What Base Runners Look For On A Pitcher?


What does the base runner look at on a pitcher to see when the pitcher is coming over to 1st base? Is it is front foot or the back foot?

What do base runners look at on a pitcher when they are on second? Ricky Henderson once said he always took a seven step lead off of 2nd base and always watched the pitchers elbows.

What do you teach what to look for on a pitcher on 1B and 2B???


Check this link out
they’ve got some good interviews and articles to check out.


In my experience, what baserunners look for more than anything else is timing. If a pitcher uses a high leg kick or is slow to the plate—or both—the runner is sure he can get a big lead and in all probability steal the next base. But if a pitcher works fast and doesn’t use the high kick—I for one used a slide-step and I know of a lot of pitchers who do the same thing—the runner, if he has any sense in his cranium, had better stick very close to the bag. One step too far off the bag, and he’s out before you can say boo.
Andy Pettitte had probably the deadliest pickoff move.
As for the runner on second, the best defense there is a catcher with a very strong and accurate arm, who can grab a pitchout and fire a cannon to the base, trapping the runner who’s trying desperately to get back. A good alternative is, with less than two out, issue an intentional walk to the batter and go for the force play. Or just strike out the next batter or two. As Ed Lopat told me more than once, “And you know how to do that.” 8)


Runner on 1B:
A lot depends on the kind of lead the runner is taking. If he’s taking a max lead (usually not stealing). The runner is just trying to avoid getting picked off then focusing on getting a secondary lead when the pitcher commits to the plate

RHP–watch the feet.
right foot = "right back"
movement of the right foot means he’s stepping off or picking off
be mindful of the left knee as well, many pitchers employ a balk move (flex) of that left knee to freeze the runner (that many umpires do not see)
or even to get him to lean away from the bag and start his secondary lead a split second before an immediate jump turn move to first

LHP–right foot = "right at you"
if the right foot moves at you then he’s coming over
on a slide step, if he opens the gate he’s going home
on a leg lift, if the right foot crosses the plane of the pivot knee then he must also go to the plate.

The key on a lefty is to see it and not anticipate it.

There is not a single key to determining if the pitcher is picking off. It depends on the runners lead and the pitcher’s delivery tendencies.

Another general rule for my base runners is once a RHP comes to set, take another step.

Runner on 2B:
At second base, your lead is based on two things: how quickly can the pitcher get the ball to the bag and how quickly can the closest defender get to the bag. As long as you can beat either one of them, your lead is safe. In general, the runner can take a lead at least as large as the distance of the closest defender. Find the center fielder before getting too bold with the lead from the bag.

Watch the pitcher’s tendencies for his looks to 2nd base even before you get there, if possible. Does he look over once or twice? Does he mix it up? Does he attempt no-look pick-offs timed by a catcher’s signal? If you determine a pattern use it to get an extended lead when he turns his head to the plate.

Another thing about leads off second base is if you follow my rules above, no amount of dirt kicking, glove slapping, or clomping around by middle infielders should cause your lead to shorten up. I always preferred infielders to make a lot of noise when I was on base because I knew where they were. When I played middle infield, I always tried to be silent so the runner would have to swivel his head to find me.

Runner at 3B:
This is sort of a hybrid, but I look for cues like from first, but take my lead based on my rules for being on second.

Overall, I think runners give pitchers too much credit for their pick off moves and could probably get away with slightly bigger leads. The biggest reason the majority of runners don’t get all they can is no one likes taking the walk of shame back to the dugout after getting picked off. It’s baseball’s ultimate embarrassment. :oops:


I like CP’s answers, but for LHP while on first I take cues from the pitchers hips more than his feet. If his hips stay pretty stationary it’s usually a pick, if they start sliding he’s going home.


I like watching a LHP’s throwing shoulder. It will usually rotate back towards 3B before a throw to 1B.


Thoughts on this

Right foot for a RHP for 1B

2B - the pitchers elbows


Hard to have cues at 2b since the pitcher can rotate inside or outside and still throw to the base. It’s about being sure their momentum is moving to the plate before taking the secondary lead. The things I mentioned above still hold true.