By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
A very important part of the pitching game is being able to hold runners on the bases. You could have the best catcher in the world on your team, but if you can't keep the runners on their toes, they will easily be able to steal bases.
There are several very effective methods to holding runners, and each base is a bit different depending on if you are a righty or lefty pitcher. The biggest things to keep in mind however, is to keep the runner's timing thrown off. This is the most effective way to hold a runner.
When a base runner wants to steal a base, they will try to look for a pattern in your timing. Many inexperienced pitchers will come set, hold for two seconds, and then pitch every single time. A good base runner will notice this and easily be able to steal a base. To counter their strategy, practice changing up your timing. When you come set, hold set for one, two, three, or even four seconds. Remember to keep changing up your counts so you don't fall into a predictable pattern.
Another very simple way to hold a base runner is with a simple step off. If a runner is getting a big lead and you think he may steal, simply step off the mound and take a look at him. Doing this can throw off his timing and he will start to reconsider stealing the base now that he knows you are aware of his presence. Use the step off move when you don't want to throw a pick off.
Pickoffs are the most aggressive way to hold base runners. A pickoff is when you disengage from the pitching rubber and throw over to the base in an attempt to get the base runner out. Pick off moves vary from team to team, and it all depends on which base you are picking to and if you are a right or left handed pitcher.
As with anything, holding runners takes practice. If you do not practice these strategies in a practice setting, you will not be able to execute them successfully in a game. Work with other pitchers on your team to develop your own strategies for holding runners.
If you'd like to receive more of my best tips and techniques to throw harder with better control while reducing the risk of injury, I invite you to subscribe to my free baseball pitching tips here: www.pitchingtips.com/free
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