Teaching Left-Handed Pitchers A Pick-Off Move To First Base

  • Updated on Dec. 17, 2016

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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.

Julio Urias left-handed pickoff move to first base
Left-handed pitcher Julio Urias picks off Jonathan Villar at first base.

Body action

As the lead leg lift reaches its apex, the body will start to drift towards home. Pitchers with good body balance are capable to change direction and go to first base along the 45 degree angle at the last split second. One the release of the throw, slide the left foot forward slightly making the angle look more direct to first, then quickly follow through toward first.

Aim for the first baseman’s inside knee. Allow him to catch the ball cleanly and put the tag down. Don’t try to be too fine with the throw.

The pitcher must complete the throw to first, unless he steps back-off the rubber before starting his throw.

Step back move

If the left hander has the arm strength, foot quickness to make an accurate throw, this is a very effective move. This technique can be used; a) as the hands come together during the stretch motion, or b) upon reaching the set position.

Off the stretch move

As the hands hit together, break the pivot foot the back of the rubber. Land open at about 45 degree angle. This will allow the pitcher more trunk and shoulder rotation for power. Also, during the stretch, do not take the normal rocker step forward and backward, just step back.

From the set positiion

Use the same step-back technique and short arm throw.

Both are very effective versus runners who like to ; 1) take one-way leads, 2) use a walking lead, 3) sprint steal on first movement.

Practicing the move to first base

  • Pick off moves should be part of a pitcher’s daily practice routine. Work on balance, weight transfer, and arm action.
  • Use mirror drills for instant feedback. Study the pitching motion
  • Video tape the pitching motion, and the pick off move from a runner’s position at first base.
  • Have other players attempt to read your motion, and your pick offs.
  • Practice by throwing to a 1st baseman positioned at 75 feet, then 82, then 90 feet down the line.
  • Practice a “set up move” and your “got you move”.

When to Concentrate on the Hitter, or on the Runner

A pitcher can not be effective unless he is really concentrating on getting the batter out. That is the pitcher’s primary job. There will be times when he should focus on the hitter and nearly disregard the runner.

Other times, a pitcher needs to work on the runner to give his catcher a good chance to throw him out. The follow are situations where the pitcher has to challenge the runner before pitching:

  • An aggressive or good runner at first.
  • A close game with the runner’s team leading
  • Pitcher is behind in the count
  • Two outs, real good hitter at bat
  • 3-2, 2 outs.
  • One out, good contact hitter at bat and average or above average runner at first.
  • After a pitch out, and the runner didn’t go.

Situations when a runner is NOT apt to attempt a steal

  • Below average runner
  • Pitcher is ahead in count
  • Opponent is 3 or more runs behind
  • Two outs and a weak hitter at bat
  • The pitcher unloads the ball quickly or has effective pick off moves
  • You catcher has a rifle!

Common faults on pick off moves (LHP)

  • Body tilts back towards 3rd; chin raises up.
  • Pitcher breaks his normal pitching arm motion
  • Not using normal leg lift
  • Steps too directly to first
  • Slows down motion

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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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