THE ART OF THE PITCHOUT – or not!
The PITCHOUT is commonly used to catch a base runner off guard with a pickoff, or to thwart an attempt to steal, or to blunt a hit an run play. In any case, it’s not uncommon to forgo a strike in an attempt to accomplish the foregoing. Also, this pitch and battery combination is a true work of art when it’s done right and can be a specialty of a well trained battery.
All that being said – can every club at every level of competition do this effectively?
Let’s take a look at the basics and see why, when performed well, this pitch is so effective. First, when a pitch leaves a pitcher’s hand it’s going to travel a little over sixty(60) feet to the catcher. If the catcher has to throw to second – approximately one hundred twenty eight(128)feet, he has to be in a pretty good setup and throw posture to do it — and be on target.
Second, our pitch has now traveled a total of approximately one hundred eighty eight (188) feet.
Third, if the call for a PITCHOUT was right on the money – the call was the right one and practice time well spent. If not, normally the pitcher is now in the hole for a ball count, not to mention the chance for a pass ball by the catcher.
Depending on the level of competition
Depending on the level of competition, the art of the PITCHOUT requires some serious evaluation of the battery combinations of a club. With certain combinations it’s a given, with others it’s a no go. By the way one of the easiest ways to pickup whether or not a catcher can make the PITCHOUT work on his end – is to watch the pitcher warming up on the mound for his customary allotted pitches, and then the infield hears… “coming down!” Watch the catcher’s throw down to second. Is a rifle shot or just a lob? I deliberately have a catcher take four or five steps out to the plate and throw with an infielder’s toss. It does keep the apposing team guessing, for a while.
Now let’s say you have a weak battery combination for the PITCHOUT. This distance of one hundred eighty eight feet (188) is just to much distance and a loss of precious seconds given up to the base runner on the base path. So, instead of putting the pitcher in the hole for a ball count, have the catcher reinforce the runner being checked with a deliberate throw to first without the PITCHOUT being called. For example, the catcher gives a fastball down and away signal – the pitcher delivers, and regardless of the call the catcher springs forward after catching the ball and fires it to first. (first baseman covering
of course.) Just be mindful of other base runners.
This play is very effective on the first and second pitch –one right after the other, with a new batter up and a runner on first. Checking the runner for only ninety (90) feet of distance is a heck of a lot better than trying for a total of one hundred eighty eight(188) feet. Besides, after a couple of attempts with this exercise and play the confidence feeling in a youngster playing the backstop position can skyrocket.
Happy Thanks Giving.