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Archive for the ‘pitching’ Category

Yawkey League pitcher Sean Gildea writes about holding runners on first base.

sean_gildea

Sean pitching at Colby Sawyer College, where he holds the school's career strikeout record.

Blogger Bio

Sean Gildea has played in the Yawkey League for the Medford Maddogs since the team’s inception in 2004.  He has compiled a 40-12 record over his five-year Yawkey League career.  Sean played college baseball at Colby-Sawyer College and holds the school’s career strikeout, single-season strikeout, and single-game strikeout records.  In his life away from baseball, he recently placed 32nd in a World Series of Poker bracelet event.

Holding Runners on First

Holding runners and making strong pick-off moves are necessary tools in your pitching development. Controlling the running game prevents walks and singles from turning into doubles as a result of stolen bases. Here are some tips to ensure you can hold runners more effectively.

Vary Your Timing & Motion

Good baserunners will time a pitcher. This is usually the case when a runner gets a good jump. Teach yourself to throw from the stretch using one-second, three-second, and five-second holds. Also, many pitchers, left-handed or right-handed, can effectively use a mixture of timing with the two stretch motions to throw runners off. Mix in your slide step, a full leg-kick, and the different timings and runners will rarely get a good jump.

Mix Your Moves

Right-handers can step off and throw to first, spin and throw, or simply hold on to the ball. Remember that you control the game! If you want to hold the ball to throw a runner off, the batter will be forced to call time. When you use the “step-off” move, it does not mean you have to throw over but it is an effective way to remind the runner that you know he’s there. Finally,  mix in a slower spin move with a faster one and you’ll catch a runner sleeping.

Left-handers can utilize the step-off, 45-degree move, or holding the ball. Many runners typically fear left-handers just because you can use your 45-degree move. Show a poor 25-30 degree move the first time you try to pick off a quick runner, then mix in your “best move” by throwing over at 45-degrees.

Know Your Runner, Know Your Counts

Typically, 1, 2, 8, and 9 hitters are most likely to be your fast runners. When they reach base, realize that these are the guys most likely to steal and mix in your moves. 3-5 hitters are most typical to be your power hitters, and also your slowest runners.

Runners look to run on “running counts.” These are normally 3-1 or 3-2 counts because you are focused on throwing a strike and the runner knows you are less worried about him. Don’t forget your 0-2, 1-2 counts as well because these are the counts you are most likely to throw an off-speed pitch, leaving your catcher at a disadvantage.

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For a baserunner’s perspective, take a look at BaseballThink’s post on stealing against a lefty.

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*Guest blogger* John “Smokey” Moore breaks down the pitching wind-up for kids.

John pitching for the North Shore Black Sox

John pitching for the North Shore Black Sox

Blogger Bio

Coach John “Smokey” Moore has been pitching since he was six years old. He grew up playing baseball in Somerville, MA, high school ball in Lexington,MA, and college ball at Roger Williams University. In the 1980s and 90s, John had stints in the Boston Park League for Mass Envelope and in the Intercity League for the Augustine A’s (now Gately A’s) and Elm Supply (Casell Club). After a brief respite, John returned to amateur baseball in 2003, playing in the MSBL and creating the “Toys For Tots” program within the MABL/MSBL Winterball game. He has been coaching since 1984 within Somerville Little League, St. Mary’s in Revere,Mass, and also within the Boston Jr. Rams AAU program (U12). John also serves as a pitching instructor at Extra Innings in Woburn, MA.

Teaching Young Kids How To Pitch

When teaching the aspects of pitching for kids it is important not to teach them too much early on. I compare this to teaching a 9 year old Calculus when in fact they need to learn about simpler mathematics first. So after 24 years of coaching and teaching kids about pitching, I have found it is best to keep it simple until they are a little older and ready to be finely tuned as a pitcher. There are 5 steps of pitching that can be used to teach the most important and basic pitching technique. I feel early on for kids it is all about balance and alignment. This will enable them to “throw” more consistent strikes. My motto is accuracy first and speed  second when dealing with younger kids/pitchers!!

pitching-steps1


Step 1……The Step Back

Your heels should be in the middle of the pitching mound, arches on the front edge of the mound and your toes on the dirt. Doing this while standing up and not bending at the knees has worked best with feet together. The pitcher should take a “baby step” and rock back about 6-12 inches on your glove side.

Step 2……The Pivot Foot

The next step is your “pivot foot”. For a right handed pitcher you will pivot your right foot so it is parallel and in contact with the rubber while standing on the dirt. The opposite for left handed pitcher – it is the left foot that needs to pivot and be parallel to the rubber. Most kids at an early age will have that foot on top of the mound or half a foot on the mound / dirt. This is a no-no because it will throw off their balance when starting Step 3 and of course most Little League fields already have a pretty good size hole in front of the mound so we don’t want the pitchers to “fall” off the mound.

Step 3…….Balance

The pitcher lifts his leg (not swing or kick the leg) towards his back shoulder but not coming past the pitching mound. Both shoulders should be on a straight line to the target and the catcher. Hands should be somewhere between the shoulders and belt buckle usually around letter high on a baseball uniform. That back leg or “post leg” should be slightly bent with the pitchers weight on the toes/ball of the foot – not the heel. In order to obtain a proper balance, most kids should be able to hold this position without becoming unbalanced for a good 30 seconds. When practicing this step, they should wait a good 1-3 seconds before getting ready to stride and release the ball.

Step 4……Stride and Release

Extend your arms in line with the target and then step toward the target line with the landing foot. Pitching arm now comes over the top with the index and middle finger pointing to the sky (on top of the ball) and the thumb pointing to the ground (bottom of the ball) to extend the arm, then over the top to the release point while tucking the glove in. You will find a pitcher is “opening up” without the “tuck in” and will use his arm more than he should. Also, it will throw off the alignment towards the target because it will cause the pitcher’s head to move to the outside to obtain more power.

I have always found that the release point should be a few inches to a foot out in front of your face. Early release of the ball will cause a high pitch and often if a release point is too far in front of a pitcher then that ball will hit the dirt before home plate. In any case, a pitcher and a decent coach will “find” that release spot for a particular pitcher. The landing foot should still be in alignment with the target and should be flat on the ground toes pointing towards the target, not on the heels or toes while releasing the ball. It is also important for the throwing elbow to be even with the shoulders when landing on that front foot.

Step 5……The Follow Through – Finish

A lot of young kids who pitch normally finish with their throwing hand next to their waist, where a front pocket would be. The problem with this type of finish is the pitcher does not get the lower body involved and will usually pull their head outside of the intended target. The finish position should have the throwing hand “below” and “outside” the landing knee.

The pitcher starts in the “balance” position with shoulders and nose on line to the target. Glove shoulder will be in front and throwing shoulder behind. As their hands break and the pitcher’s weight goes forward, their head must go in a straight line towards the target. Again, at the finish the throwing hand is “below” and “outside” the landing knee.

These 5 steps will help a young pitcher to develop accuracy and be a more consistent pitcher. As a pitcher gets older and starts to grow into his body, more advanced techniques can be applied to these steps.

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“The Book”

Question: What book is read by all baseball players?

Hint: It’s not the Bible. And, it’s not the Da Vinci Code.

Answer: THE Book

If you play baseball, there is a book on you. It dissects you as a ballplayer. The book on Vlad Guerrero will tell you he’s a free swinger. The Book on Dice K will tell you to work the count because he will hit his pitch count in the 6th inning if you do. These examples are pretty broad. The Book at professional levels is amazingly thorough. It could tell you that Josh Beckett throws an inside fastball to righthanded power hitters when he is behind in the count in close games.

The Book at amateur and scholastic levels lacks that level of detail. I’ve seen many pitchers take advantage of this. Consider a pitcher with 3 pitches (fastball, curve, change-up). My pitcher throws all fastballs and curves for the first 5 innings of the game. Now, the batting order is going to turn over for the 3rd time. Hitters have their timing down. They think they’ve figured out my pitcher. Now, my pitcher starts mixing in his change-up. They didn’t see it coming and that third at bat feels more like a 1st at bat for these hitters. Before they know it, the game is over.

Next time you are pitching or preparing a pitcher for a game, don’t just read “the book” on the hitters. Think about what book the hitters are reading. It could win you a ballgame.

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Where is #1?


Before almost every game, a team will take a round of infield/outfield as a tune-up. It’s a chance to get the blood flowing, get a feel for how the ball is going to bounce, and perhaps practice seeing the ball against a tough sky. There is a key player often absent from this routine…the pitcher. During the course of the game, the pitcher is often called on to field a groundball. The pitcher is required to make some very tough throws at times as well (e.g. starting a double play up the middle OR throwing to a moving 2nd baseman covering 1st on a bunt).

Are we missing something here? Why is the pitcher traditionally left out?

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