Pitching from the stretch is a strategy to reduce the amount of time base runners have to steal a base. By pitching from the stretch, the pitcher is shortening his delivery time to home plate.
In this blog post, we’ll look into the thought process behind why pitchers pitch from the stretch.
Pitchers Pitch from the Stretch
The pitcher will face the plate at first and take an early side stride as they wind up and get their body into position to throw in a conventional (windup) movement. The best way for a pitcher to quicken his delivery to home plate and reduce his time to second base is by pitching out of the stretch.
When a pitcher pitches from the windup, he takes his full windup before delivering the pitch to home plate. This requires him to take 1-2 small steps and then deliver the ball to home plate, resulting in a longer delivery time than pitching from the stretch.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Pitching From the Stretch in Baseball?
In baseball, pitchers can throw from multiple positions, but most choose one as their primary position. Some pitchers will always pitch from the windup and some pitchers will always pitch from the stretch.
However, despite what position a pitcher chooses to pitch from more often than not they will have both advantages and disadvantages of pitching from either the windup or the stretch.
The windup allows a pitcher to have a longer stride which can increase speed, however, it also takes more time to get into this position. Pitchers who choose the windup usually have less control over their pitches than pitchers who pitch from the stretch. Pitchers that are pitching from the windup are unable to pick a spot to pitch to which can cause them to have an excess of walks. Pitchers who are pitching from the stretch have better control over their pitches but sacrifice some speed.
The Advantages of Pitching from Stretch
- The stretch position gets the pitcher closer to the batter which can make it harder for a batter to see the rotation of the ball. This is especially effective for pitchers who have a curveball or any other pitch that seems to curve as it reaches home plate.
- When pitching from the stretch, a pitcher has more momentum going toward home plate allowing him/her to release the ball sooner. This can be a huge advantage on a fastball pitcher because of how fast they can release their pitches from that position.
The Disadvantages of Pitching from Stretch
- Pitchers who choose to pitch from the stretch have less momentum toward home plate giving batters more time to get ready for the incoming pitch.
- Pitchers pitching from the stretch are used to seeing batters stand in a certain box, but when pitchers are pitching from the windup they have to constantly change their arm angles because batters stand at different spots. This causes pitchers that pitch from the stretch more often to struggle with this transition.
Overall, pitching from either the windup or the stretch has advantages and disadvantages depending on what type of pitcher a player is.
Tips for Easier Pickoff of Runners from the Stretch in Baseball
Picking off runners is one of the most difficult skills to master in baseball. Even catchers have to do it, so everyone should be concerned about how they play certain situations. One often neglected area for improvement is the stretch position coming off the mound.
- The first thing you need to understand about pickoff play at 1B is the importance of the play. It is probably second only to keeping runners close on tags at 1B or in a rundown.
- When runners are on base every pitch is important, and having to cover on pickoffs can hurt your pitching performance and lead to runs scored.
- Finally, many runners don’t bother running if they think you have good pickoff skills.
So what are some of the keys to being a good pickoff man?
1. Use your arm speed. This seems obvious but is often forgotten when you get in trouble on the mound or have had a rough stretch of games. When you start rushing your motion, it’s easy to lose control of the ball and start bouncing everything in there or throwing a sidearm.
Throwing a sidearm is a good way to get your pitch, and later in the game when you’re fatigued it may be better than bouncing the ball in there. However, if you’re trying to throw over, throwing a sidearm will often hurt your ability to control where the ball goes because of its natural momentum.
2. Stay tall on the mound and use your arm speed to get in position to throw quickly and powerfully off the mound. When you’re tired, it’s easy to want to bend over and bear down with your legs (unlike pitching when you’re in a good athletic stance).
3. If you’re clean with your hands, you can get a lot more distance on the ball by cocking your arm and then snapping it forward before you get out of your stance (usually right before lifting off). If you get into this habit, it will become second nature and you’ll see an immediate increase in inaccuracy. This is exactly how catchers throw down to 2nd base, and the same technique can be applied to our position.
4. Remember that this is often called a delayed steal, so keep your head up for batted balls or wild pitches until you see the ball leave the ground. These means don’t let your eyes wander around in the dugout or check out what’s going on behind home plate. It seems simple, but many pitchers are guilty of this all the time.
5. Work on being able to field your position cleanly and make a strong accurate throw without bouncing it in there or throwing a sidearm. This doesn’t mean working every pickoff play as if you’re trying to turn two or wasting energy by making an off-balance throw. However, pickoffs are a common occurrence in a game and if you’re going to play good defense at every position, it would be a good idea to work on this as much as possible so when the situation comes up you can make it look easy.
6. Make sure your first baseman knows how to field the ball properly. The first baseman’s job is to catch it cleanly and make a strong throw to prevent the runner from advancing or getting back to 1B. If the ball bounces in front of you, let it go by. It will hurt your timing to try and pick up this bad hop like you would on certain ground balls where there is no play at 1B.
Often this is the easiest way since you’ll have more time to get in position for a throw. If you’re not in a good enough athletic stance to field it cleanly, then put your head down and turn around looking for where the ball lands to make an accurate throw-off balance. Both the pitcher and the 1B must understand this.
7. Finally, remember to keep your head up after you release the ball. Do not look at the basepath or immediately start jogging toward 1B (unless you’re already in motion). You need to be strong about staying tall on the mound and moving quickly toward where you think the ball is going to land so you can get in a good throwing position and make the throw as accurately as possible.
Get some practice throws during batting practice! No matter how your team sets up their defensive drills, find a way to take at least 5 or 10 minutes before each game to pick off somebody that is not paying attention. This is a skill that can be very easily improved in just a few minutes of practice, and when you get good at this, your infield defense will thank you.
Stay aware of when the double play is likely to happen and work on controlling your movement and accuracy toward 2nd base no matter where you’re located on the mound: left side, right side, or straight over the top.
Pitchers pitch from the stretch to control the running game, but some other important reasons go beyond just preventing base-stealers.
By consistently pitching from the stretch, you can improve your arm speed, accuracy, coordination, and positioning between your release point and fielding position. All of these benefits will allow you to throw more strikes, throw with more velocity and control, and play better defense.