Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bases Loaded, Two Outs, Three-Two Count

When I was younger, I always felt more comfortable pitching out of the windup than the stretch. Although I never did it on purpose, I wasn’t really upset if the ball skipped away from my catcher with a runner on second base. The runner would move to third and I would get to throw from the windup. 

Once I reached the professional level, not only was I more comfortable out of the stretch, but I realized it is beneficial to continue to pitch out of the stretch with a runner on third base. 

Most coaches I have been around, myself included, don’t mind if a pitcher throws out of the windup with a runner on third base. If a pitcher feels more comfortable or more confident, by all means I want to put him in a position to succeed.  

If there are runners on first base and third base, this obviously wouldn’t work as the runner on first would steal. But the situation does come into effect with runners on second base and third base or if the bases are loaded. 

There is however one situation when pitching out of the windup isn’t smart – when the bases are loaded, there are two outs and the batter has a three balls, two strike count. 

In this situation, the runners should be moving as soon as the pitcher commits to home. There are only three things that can happen offensively – an out, a walk or a hit – so it doesn’t make sense for the runners to stand on the base and wait for the outcome. They get a head start. 

As a pitcher, you want to limit the advantage the runners get. That is why you throw this pitch from the stretch. If you throw the three-two pitch from the windup, by the time the ball is in the hitting zone, the runner from first is close to second base. An out or a walk doesn’t hurt you, but a base hit does. 

With the runners moving at the start of the pitcher’s movement, any base hit, from either the stretch or windup, will score the runners from third and second base. 

If you were throwing from the windup, there is a chance that the runner from first can score on a single. More than likely he is going to end up on third base, but I have witnessed the runner from first base score on a single several times.

Pitching from the stretch will prevent the runner from scoring and could hold him at second depending on where and how hard a ball is hit. 

Now, I understand the argument that if the pitcher is extremely more comfortable out of the windup than the stretch, shouldn’t you have confidence in your pitcher in getting the hitter out? Then you wouldn’t have to worry about any base runners. 

And I agree. As I mentioned before, I want to put players in a position to succeed. But if a pitcher is only slightly more comfortable in the windup, it makes sense to pitch out of the stretch.

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