Thursday Throwing & Pitching Tips
Holding Runners on Base is more than Preventing Steals
A big part of defensive play begins before the pitch. A key part of defense begins with the pitcher’s ability to hold runners on base, so they cannot have big leads to easily advance to the next base. This is true at each base and not just for first base. Most people believe pitchers need a great pickoff move in order to hold runners close, but that is not so. In addition, many people correctly think that holding runners on prevents players from stealing bases. That is one reason, but simply keeping base runners closer to the base is important for getting outs on close plays.
Keys to holding runners on base
- Communication – this often begins with the coaches noticing runners getting too far off the base and relaying that information to the catcher or middle infielders, who in turn alert the pitcher.
- Pick off plays – holding runners on first base is set, with first baseman usually on or near the base, but specific pick off plays at the other bases must be practiced.
- Vary timing – changing the rhythm from pitch to pitch is a great way to keep runners closer to the base, or at least, for preventing them from getting a great jump for stealing. For example, on one pitch the pitcher comes set and throws quickly, whereas on the nest pitch, they hold the ball longer before delivering.
More Tips for Holding Runners on Base
- Different pick off moves – pitchers can also change when and how they throw to a base on a pickoff attempt. Pitchers can throw over at any time that the umpire has not ruled time out. For example, pitchers can attempt to pick a player off before starting their stretch, immediately after beginning the stretch or after coming to a set position. Varying those methods, helps keep runners close, too. Right hands pitchers must step off the rubber with their right before throwing to first. For pick off plays to second base, pitchers can turn inside or spin around to pick runners off second.
- The slide step – when pitchers do not lift their leg very high as on their normal pitching delivery, a method known as a slide step, is a good way to prevent runners from trying to steal a base as it gives base runners less time to make it to the next base.
Keeping runners close to third base is often neglected but extremely important for obvious reasons. Pitchers should practice pickoff plays with the third baseman for this.
Finally, the onus to hold runners close to the base is on pitchers, but it must be a team effort with much responsibility on all the other infielders, too. Having a catcher with a strong arm and quick release is necessary.