Pitchers Holding A Runner At Third Base
By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
A runner on third base is not a good thing for a pitcher. There are a few strategies for holding a runner on third base. However, doing it the wrong way can lead to a balk or a wild throw which will result in an easy run for the opposing team.
The lead off for a runner on third base is usually not very big. They don’t want to get picked off, and it is usually easy to score from third base on a base hit, so there is no need to get a huge lead.
Even though the runner will be close to the base, he can still be picked off, especially if you are a right-handed pitcher. To pick a guy off as a right-handed pitcher, the key is to have good head and eye fakes. I personally start my delivery while I am looking at the runner, then I will look home. When I do this, he will usually get a bigger lead. At this point, I turn my head back to look at the base and make the pickoff throw.
Another way to fake out a runner on third is with your lift leg. When you are about ready to make the throw over to third, use your lift leg to fake him out. You are technically allowed 45 degrees with your front leg, however most umpires won’t call you for a balk if you go past this limit. This is called a balk move and is a very effective pickoff most often used by lefties.
To perform a balk move to third base, as you are about to bring your lift leg down, bring it towards home just enough to make the runner think you are delivering the ball to the plate. As he extends his lead off, step toward third base and pick him off. After you throw the ball, be sure to walk towards third base to avoid the other coaches claiming that you balked.
The balk move can be a very effective pickoff move to third base, but what can you do when you don’t want to make a risky throw? A simple step off can work wonders. If a runner on third base is getting a big lead, sometimes the best thing to do is to just step off the mound. This will get him thinking about you instead of his task at hand…reaching home. It will also shorten up his lead off and make your job easier.
Being able to hold a runner on third base is an advanced concept of baseball. Holding the runners on properly can have some risks involved. A bad throw or a balk will give the opposing team a free run. However the rewards can be great. Picking a runner off at third is a great way to demoralize an opposing team. It can also be a great pick-me-up for yourself if you find that you are struggling to get an out. But, like anything, holding runners on third takes practice. Be sure to spend some time during practice to work on your balk move and your step off.
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