# If at first the left-hander wants to succeed.

Four pick-off moves that can make first base a nightmare for the baserunner.

The left-handed pitcher has a natural advantage in holding the runner at first base. With a little coaching, the advantage can become intimidating. At North Alabama, we break down our left-hander's pick-off moves into four categories, predicated on good mechanics from the basic move in the stretch position: "set... look home... throw to first."

THE FIRST PICK-OFF from the basic move starts from the set position with the pitcher checking the runner at first [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTO 1 OMITTED]. He then lifts his front leg and moves to his balance position, still looking at the runner on first [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTO 2 OMITTED].

Next, he brings his arm to the coil-glide position [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTO 3 OMITTED] - shown here in the exaggerated position we use in practice. This position forces the pitcher to keep his weight back as long as possible so that he can step toward first at the last instant.

Notice the pitcher's stride leg in Photos 2 and 3. As you can see, the stride knee is brought back to the balance knee with the front foot pointed down with the sole facing the plate - helping keep the weight back.

The front shoulder is pointed toward home plate as if the pitcher were going to go there. From the coil-glide position [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTO 3 OMITTED], the pitcher steps forward onto an imaginary 45 [degrees] line (the white chalk line in [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTO 4 OMITTED]) and throws to the first baseman [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTO 5 OMITTED] without ever looking away from the runner.

After planting his stride foot for the throw to first, the pitcher pushes his follow through leg directly toward the bag [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTO 6 OMITTED].

Note about the imaginary 45 [degrees] line: It runs from the middle of the rubber to a point about midway between home plate and first base.

This pick-off move accomplishes three objectives. It: (1) takes the left-hander out of his predictable normal move, (2) provides him with a viable pick-off move that will force the baserunner to adjust to something else, and (3) affords the pitcher an excellent setup move.

THE SECOND PICK-OFF MOVE is used to set up a pitch to the plate, though it is an outstanding move in its own right. The pitcher comes set, looking at first base, just as in Photo 1. He then turns his head to look at the catcher, as though he is going to go to the plate.

The pitcher then moves into the balance position while remaining focused on the catcher, as shown on Photo 7 - which looks identical to the balance position in any pitch to the plate.

Note: A video camera can be very useful in teaching these moves. We video-tape our pitchers when they throw to the plate and then have them work from the pictures in their pick-off moves.

THE THIRD PICK-OFF MOVE is considered the left-handed pitcher's best move. Whitey Ford and Warren Spahn made an art form of it, flirting with the 45 [degrees] line so cleverly that the move became known as the "balk move."

The move incorporates aspects of the first two sequences. The pitcher comes set, looking in at the runner [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTO 1 OMITTED]. As he begins his motion, he continues focusing on the runner, as seen in Photo 2.

When the stride leg reaches its highest point in the balance position, the pitcher will turn his head toward the plate to lend the impression that he is focusing on the batter [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTO 7 OMITTED].

He keeps his head in that position as if delivering to the hitter until he reaches the coil-glide position [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTO 8 OMITTED], at which point he will stop out on the 45 [degrees] line and throw to first base.

Photo 9 shows how we teach the pitcher to act out the pitch to the plate until the very last moment. In practice (as shown) we let the pitcher throw over to first while still looking at the plate. He does this until he gets the hang of holding onto the ball until the last moment. Once this becomes habit, we allow the pitcher to look at first base just before throwing.

The follow-through is identical to those of the other moves - the pitcher pushes off his right leg and steps toward first with his left leg directly after releasing the ball [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTO 6 OMITTED].

THE FINAL PICK-OFF MOVE is our quick, or step-off, move that we call our "safety valve."

Whenever a left-hander has a good move to first, the baserunner is going to begin thinking of countering it with a move of his own - stealing on the pitcher's first movement.

The safety valve move involves the recognition of the two basic baserunning techniques: an extended lead and a moving or walk-off lead. We teach our pitchers to check the length of the runner's lead as they come to their set position.

If the runner appears ready to take off, the pitcher can take a quick step back (behind the rubber) and snap the ball over to first [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTO 10 OMITTED]. Notice how the right shoulder and elbow turn toward first to facilitate the throw.

During batting practice, we have our left-handed pitchers practice these pick-off moves in the bullpen area against our hitters, as shown in Photo 11. We rotate our hitters during B.P. and have them try to read the pitcher's moves and react accordingly: steal or get back to first.

This drill gives our pitchers an excellent opportunity to develop their pick-off techniques while enabling our position players to hone their baserunning.

Any time you have an open period available in practice, you could do a lot worse than polish up your left-handers pick-off moves. You can end up with a few extra W's.