Pitchers Pickoff Move To First Base

By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro

Pickoff moves are an important part of the pitching game. As a pitcher, it is your job to keep the base runners close to the base. It is very difficult for a catcher to throw out a stealing runner if you do not do a good job of this.

The hardest throw for a catcher to make is to get a runner stealing second base. This is why pitchers must do a good job of keeping the base runners close to first base.

The key to a good pickoff move is twofold:

1. You must have fast feet.

2. You must be able to make a quick and accurate throw.

If you can master these two essentials, holding runners on first base will come fairly easy to you.

Pickoff move tips for right-hand pitchers

For right handers, you are already at a disadvantage. Your back is turned towards the runner so you must make a 90 degree jump turn.

To perform a jump turn, remember to keep your feet close, and do not jump too high in the air. The key here is quickness. Be sure to get your feet all the way around. Failure to do so may cause you to make an awkward throw, or possibly even an error.

When you throw the ball, don’t bring it all the way back like a normal throw. Try to keep your arm cock short, no farther than your ear. This will allow you to make a quick crisp throw.

Pickoff move tips for left-hand pitchers

Lefties have a completely different scenario for holding runners on at first base.

The rule is that you can not cross an imaginary 45 degree line from the corner of the rubber. However, many lefties can get away with a “balk move” as its called. You want to step, throw, and walk towards the base. If you fall towards home, or walk towards the plate, you will probably get called for a balk. This is why it is crucial to walk towards first base. “Leave the scene of the crime” as I like to say.

Another advantage lefties have is they can hold their leg lift for a longer amount of time. This can leave the runner guessing whether you will pitch the ball or throw over. If you can retain your balance until the last moment, the base runner will have a hard time deciding what you plan to do. This is because they are not sure if you will throw over or commit towards home. This delay is crucial in gaining your catcher that extra time needed to throw out a stealing base runner.

Both righties and lefties need to remember to vary their counts on the mound. Being predictable is a surefire way to allow the base runners to steal all game. Don’t go out there and use the same looks and count every time. Try pausing for a long hold (5-8 seconds) or try a quick pitch (come set and pitch, no pausing). Varying your counts and looks can be a good way to keep the runner close to first base.

If you have a good pick off move and are changing your counts, you should be successful at holding the runner to first base. Your catcher will thank you for this, and in the end you will be a more successful baseball pitcher.



 

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