The Southpaw Advantage: Pick-off Moves

All left-handed pitchers should have a great pick-off move. This may seem obvious, but many lefties don’t make the most of the huge advantage in baseball that life has given them.

A left-handed pitcher with good mechanics should be able to “hang” at his balance point and read the motion of the runner at first base. This stymies the runner because a simple forward step to first rather than the plate means the runner has almost no reaction time if they are in a secondary lead. This eliminates the running game completely, and trims the ERA for savvy lefties.

In addition, most high school and college games use only two umpires, minimizing the risk of being called on a balk if the pitcher crosses the magic 45-degree line. Good lefty pitchers work on shading this to their advantage. A lefty pitcher without a good pick-off move hasn’t worked hard enough on developing their game. If that sounds like you, get with it.

On picks, remember these key elements: short arm, accuracy, window.

Pick-offs require the pitcher to throw like a catcher, getting the ball from the glove to the ear and released as quickly as possible. A long arm swing, as seen during a pitcher’s normal delivery, will not pick anyone off.

With that quickness must also come accuracy, or a single can quickly turn into a triple due to an overthrow. Pitchers should seek to deliver the ball to the first baseman’s “window,” an imaginary rectangle above the first base bag. Remember, a throw at the ankles does as little good as a throw at the eyes. Make it as easy on the first baseman as possible without sacrificing quickness.

Good Luck and Play Ball!


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