5 things a pitcher should think about when a hitter reaches base (after kicking the dirt)
Thing #1 – Once he is on base you are NOT trying to get him out with a pick-off. You are just trying to
keep him close to that base and away from the next one. You already had a chance to get him out while
he was hitting, dont get any crazy ideas that allows him to get two more bases.
Thing #2 – By holding the runner on properly you minimize the chance of him getting a good jump on a
steal and increase the chances of your catcher throwing him out on an attempted steal. You are also
making it more difficult for him to advance to the next base on the hitters contact.
Thing #3 – Baserunners get anxious, especially if they are leading off in a tensed up position. Holding the
ball for longer periods of time will make them become anxious and they won’t get a good jump.
Thing #4 – Don’t sacrifice throwing a quality pitch for being quick to the plate. Your mechanics still need
to work and function properly even with an abbreviated delivery. It does no good to be super quick to
home plate and leave a fat pitch over the dish.
Thing #5 – During pick off moves and in every throw in baseball, always throw to the chest. Trying to put
the throw low for a tag makes it difficult for you and for your fielders. Ask yourself, is it easier to catch a
ball at your chest or at your ankles? Throw to the chest! Always!
3 Steps To Holding Runners on 1st base
1. Vary hold times/looks – Stay out of predictable patterns while pitching with runners on base. In the
stretch position, come set and hold for 1 second then pitch or pick, the next time come set and hold for a
different amount of time then pitch or pick. Mix it up! Example – If you fall into a pattern and you
consistently hold the ball for 3 seconds before every pitch, you can wave bye bye to the base stealer
after he counts 2 seconds. The more you mix up your holds, the harder it is to predict and get a good
jump on a steal.
2. Slide Step – Not quite what it sounds like. The purpose of a slide step is to quicken up the time it takes
for you to start your motion and get the pitch into the catcher’s hands. The quicker this process is, the
better chance your catcher has at shooting down the baserunner. Several pitchers take this term in a
literal sense and their front foot slides straight down the mound without any type of lift or abbreviated
lift. There are two mechanical things that are important in delivering a quality pitch. Thing one – Balance,
thing two – load. Even though you are quickening up your time to home, you still need those two
essential things to deliver a good pitch. So instead of just letting your front foot slide down the mound
with no lift. Allow yourself a small lift to get some balance and load. The time will still be quick and thepitch will be much more effective. You dont have to slide step on every pitch, especially if you are mixing
up your hold times.
3. Pick off moves – As stated above, you’re not trying to get the baserunner out, you already had that
chance. You are just trying to keep him close to that base and make him aware that he is really going to
have to steal the base and you’re not just giving it to him.
– Hold Step Off, Look over – This move is a set up move and just gives that baserunner a heads up
that you’re watching him. In the stretch position (starting with your hands apart and feet apart) come
into the set position, bringing your hands together and feet shoulder width apart (don’t come set with
your feet right next to each other – ever!). You are going to hold that position for at least 3 seconds.
Next you are going make 3 moves at the same time. Sounds like a lot but its pretty simple. First move,
step off (step behind the rubber with your back foot) don’t move your front foot during this move.
Second move, separate your hands (rapidly take the ball out of your glove with throwing hand) don’t
make any threatening throwing motions just simply separate your hands. Third, rapidly look at first base.
You will do all of those at the same time- step off, separate hands, look over. this move is intended to
get the runner moving back toward the base.
– Step off and Throw over – This move works well following the step off, look over. Once again,
not an attempt to get him out but it steps it up a notch by turning to make a throw. Start in the stretch
position, hands apart and feet apart. Come set, bring hands together and feet into shoulder width. Step
off rapidly, turn towards first and make the throw if necessary. You do not have to make this throw since
your motion was stepping off. Only make the throw if the baserunner is not committed to going back to
the base. Call this your safety move or your “B” move. Let’s get to your “A” move.
– Quick Move – Your “A” move. This move is for those pesky baserunners that get a little too far
off the base. Think of the two previous moves as your warning shots. This move lets the hitter know
that you’re serious about what you’re doing and you don’t like his intentions. Come set in the stretch
position, feet shoulder width apart. Mix up how long you hold the ball. When you’re ready, Spin your
feet from being lined up towards home plate to lined up with first base. Get your eyes on your first
baseman as quickly as you can. Your body will follow if you get your eyes on your target quickly. Throw a
chest high throw to your first baseman so he can apply the tag. You have to throw on this move or it is a
balk. You didn’t step off prior to making the move, so the throw is required.
Holding Runners on 2nd base
1. Vary your looks at the runner. – Always come set looking at the catcher. From there decide if when
you are going to look back and how many times you will look. You don’t always have to decide between
looking at home and looking at second. Sometimes you can look in the direction of 3rd base. This puts
the baserunner and the hitter in a guessing situation – will he turn and pitch or turn and pick? Take control
of the situation.
2. Pick off moves
Inside move – the most underrated run saving move in baseball! If you learn to do this correctly,
you will save yourself some runs and get out of some big jams. In the stretch position, come set looking
at your catcher. You can look back at the base runner as many times as you like or not at all. This move is
intended to look just like you are about to deliver a pitch. As your lift leg comes up and reaches the top
of the lift, let your leg start to go straight back down. Keep your head facing the catcher. As your foot
moves down towards where it started prior to the lift, you are going to start rotating inside towards
second base. Pitchers lose the effect of this move when they just swing their lift leg around towards
second base. It becomes obvious because it looks nothing like when they pitch. We are hoping that
when the base runner sees your leg start moving down that he will start to get his secondary lead. So by
the time you rotate inside towards second base, he will be a long ways from the bag. Just don’t get too
excited and launch it into centerfield. Remember, its the lift leg moving down that sells this move.
Quick move – This move is usually coordinated with a middle infielder on a predetermined pick
off play or if one of the middle infielders thinks the baserunner is too far off the base. Come set looking
at your catcher in your stretch position. Look back at the base runner and middle infielders. If there is a
small window of opportunity to get a good quick throw to second base, you will use this quick move.
From your set position, when you are cued to make a throw, Turn your head as quickly as possible
rotating towards your glove. Your feet will quickly switch spots, so you go from being lined up to make a
pitch home to be lined up to make a throw to second base. If you focus on getting your eyes around on
your target first, you body will react. Some pitchers try to be really quick with their bodies and their
eyes are the last thing to adjust, resulting in bad throws. You do not have to throw the ball from either
pick off move to second base. If the play is not there, don’t throw it.
Third base – don’t risk picking off to third base. Time to really focus on the hitter.
Conclusion – Pitching is more than just getting the hitter out at the plate. A true pitcher takes pride in all
of his responsibilities on the mound like holding runners on base and backing up bases. The better you
are at holding runners on base, the more your ERA reflects your efforts. Plus, your coaches, catchers,
and fielders will appreciate it!