Pitchers spend a lot of time working on holding runners close to the base with their pickoff moves. As important as holding a runner close to the bag is, even the greatest pickoff move is rarely successful. In fact, once a pitcher gets known for having a good move, runners are a little more savvy and start to learn the subtle giveaways that signal the pickoff is coming.
A catcher has a much better chance of throwing a base stealer out than a pitcher does trying to pick them off. As a pitcher, you've done your job if you can get a runner to stay a foot or two closer and it's up to the catcher to deal with an overzealous runner from there. The problem, though, is that some runners are so fast, even catchers with a great gun have a tough time throwing them out at second.
They say that if a catcher takes any more than 1½ seconds to catch the ball, set his feet and rifle it to second, he stands little chance of throwing out most base stealers. That's an awfully small amount of time to get out of your crouch, get a ball out of your glove and fire it into the glove of someone who is about 130 feet away. When the runner is especially fast, you can cut that time down to less than 1¼ seconds.
Often, the only way to nab really speedy runners is by helping your catcher with a perfect pitchout. If you aren't practicing pitchouts AT LEAST as often as your pickoff move, you are doing your team a great injustice. There are really only two important things involved in a perfect pickoff:
- Pitch speed
The goal of a pitchout is to get the ball into the catcher's hand in the perfect position to make a throw. By delivering the ball exactly where the catcher likes to throw from, you will be cutting off nearly a half second from the amount of time it takes for a catcher to get out of his crouch and into his ideal throwing position.
Obviously, the ball needs to be thrown well outside of the plate. The last thing you want is a batter swinging at the pitch and turning what could have been an excellent opportunity to throw a runner out into a hit and run. Throwing the pitch well outside of the plate also gives the catcher the opportunity to throw the ball without having to worry about the batter getting in the way of the throw.
The first step is to work with your catcher and figure out exactly where he likes to throw from. Have him stand exactly where he wants to throw from and practice hitting his glove in the spot that he says is ideal for making a quick throw to second.
A pitchout with a left handed batter is going to be different than a pitchout with a right handed batter. Make sure that you practice your pitchout moves to both sides of the plate. Also make sure that you practice your pitchouts with every catcher on the team. Different catchers want the ball thrown in different spots.
You don't want a catcher getting out of his crouch so early, a base runner is tipped off to the pitchout. A pitchout has to look like any other pitch from a base runner's perspective so a catcher has to remain in his crouch until the last possible second.
Once you have gotten comfortable throwing a ball to the precise spot that gives your catcher the best chance to throw a runner out, the next step is to practice delivering it at the right speed.
You would think that the the faster you threw the ball, the better chance a catcher would have to throw a runner out. While that sounds great in theory, you can't deliver a ball to your catcher faster than he can get out of his crouch and into his ideal throwing position.
Work on the timing of your pitch so that it is always at the same speed - a speed that allows your catcher to get into position as quickly as possible but not so quick that there is a chance that he arrives a split second too late. A ball that flies past a late arriving catcher usually means that the runner will make it all the way to third as the catcher chases the ball to the backstop.
Again, this needs to be practiced on both sides of the plate and with every catcher on the team. It also needs to be practiced often. With enough practice, your pitchout will become second nature and will become one of the best weapons in your pitching arsenal for keeping runners from swiping extra bases off of you!
Pitching Machine Stop Quote of the Day:"I'm convinced that every boy, in his heart, would rather steal second base than an automobile". - Tom Clark