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Pick-offs: Keep Your Enemies Closer

4650319031_9fbb0f044a_b-730x550Matt Whiteside is the owner of All-Star Performance Baseball Camps and Clinics, and director, pitching instructor, and coach of the St. Louis Gamers. He previously played in the MLB for six years over the course of a seventeen year professional baseball career. Additional educational resources for players, coaches and parents are available at gamersacademy.net.

With pick-offs, it all comes down to footwork. The better—that is, the faster—the movement, the better your pitcher’s chance of picking off the runner. But remember, speed isn’t everything, by which we mean don’t try to apply the tag with the throw. This kind of corner-cutting leads to errors. Instead, give your fielders something they can handle easily, and then let them put the tag down on the runner. Lastly, make sure to get the throwing arm up into the throwing position quickly, the way a catcher would, to cut down on the time it takes to throw the ball.

Standard Move


By stepping off the rubber with his back foot, your pitcher is not required to throw the ball to 1B. This move gives the pitcher the most flexibility, and should be the most comfortable to perform. There are quicker ways to pick-off a runner, but this is a good move to keep a baserunner honest.

Quick Move

The right foot turns in, and the left foot drops . The trade-off with a move like this is that the pitcher must throw the ball, otherwise it will be called a balk. Pair this footwork with a quick move of the throwing arm into the power L, and you’ve got a devilishly fast pick-off move.

2B Inside Move

We’re big fans of this move because it looks like a normal delivery to homeplate until the pitcher steps inside toward 2B. This is achieved by having your pitcher disguise the knee lift to look as though he were going to throw a pitch.

2B Spin Move

Your pitcher turns toward home with his plant foot, and drop steps to his glove side with his landing foot. This creates a fast, spinning motion that can catch a baserunner off-guard. This movement is often used in a play that’s been designed to coordinate the timing of your pitcher’s head movement, with a break in towards the base by your short stop or second baseman. One additional note: get that landing foot down quickly on the back side of the rubber—this is the key to keeping your spin quick and controlled.

Baseball, Matt Whiteside, youth baseball, pitching mechanics, high school baseball