Pitchers Holding Runners

By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro

There is nothing more frustrating for baseball coaches than when a pitcher allows stolen bases. It ranks right up there with base-on-balls or walks, because you can't defend against it.

As a baseball pitcher, it is your responsibility to keep the runners close to the base. This will make your job a lot easier, and your coach and catcher will thank you for it.

There are a few baseball defensive strategies to keep in mind when pitching with runners on base.

Work in some pick offs

Don’t be afraid to throw over to the base every now and then to keep the runner close. Communicate with your infielders and plan out what kind of pickoffs you want to do. Throwing over to a base when the runner is least expecting it is a great way to keep them close, and even get an out!

Change your counts

Many times, base runners try to find a timing pattern that a pitcher falls in. Don’t allow yourself to do this. Be sure to vary the counts on which you pitch the ball.

I like to use the U-C-L-A count method. Once I come set, I silently count “U-C-L-A-U-C-L-A” and I try to pitch the ball on different letters. Doing this will throw off a runner’s timing, and may even allow you to catch them stealing on a count.

To maximize the effectiveness of this strategy, have one of the bench players keeping a chart of your UCLA counts. If the notice that you are falling into a pattern, make sure they tell you.

Change your looks

A good base runner will try to find a “look pattern” in a pitcher. If you always look to second base one time before delivering the pitch, it makes it very easy for a runner to steal. By looking over two, three, or even four times, the base runner will not be able to predict your delivery. A bench player can chart this pattern for you as well.

Step off

Sometimes, the most effective way to hold a runner on base is with a simple step off. After you come set, perform a long hold (At least to the second “U” on the UCLA count method). After the hold, simply step off the rubber and look at the base runner. If the runner was stealing on first move, he may have become antsy during your hold and begun his steal on your step off. Throwing in a step off every now and then will keep those runners close.

Quick pitch

After you perform a step off, you may want to do a quick pitch. Come set, and quickly deliver your pitch home. You don’t even want to count past “C” in the UCLA count. This can catch a base runner off guard and cause him to get a bad jump on his steal.

Holding runners on base is one of those things which separate the pitchers from the throwers. Work on it!


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