Pickoff Techniques and the Goal of a Pickoff Move

Disrupting the Runner’s Timing

It’s important to remember the point of a pitcher’s pickoff move. A pitcher’s pickoff move is not intended to get an out but to keep a runner close to a base and to disrupt the runner’s timing in stealing a base. Ultimately, the goal is to keep the runner from scoring. Therefore, getting the out on a pickoff move must be secondary from keeping the runner close to a base.

The pickoff move is intended to give the catcher a chance to throw out base runners. If a pitcher is concerned about getting an out on a pickoff move, one runs the risk of a bad throw which in turn results in base runners advancing and/or scoring.

Altering Pitcher’s Timing

How do we pickoff? There are several ways to perform a good pickoff move. A pickoff move does not have to be great; everyone has different abilities in quickness. The time it takes for a pitcher to come set and then execute the pickoff move must be altered from pickoff move to next pickoff move. A pitcher should not use the same exact move every time they attempt a pickoff. Keeping in mind that pitchers should only try to execute a pickoff move two to three times per batter, one can keep the baserunner close by altering the time it takes to come set and then deliver a pitch to the batter.

Now that we have established the point of the pick off there are a few ways to keep the baserunner close to first to limit their potential to steal second.

  1. Change up the timing between pitches.
  2. Do not use the same pickoff move to first every time.
  3. Have a surprise move.

These simple steps can profoundly limit the success of a baserunner trying to steal second base.

Change Up the Count

When a pitcher comes set and is ready to pitch the baseball, it is easy for them to get into a rhythm and this can allow a baserunner to figure out the perfect time to attempt to steal second base. The pitcher’s rhythm can sometimes cause the pitch be thrown at the same time pitch to pitch.

Vary Your Routine

Simply changing up the time it takes to come set and deliver a pitch by staling or perform head fakes. Limit head fakes to simply looking up at the catcher and down to the ground so that the pitcher’s shoulders do not move.

How to Avoid Balks

Use Different Pickoff Techniques

A pitcher should not use the same pickoff move on every attempt. Vary the attempts by stepping off the rubber, then turn and throw or, simply turn and throw. Keep in mind that when you just turn and throw, you must throw the ball to first. Otherwise, a balk will be called. These two different attempts to pickoff can also be done quickly or slowly.

Surprise Move

Finally, a pitcher should have a surprise pickoff move. This pickoff move can be anything that is different from the simple moves previously mentioned. Trick the baserunner with an “ace in the hole,” move. For example, after several attempts to pickoff using the previously stated moves, just before the pitcher comes set with ball in glove position, quickly turn and throw to first. Sometimes this “surprise” move can get a pitcher an out! The surprise move should be used very seldom.

Put It All Together

Limit the baserunners success in stealing second by changing up the timing between delivered pitches, using a variety of pickoff moves, and by using the “surprise” pickoff move. Of course, the best way to limit the success of baserunners stealing second is to have a catcher with a strong arm!

1st Base Pick Off’s

Your goal as a pitcher is to not let a base runner get to 2nd base because then they are in scoring position. Keep that runner close to the bag at 1st base and take control of the game with these pick off moves. Watch our video and try them at home.

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