Pitchers Holding Runners At Second
By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
There are many strategies for holding a runner on second base. They all require practice, timing, and an ability to fake the runner out. The best way to hold a runner on second base is to keep his timing off balanced, and have his attention spread between you the pitcher, the short stop, and the second baseman.
Change your looks. A good base runner will try to find a pattern with how many times you look at him before you deliver to the plate. Many pitchers will fall into a rhythm in which they take one look at second base before they deliver to the plate. They will do this for every pitch, and will allow the base runner to get a great jump and steal third. To fix this, make sure you change your looks up. Try looking back at second base two, three, or even four times, but always mixing up your patterns. Change how long you hold your looks, and always keep the runner guessing.
An inside move can be a great way to see if a runner is stealing. To perform an inside move, bring your leg up like you are delivering to the plate. At the top of your leg lift, bring your lift leg across your body towards second base. A right-handed pitcher will turn towards third base, and a left-handed pitcher will turn towards first base. Make sure you step directly towards second base or else you may make a bad throw. This play does not necessarily require a throw. It can serve as a way to keep the runner guessing and mess his timing up.
Arguably the most effective pickoff move to second base is the jump turn. A jump turn can be executed either from the set position, or while you are taking signs. This is usually done as a timing play between the pitcher, and the short stop or second baseman. To do the jump turn pickoff, you want to jump 180 degrees so you are facing second base. The key is to not jump too high. You only want to jump high enough to get your feet all the way around. Be cautious, however. If you don’t get your feet all the way around, you will be making an awkward throw which may result in an overthrow to the outfield. Practice is crucial for this move, so be sure to practice this pickoff with your middle infielders during practice.
Sometimes, a pickoff is not even necessary to hold the runner at second base. A safe, yet effective way to keep the runner off-balanced is a simple step off move. If you think the runner may be stealing, come set and do a long hold. Give him a few looks, but be sure to hold set for a longer period than usual. Then, when you think he might be getting antsy, simply step off the mound. If the runner was trying to steal, it is very likely he may have taken off when you stepped off the rubber. All you have to do in this case is make an easy throw to the third baseman.
Being able to keep the runner on second base off-balanced will help both yourself, and the catcher in keeping him off third base. Practice the inside move, jump turn, and changing up your counts to effectively hold a runner on second base.
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