Pick off move to 1B - Just one or a few?

How many pick off moves to 1B do you guys use or teach? When I was younger in high school and college, I used a slow move and a quick move. But in the Cubs organization, we were taught to use just one – our best move – all the time. What do you think?

We are taught to use two, both look the same, but one has a longer arm action, the other a shorter arm action. This is a great way to initially deceive the runners at your pickoff move, they cannot tell the difference between the two.

I was never really taught either. It’s always been whatever you’re comfortable with. I always use a quick, fast move. The only difference is that I use one before I come set (while I’m checking the runner and taking the sign) and after I come set. It makes sure the runner is always wary of me. It helps cut down on the running.

Not sure if these are all considered different moves or not, but I like have three main moves:

  1. On the way up
  2. On the way down
  3. after you’re set

Really the same move, just different timing for when you make it.

When I teach younger pitchers, I think it’s important to stress accuracy first. I’m not trying to pick guys off, just keep them close, so the “best move” might not be the best decision if there’s a 20% chance of the pitcher making a wild throw.

This is the heart of the matter. Pick your philisophy - picking off or holding close - and then adopt a strategy. I happen to think holding close is more important than picking off so I like pitchers to use a quick move all the time.

One day Ed Lopat, my wise and wonderful pitching coach, asked me how I was doing with holding runners on base, and I told him that I might be having a problem with that—primarily because I was righthanded, and also because I had very little occasion to work from the stretch. And here’s what he told me: “You know, you’re not out there to set records with pickoff moves. You’re there just to hold the runner close to the bag. You can throw over there once—maybe twice—just to let the runner know you know he’s there. And go after the batter, because he’s the one you really have to get out. I’ve seen the situation where a pitcher will throw over to first and throw over to first and throw over to first because he’s afraid the runner will steal on him, and he does this so much he loses focus, and when he finally does throw to the plate the batter swings and the ball lands in the upper deck.” He told me that the next time we met he would work with me on holding runners on.
And we did. We worked with phantom runners—at a later date he would get some guys to play baserunner so I could get in some practice with live ones. We started out with something easy—a bump on a log, a guy who wasn’t going anywhere—and practiced various moves to first; then we took on the guy who would go when the hit-and-run was on, and so on, until we got to the guy who was a definite threat to steal—the speed demon. And then Lopat taught me a snap-throw which evolved into a very effective pickoff move for me.
He also said about this last runner: “This one is likely to steal no matter what you do or don’t do. Okay. Let him have his base if he wants it so much—but make sure he stays there.” He told me about how to avoid getting called for a balk, and he reinforced my idea of going to the full windup with the bases loaded. He said this would work because I was always using a modified slide-step and I worked fast, so anybody on third who was entertaining a notion of stealing home had to think twice. He also emphasized the importance of preventing the runner on second from picking up the signs and relaying them to the batter; I told him that often in this situation I would just have my catcher position his mitt in the approximate spot where he wanted the ball and that I would decide what pitch to throw—and most of the time it would be my slider, which had become my strikeout pitch. 8) :baseballpitcher:

Slow move
Quick move
Quick step off no throw
Wait a long time before coming set
Wait in the set a long time
Vary timing to home
Full leg lift
Slide step…

I use them all, try to keep the runner guessing on my timing.