9 Tips For Holding Runners

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ATTENTION PITCHERS: One of the big misconceptions in baseball is that playing the game keeps you in shape to pitch. I wish that was true. It's not. To get to the next level, preparation matters. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching.

If you believe adding velocity could be critical to your success, check out my proven programs for pitchers of all ages.

Masahiro Tanaka pitching gif
Masahiro Tanaka

Being able to hold runners close to a base is very important for a pitcher and often means the difference between winning and losing close ball games.

There are many different pick off plays which can be executed in various situations, but what I am covering in this article is the pitcher’s proper mechanics within a pick off move.

The most important and useful skill to develop is a quick delivery and release of the pitch to home plate, since this works for the pitcher and catcher all the time.

By unloading the ball quickly, a pitcher puts a lot of pressure on the runner, and actually enhances a pick off play because the runner has to take more chances in getting a bigger lead and an earlier break.

The mechanics of the right-hand pitcher's pick off move

We use a stop watch to help pitchers develop a quick delivery to home plate.

We have found that:

  • It takes average base runners 3.5 seconds to steal 2nd base.
  • We ask that catchers get the ball down to 2nd under or within 2.0 seconds.
  • Once a pitcher releases the pitch, it takes .45 to .5 seconds for the pitch to reach the catcher - usually closer to .5.
  • Therefore it is obvious that it is necessary for a pitcher to deliver the ball within .7 to .85 to get the good base stealer, say nothing about the outstanding runner.

Examples of times

Excellent Good Fair Poor
Pitchers release .7 .75 .85 .9
Time of pitch .45 .45 .45 .45
Catcher's throw 1.9 2.0 2.1 2.2
Total 3.05 3.2 3.4 3.6
Source: ffffff

Of course, there are other important defensive factors involved, mainly the accuracy of the throw, and making the tag.

The point I want to emphasize is that it is extremely important to develop and use a consistently quick delivery from the set position to discourage teams from running on you.

Techniques for controlling base runners

Here are a few basic techniques to develop which will help you be a more effective at controlling base runners.

  1. Recognize the steal situation, anticipate it.
  2. Develop the slide step technique to use in a probable steal situation.
  3. Vary your rhythm, time, and head looks when pitching. Don’t let the runner time or get a consistent read on you. Many pitchers are creatures of habit and use the same motion all the time.
  4. Use a pitch-out more often on real good runners and in steal situations. After a pitch-out, when the runner didn’t go, always throw to first with your good  move.
  5. Use the step-back technique to break runner’s reads. Then get on the rubber and pitch barely looking at the runner.
  6. Develop a pick-off move to 1st which incorporates the first part of your normal delivery.
  7. Use various slower moves to set up your best moves.
  8. Always throw over a on a 3-2 count with 2 outs.
  9. Occasionally use the “repeat play” after a pick-off attempt versus a runner who leaves the base quickly.

The mechanics of the left-hand pitcher's pick off move

The left hand pitcher should have a great advantage over a right hander while holding a runner at first base, but many left handers never develop an effective move.

Consequently, it is often easier to read and steal versus a LHP then some right handers. This left-handers I’ve observed with the best moves have:

  1. great body balance in the posting position
  2. a controlled transfer of weight
  3. use the same preliminary hand and arm action as on a pitch

For the lefty, the good move is based on deception, not on quickness as for a RHP. The more hand and arm movement, the better body balance, and late weight transfer forward, the more deceptive the move.

Basic set-up position for a left-handed pitcher

A pitcher must take the sign with the pivot foot in front of the rubber with both hands clearly apart, with the pitching hand hanging at the side or in back of the body. We want our pitchers to hold the ball in the pitching hand, not the glove. From this position, the pitcher can get a good grip of the ball and can make a quick pick off move without bringing the hands together.

After getting the sign, the pitcher should check the runner before making any stretch motion. That way, the pitcher can step back quickly if any play is on. As the left-hander begins the stretch, he should look right at the runner until the hands come down near the stop position. The hands should be held relaxed and over the abdomen or chest.

When the left-hander comes to his set position, instead of looking right at the runner, he should look at a point half way between the runner and home plate. He is able to:

  1. pick up his target earlier for better control
  2. be more deceptive for the runner

As the pitcher lifts his lead leg, he can vary his looks towards first. Make certain the pitcher picks up his target early enough to re-focus on the location. The pitcher’s primary job is to get the batter out.

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Youth pitching program
One of the big misconceptions in baseball is that playing the game keeps you in shape to pitch. I wish that was true. It's not. To get to the next level, preparation matters. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching.

If you believe adding velocity could be critical to your success, check out my proven programs for pitchers of all ages.

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