Team Goal: Pitchers controlling the running game - but how?


#1

One of the team goals the high school pitching staff I’m working with is to control the running game better. Last season, the varsity pitchers on my staff gave up 30 stolen bases on 34 attempts. This means opposing teams have a 88% success rate against us. While our catcher is also involved, I believe our pitchers can do much better.

Here’s 3 things we’re going to work on to control the running game - what else would you add? Any drills you like?

  1. Vary our hold times better in the set position.

  2. Implement a quicker, modified slide step to get our times to the plate 1.3 secs or less.

  3. Develop faster footwork and a shorter arm action on picks.

What else do you guys got for me?


#2

[quote=“Steven Ellis”]One of the team goals the high school pitching staff I’m working with is to control the running game better. Last season, the varsity pitchers on my staff gave up 30 stolen bases on 34 attempts. This means opposing teams have a 88% success rate against us. While our catcher is also involved, I believe our pitchers can do much better.

Here’s 3 things we’re going to work on to control the running game - what else would you add? Any drills you like?

  1. Vary our hold times better in the set position.

  2. Implement a quicker, modified slide step to get our times to the plate 1.3 secs or less.

  3. Develop faster footwork and a shorter arm action on picks.

What else do you guys got for me?[/quote]
Make sure to remind the guys that there are three sets of pick-offs. Pick-off A, B, and C.

Pick-off C is the slow casual one, just lets the runner know that you are watching him.

Pick-off B is the one where you are off relatively quickly, you know that you want to make him think twice about leaving the safety of the base, and you are aiming to get him out, but this is not all out.

Pick-off A is the deadly one, you might use it once or twice in a game but you jump at the sight of a leaning runner, and subsequently he is gone.

Pitchers always need to remind to vary their looks towards the pitcher, not just the hold times. Some pitchers get in the habit of just looking once, with different amounts of time watching him, and this can be an issue. The more the pitcher varies, the more it throws the runner, and hitter, off guard.

Lefties can cheat when they pick-off, the 45 degrees that you can step towards first base is a great way to do that. You can get runners leaning. Make sure that if they cheat more than 45, to drag their feet so you cannot see a mark in the dirt where the lefty stepped.

Also, pitchers have a way of tipping off when they will pick off and when they will not. Try and eliminate any tips that the runner might see (or you might see as a coach).


#3

Always let em know you’ll go over but don’t wear it out.
Work on locating the throw over…knee high and at the inside corner of the bag (This should be practiced as part of PFP’s).
Work signals from the 1st baseman in (Both, come over and the guy is dead meat)…middle infield as well.
do everything in an unpredictable varied way…Call out what seems to be plays but are really just random babbling…make them “think” something is up…anything to keep them off their toes. “Dakota 2”! “Devil 3”…sounds impressive too :lol:
Target specific guys on specific teams for “special” attention (My son used to love to hit the cockiest kid in the order and then pick him off…messes with them big time). Putting their best under pressure sure beats letting their best pressure you.


#4

I think a main thing is to make sure
that they don’t know if you are worried about them (the runner)
taking off. They’ll just go off the base to nag you.
Throw over a few times (a few times in a row if you need too, sometimes the runner will get confused and get picked off after a few throws over).
Keep your delivery under 1.3 seconds, and trust that your catcher has a good, strong throw down to second base (or third).


#5

[quote=“Steven Ellis”]One of the team goals the high school pitching staff I’m working with is to control the running game better. Last season, the varsity pitchers on my staff gave up 30 stolen bases on 34 attempts. This means opposing teams have a 88% success rate against us. While our catcher is also involved, I believe our pitchers can do much better.

Here’s 3 things we’re going to work on to control the running game - what else would you add? Any drills you like?

  1. Vary our hold times better in the set position.

  2. Implement a quicker, modified slide step to get our times to the plate 1.3 secs or less.

  3. Develop faster footwork and a shorter arm action on picks.

What else do you guys got for me?[/quote]

Steven,

As always, when I see questions like this one, my perspective as the SK/Statistician comes out. I have absolutely no doubt that your team would benefit from your pitchers doing a better job of controlling the running game. But heck, every team could say that.

What interests me more, is what you’re basing your concern over. An 88% success rate is pretty bad, but knowing what I know about HS scoring and stats, I’m gonna take a wild guess that your numbers might need a bit more scrutiny.

There are few things in the scoring of HSB that give more problems than runners advancing on a legal pitch. The reason is, it can happen in 3 different ways. A SB, a PB, or a WP, and to be honest, it’s a pretty rare HSB SK who really knows and understand the scoring rules. But, there’s a way to mitigate whatever scoring problems that might arise.

Just make sure you look at all advances to keep things in perspective. While simply counting WPs and PS won’t give the total number of runners moving up like a SB does, it will still give a more accurate idea about what’s happening because it takes the judgment out of it. Take a look at http://www.infosports.com/scorekeeper/images/pitsb.pdf to get an idea about what I’m talking about.

The reason I’m mentioning this, is because I know how badly HS scorers can screw up this particular call, so it may be possible that what looks like a poor success rate at throwing out runners, is really something that should have been scored entirely different. I may be wrong, but I have a sneaky suspicion that that’s what’s happening with your team. The reason is, if a coach who’s at all scouting his opponents finds out the other team is only getting out 12% of all runners attempting steals, there’s no way there’d only be 34 attempts. Heck, a wild man like our coach who loves to run saw that, my guess is there’d be at least 10 SBA’s in a game. We average 120 SBAs a season, and I assure you we don’t play many teams with only a 12% success rate.

Now its entirely possible I’m completely off base, your scorer’s perfect, and the fault rests entirely with your pitchers. But then again, what do you have to lose by investigating what’s going on just a bit more, since as I said, every team could stand to improve how their pitchers control the running game.

If possible, you might want to look at who it is stealing these bases too. It may well be that the only players attempting steals are the better and faster base runners, When that happens, its almost impossible to do much to control them without really having it affect the ability of the pitchers to get the batter out.


#6

Steven,

Of your 3 bullets, I like #1 and #3 best. There is some evidence that the slide step often gives a pitcher the perception that he is faster to the plate without a real substantive difference. If runners aren’t inhibited by your pitcher’s slide step, and they are successfully stealing off your catcher, the slide step may not help very much.

Aside from varying timing from set position to pick move, I like to vary the sequence from batter to batter.

That is, with a runner on 1st if the opposing team has not yet seen my pitcher’s move I like to have him throw one, two, or three pitches with no variation in the timing and then use his best, quickest pick-off move to 1B.

If the opposition has seen the guy’s pick move a lot, then I like to keep the pressure on but vary the pitch/pick timing as per your point #1.

Something House teaches about pick-off moves for RHPs: Never look directly at the 1B runner. Come set facing toward HP, and use only your peripheral vision to gauge the runner’s lead. When the runner’s position is just on the outside range of your peripheral vision while you’re looking at HP…he has a big lead and it’s time to pick his a$$ off.

Among other things House also teaches RHPs to push off the mound with the front foot to begin the pick move, make a spin move to 1B with a quick landing, and fire over with a very short arm-path.

He teaches pitchers to work diligently on their pick move to 1B on their own time, since there is little chance to hone this skill during typical team practices.

I also like his general philosophy: If you’ve got a decent pick-off move to 1B, use your best version of it right out of the chute: If it’s a good one, it will keep the runners close while they’re wondering if you’ve got anything better.


#7

This may go without saying but we always have our pitchers keep the ball in their throwing hand. It’s rare but some guys keep it in their glove as they’re taking signs.

While we teach to vary hold times we’ll also throw over at varying times on the way to coming set, such as soon as coming up from taking the sign or on the way to taking a sign. Sometimes this will catch the runner coming off the bag and leaning the wrong way. It works well with guys that take aggressive, quick leads. If nothing else it makes each step away from the bag a little more cautious.


#8

Steven it is important to note that you don’t always have to be quick (1.3 seconds) to the plate with a runner on base.

Last year in the playoffs, Brian Wilsons time to the plate was 1.67 seconds when the Rangers’ catcher (slower) was on first base. When Elvis Andrus was on, however, that number declined to 1.36 seconds.

If you feel all or some of your pitchers have the credentials to vary their deliveries times, it may be helpful for your team to relate their delivery to the runners speed.


#9

Steven,

I think the first thing you have to do is decide on a philosophy. Are you going to go for pick-offs or are you gonna’ just hold runners close to the bag. Some things to consider are:

  • How often do you actually pick someone off versus how often do you need to hold runners close?

  • How often do those runners that steal successfully end up scoring or getting the extra base on a hit?

I’d focus on what you need to do most of the time - holding runners close. This elimnates the need for slow-faster-fast moves.

I’m also in line with what laflippin said about the use of the slide step. The lower half establishes the overall timing of the delivery so the slide step can make the lower half too quick to allow proper sequencing of the rest of the delivery. For example, hips and shoulders often rotate together when the lower half is too quick.

Here’s what I teach:

(1) Throw over early to to demonstrate you can and will.
(2) Vary the hold time.
(3) Step off occasionally.
(4) Use intermittent head nods to induce the runner to jump if you think he’s going.
(5) Show a slide step early in the game when you can afford to waste a pitch just to give the other team something to think about.
(6) Keep the ball in the throwing hand to be able to throw over at any time.
(7) Never let a runner get a walking jump - always make the runner come to a stop.
(8) Feet about armpit width apart and staggered with back toe aligned with front arch. This width not only facilitates lifting the knee without postural changes but it also keeps the feet relatively close to allow quick footwork for the jump-spin. The stagger puts the front foot in a position to push against as laflippin described.

Also, I agree with Chew that you might not need to be 1.3. If your philosophy is to hold runners close, then you only need to be quick enough to avoid making the other team think they have a free pass. One thing good to do to your pitchers, however, is to explain the timing of the whole situation to them. Take a typical base stealing time (say, 3.8 seconds) and subtract off a typical catcher pop time (say, 2.1 seconds) and what’s left (1.7 seconds) is the time the pitcher has to get the ball to the catcher. This puts good perspective on how quick the pitcher needs to be. Many times, pitchers try to be quicker than they need to be at the cost of quality pitches.


#10

Here’s an easy way to practice checking the base runner. The players needed for this drill are the pitcher, catcher, the first baseman, second baseman and your quickest runner on the base path.

        - First,  have your first baseman step-off  ten (10) feet from first  base,  and  make a mark on the 
         infield  dirt with  his/her spikes. Then do the same  thing at  fifteen (15), then for twenty (20) feet.
-Second, have  the fastest runner  on  your team start at  the ten (10) footmark and see if he/she 
        can steal  second base. Then, do  the same thing for the fifteen (15) footmark, and again for the
        twenty (20) footmark.
      - A pitching  coach  usually  notes every  battery combination and its  ability to check base runners.
        In that regard, some pitchers are quicker to the plate than others while some catchers are quicker
        to second base than others.

In addition to being a drill, having the first baseman step-off ten (10) feet during a game and marking a spot on the infield dirt where the pitcher can see it reinforces the checking mind set. Also, if the catcher can’t see it, for whatever reason, the first baseman can signal the catcher if the base runner goes too far , beyond a certain point.

*** The times in the picture above are just guides to start off with, and not set in stone. Use your own time for the level that the club competes at.

Coach B


#11

Thanks for the many pointers!

I’m not an advocate or a true slide step at all. I’m referring to a modified movement where the lower half still loads properly, but is much quicker than I see most pitchers doing at the varsity level.

I like your suggestion, too, about making runners come to a stop. That’s extremely important. As pitchers, we need to remember that we control the pace of the game - and use it to our advantage!


#12

A pitcher needs to be in control (especially in control of himself)-
physically and mentally.


#13

I know there are a lot of opinions about the SS both pro and con, but I wonder if you’re not making your judgment based on your pitching style rather than EVERY possible pitching style. I’m just saying that its possible it will work nicely for one pitcher but not another, and to completely eliminate it as a possibility sounds very much like a one size fits all approach, and that never works for everyone.


#14

The remarks by Steven Ellis were made based on his opinion and experiences - nothing more. I didn’t read into his remarks that he actually said “don’t ever” or words to that effect. He simply stated his style and motion that fit him, and his reasons. Nothing more, nothing less.

Coach B.


#15

And I simply stated my opinion. No more, no less.

But when some one says things like: I’m not an advocate or a true slide step at all…, is it unreasonable to interpret it to mean he “never” advocates it?

The OP wasn’t talking about him, it was telling what he was intending to do with his pitchers to help control the running game, and he was asking for any other suggestions. My suggestion was not to lump every pitcher into the same mold. Are you saying that’s bad advice, and that a coach should impose what worked or didn’t work for him in his career on every other pitcher he works with?

I get the definite feeling you don’t care a great deal for me, or anything I have to say on this forum, and quite frankly I’m pretty tired of it. I am not anyone’s enemy, nor am I someone who just argues for the sake of arguing. I’m terribly sorry I’m not a rah rah, go team, everything’s perfect in baseball land guy like you are. I try very hard to be factual and truthful, and sometimes that isn’t warm and fuzzy.

Obviously in your opinion I have nothing to add to this forum, so if Steven wants me to, I’ll depart and leave everyone to you and your Mary Poppins, perfect in every way attitude and advice.


#16

I simply pointed to a different point of view, much like anyone else that visits here - you included. You’re taking this “back-n-forth” personal. there’s nothing personal here, directed to you or anyone else for that matter.

Look, get a grip. Contribute what you can, make a difference to those that read your work and keep it flowing - BUT, don’t make DIFFERENCE be what drives you. Again, there is nothing in that last posting of mine that was directed to you - or - anyone else, in a personal way. I simply stated my reasoning after reading Steve’s remarks.

You’re going way overboard with the way you read stuff. Take it down a few notches, lose this chip on your shoulder.

As far as asking Steve or anyone else if you should go - don’t. You add value to those that read you and your knowledge is help to many. So, don’t puff-up with a “I’m taking my ball home” skit… that doesn’t fit your knowledge base, nor does it set a good example for the younger crowd that visits lookding for guidence. Ok?

Coach B.


#17

scorekeeper,

In my opinion, Coach B is one of the people you could’ve learned a lot about baseball from if that had been your intent when you arrived at LTP. However, I think you came here to teach, preach, and screech–mostly about your views formed over a long period of dedication to keeping and interpreting stats from HS games.

Your pedagogical approach is double-edged, though…on one level it may be that your effort to be thorough, painstaking, and iterative in the discussion of every minute detail or theoretical possibility that interests you in baseball is commendable. On the other hand, guys like Coach B offer actual (and vast) experience of the game on the field that transcends your SABR-like approach to the game.

I think more players and coaches might enjoy your contributions if they weren’t generally so much about, “Look at me, look at me, and see how smart and cool it is that I can banter endlessly about baseball stats”. Maybe if they were more about briefly summarizing what your stats tell you about the game, and then running your knowledge up the flagpole to see who salutes it?

I could be wrong, but I think the main mission of LTP is to help pitchers to find practical, useful pathways for becoming better at what they like to do. Do you agree or disagree with that?


#18

My wife has been looking over my shoulder and read through this stuff and pointed out to me that perhaps I was using words that may seem general in effect, but to others, may seem challenging, almost - “ so… there!”

If that is the case, I appologize to anyone who may, or has, read into my postings in that way. That includes you Scorekeeper. But, I still don’t see the threat or other implications, I just don’t.

Coach B.


#19

Ahhh the gentler side :smiley: You tell Mary Ann that shes cleaned up yet another mess :smiley: …they just know how to be fair and keep it all in perspective…whatta lucky guy you really are John :slight_smile:
Can we all call it a “safe at second” and get on with hepin these yungins now??? :wink:
I’m officially telling all commenters on this thread…we need,
need all of you, want all of you…and will be sad to lose anyone!!
Particularly Steven…dude…what would we do without cha?


#20

I couldn’t agree more.