Pitchers Pickoff Move To Third Base

By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro

Picking off a base runner at third base can be a risky, yet rewarding task. A bad throw will lead to the runner easily scoring, but a good pick off can get you that crucial out and turn the momentum in your team’s favor. In this article, I will break down how to pick off to third base for both right and left handed pitchers.

Right Handed Pitchers
Picking off to third base for a right handed pitcher takes some practice to get it down just right. If done correctly, the base runner can be completely fooled. However a bad pick to third will not fool any runner, and may result in a wild throw.

The biggest key for a right handed pitcher is the head movement and eye contact. I have found the best combination of “looks” to be:
1) Start in set position looking at the base runner.
2) Lift leg while still looking at base runner.
3) At top of leg lift, turn head towards home plate.
4) When leg is coming down, turn head back towards third base and make the pick off.

This combination has proven to be successful, especially when accompanied by a good “balk move”. Technically, a pitcher is allowed to step 45 degrees when making a pick to third, however most umpires do not call a balk on a pitcher who steps more than the allowed 45 degrees.

For this reason, I like to use the balk move when picking off to third base. When you bring down your leg, try to step towards home plate as much as possible. When your foot lands, make the throw to the base and be sure to walk towards your throw. By walking towards third base, you are walking away from the “scene of the crime” so the other team will not have a chance to complain about your balk move.

This move takes a lot of practice to get the correct timing and footwork down, but you can work on this move in front a mirror without a ball. Simply go through the footwork and figure out what is comfortable for you.

Left Handed Pitchers
Picking off to third base for lefty pitchers is not as common as it is for a righty, but it can still be done. The only real pick off move a lefty can make to third is a timed jump turn. The third baseman doesn’t hold the runner like a first baseman would, so a timing play is the only effective option.

The best timed pick at third is when the pitcher is watching the third baseman over his back shoulder. The third baseman should break, and when he does the pitcher will make a jump turn to the base. To perform this pick, there are only a few steps to follow:
1) The pitcher should come to the set position.
2) The pitcher should turn his head like he is looking to second base, but is really looking towards third out the corner of his eye.
3) When the runner gets a big enough lead, the third baseman should break to the base while the pitcher makes a jump turn.

Picking off to third base is a great way to get out of a big inning, as well as a way to turn the game’s momentum in your favor. Take caution however, for an overthrow is sure to give the other team a run. Work on it!


 

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