Baseball Magazine

How NOT to Get Picked off by a Lefty

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
A while back I wrote three posts called the Cardinal Sins of Baseball that got a lot of positive feedback.  One of the cardinal sins I listed on the Offense post was getting picked-off first base when there is no steal on.  There are quite a number of things that can get a player a first class ticket to the doghouse but this one is definitely towards the top.  When it happens, it usually occurs when a lefty is on the mound who has a good pick-off move to first.  

How NOT to get picked off by a lefty

Shoulders squared to first = don't move

When such a lefty is on the mound you usually see the following, especially after a runner gets picked-off.  The proceeding runners take about a two foot lead and dart back to first on every delivery.  Some even get picked-off again even with a two foot lead.  
If a runner is attempting to steal, a good left-handed pick-off move can be a real challenge to figure out.  If a runner is not stealing and just needs to NOT get picked-off as well as have some kind of secondary lead on the pitch, there are only two things they have to do.
1. Drop an anchor.  "Drop an anchor" means a runner gets his normal lead and just stays still until he is positive the pitcher is either coming to first or throwing home.  There is no lean or step towards second base or back to first.  Just completely still until you are sure.  Even if the pitcher throws over to first you will have time to get back.  

How NOT to get picked off by a lefty

Shoulders squared to home = move off

2. Watch his shoulders.  Many coaches and base runners have their own methods or "keys" they like to focus on when determining whether a pitcher is coming to first base on a pick-off move.  All have validity but just about all of them are more suited towards base stealers who are looking to get a good jump.  We may deal with some of these in future posts but when a runner is not stealing, it all comes down to one simple procedure.  Don't move until his shoulders square up to the catcher.  When a lefty lifts his foot, his shoulders are squared to first base as seen in the top photo.  As long as his shoulders are in this position or turned back towards second base (front side turns in), he is capable of throwing to first base no matter what his feet are doing.  As soon as he turns his shoulders and squares them to the catcher (bottom photo), he has committed to home plate and is not capable of throwing to first.  Then, and only then, is it safe to take a secondary lead.  Granted, based on the timing, a runner's secondary lead is not going to be as big as normal but it sure beats a runner heading back to first base on the pitch.
I don't care how good a left hander's pick-off move is.  Follow these two simple rules and you will never get picked off first base nor will you be that runner who darts back to first every time the pitch is thrown to the plate. 

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