Baseball Magazine

Pick-off Throws to Second Base

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
One of the more demoralizing things that can happen to an offensive team is to have a runner picked off.  This is especially true when the runner is at second base and thus taken out of scoring position.  A pitcher has a couple different ways to perform a pick-off at second base.  One is the fast spin move and the other is the slower inward turn.  The two are very different in terms of their timing and footwork on the part of the pitcher and the middle infielders.  This post will focus just on the actual throw to second base regardless of which pick-off move the pitcher chooses to use.

Pick-off throws to second base

Alex Gonzalez awaits a throw exactly where it
should be on a pick-off at second base.

Like so much in baseball, success is usually found in the little things.  This is certainly the case when it comes to any throw.  Arm angles, footwork, head/eye movement, etc. are all little things that can have a big impact on the strength and accuracy of thrown balls.  For the pick-off throw to second base, I want to deal with a couple things related to where exactly a pitcher should aim for to increase the likelihood of an out.
Whenever a pitcher spins and throws to second base, he should aim for a spot that is just to the third base side of second base and about thigh high.  This accomplishes a couple things that make it easier for the fielder to catch and apply the tag to get the out.  A throw that is just to the third base side of second base takes into account that the runner is coming in from that direction.  If the throw was directly over the bag, the fielder would have to catch the ball and then take the ball to the third base side to make the tag.  If the throw is already on that side, the fielder just has to catch the ball and lower the glove to the runner.  This is usually a little quicker.
A throw that is thigh high takes into account that the runner probably will be sliding.  If the throw is lower, the ball has a good chance of hitting the sliding runner and possibly ricocheting into the outfield.  If the throw is too high, it will take longer for the fielder to catch the ball and bring it all the way down to the runner.  Throwing it thigh high allows the ball to be a little higher than a sliding runner but not too high where it's tough to get the out.
The combination of a third base side throw that is thigh high puts the defense in the most effective position to get the out on the pick-off at second base.

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