of 12 - 16 teams.
02/24/2013 10:26 - Defense starts with pitching.  The teams with the best pitchers win year in and out, and the league format requires not 1, not 2, but at least 3 solid pitchers.   If a guy continually feeds up meat balls to the other team your team's chances of winning are nil.  I would vote for Ben and Brad Miller as the best pitchers in the league - hardest to hit off of.
02/24/2013 11:43 - Ditto above.  Shondrick is hard to hit off because he is so tall his pitches start above the noodle at release point and go down hill - very hard to hit.  JOhn from U does a good job cause he paints the inside so well, very hard to turn on and almost impossible to hit to right.

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