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HomeArticles › Pitcher Fielding - How Good Are You?

Pitcher Fielding - How Good Are You?

As many of you may know, we work with a lot of professional pitchers during the off season. This past off season we asked our professional players for feedback on how we could do better next year. Almost all of them mentioned that they need to work on their Pitchers Fielding Practice (PFP). Often overlooked and under utilized, PFP is an essential part of a pitcher's repertoire and can be a critical factor in winning or losing ball games.
All pitchers understand the importance of the seven fielders behind him, but they don't often include themselves as the first of eight fielders in fair territory. Not only is good fielding good for your safety, it also helps the middle infielders know here they can position themselves. If the middle infielders know that the pitcher can field balls hit down the middle, they can shade more towards the gaps of the infield with less pinching toward the middle.

Greg Maddux, one of the best fielding pitchers of all-time, has saved himself many games and many decisions by becoming a great fielder. Fielding is not just limited to come-backers. Learning how to become instinctual on bunt plays and getting over to the right side of the infield on ground balls, and turning double plays, should be second nature. Let's take a look at some of the finer points of PFP.

Covering 1st Base

Balls hit to the right side of the infield create on of the most common aspects of pitcher fielding. On a ball hit to the right side of the infield, especially on a ball hit to the first baseman, you should be busting your tail over to cover 1st base. Run directly toward the inside corner of the bag with your eyes up. Be looking to receive the ball from the 1st or 2nd baseman. Before you can tag a base or a runner it is important that you catch the ball in your glove! Without the ball you can't get the runner out! So keep your priorities straight - catch the ball!

If you reach the bag before the ball gets there, you become a first baseman and should keep a foot on the bag until the out is recorded. It is important to not cross the foul line at any time. The reasons for this are:
1. to avoid a collision of any kind with the runner and
2. to make sure that you have a clear view of the field to make any other throws.

It is important to remember to not remove the ball from your glove until you have touched the bag! You cannot throw the ball anywhere else until you have touched the bag for the out/safe call and if you bobble the exchange when you are trying to tag the base you run the risk of not recording an out. After you tag the bag and you turn to see if any other activity is happening on the base paths, be ready to make another throw if necessary.

Fielding Bunts and Slow Dribblers

Bunts and slow dribblers are a frequent challenge for pitcher fielding. To be effective against these:

  1. Catch and secure the ball. Without the ball, you cannot complete the play.
  2. Set your feet and get your body online for a good throw. A high risk throw may result in a bad throw and the runners ending up one or two bases ahead.
  3. Make an accurate high percentage throw. Leaping and off balance throws that end up on Sports Center are tough plays made by the elite players in the world. Many also end up on the blooper reel.

What do we define as a high percentage throw? Basically it is figuring and playing the odds. Although you do not have much time to decide this during a play, pitchers must decide if the throw is worth the risk that you would be taking to throw it. A 50/50 chance of getting a runner out, if there is a runner in scoring position, might be a risky proposition if the downside of the throw is throwing the ball down the right field line for a triple. Remember that recording one out at 1st, 2nd, or 3rd base is better than forcing throws to one of the those bases if there is a safer and higher percentage throw.

Things to think about when fielding and throwing bunts and slow dribbler.
1. What is the situation of the game?
    - Is your team ahead?
    - Is your team behind?
    - Is the game tied?
    - Is it late in the game?
2. Where are you on the field?
    - Do you have your back to the base that you are going to throw to?
    - If the play is at 1st base, where is your momentum taking you?
3. Are you online with the base runner?
    - Do you have enough of a lane to throw to the intended base?
4. Are there any other runners on base?
    - Does a high risk throw put you in jeopardy of having a run scored against you?
    - Are there runners in scoring position?
Turning Double Plays on Comebackers
If a ball is hit right back to you as a pitcher and you have a chance to get the lead runner at 2nd base, there are some things that you must do.

  1. Before the play with a runner on 1st, the pitcher should communicate with the Shortstop and the 2nd baseman to determine who will cover the base if by chance the ball is hit back to the pitcher.
  1. It is important to get the first out at 2nd. The pitcher is what we call the sure man. He is the one that is going to create the first out catching the ground ball and delivering the ball to 2nd base. The Shortstop or the 2nd baseman is the quick man. He is going to create the 2nd out by getting rid of the ball quickly to complete the turn.
  1. Give the fielder the appropriate time to get near the base and make an accurate throw right over 2nd base. By the communicating before the play, you should know which position is going to cover the bag. The first out is the most important and an accurate throw right over the bag is much more important than getting the ball quickly to 2nd.

As you can see becoming an effective fielding pitcher requires skills, planning, and quick decision making. It is an important aspect of being a good pitcher. How are your fielding skills?