Holding a runner at second base is one of the most misunderstood parts of youth baseball. It makes me cringe when I see a second baseman standing on second base holding a runner in the same manner that a first baseman would. Where did that come from?
How Pitchers Can Hold a Runner
The key to holding a runner at second base mostly rests with the pitcher. Pitchers can do a variety of things to make it more difficult for a baserunner at third to be aggressive and steal third.
- Step off
- Hold the ball to freeze the runner until the batter calls time
- Change looks — Many pitchers look back to second once, then deliver home and do this the same way every time. Have your pitchers look once, look twice, or don’t look at all on various pitches.
- Vary delivery — Not all pitchers at the youth level have a very good slide step, but it’s something that needs to be taught to avoid stealing at a 90%+ rate.
What the Middle Infielders Do
The key for the shortstop and second baseman is to vary their approaches to holding the runner on each pitch. Be aggressive going to the base on one pitch, ignore the runner completely on the next pitch, etc…
But, the best way to keep a runner close at second is to have a good pickoff play and use it early in the game to keep the runner close.
Pickoff Plays to Second
- The second baseman and shortstop need to be together in terms of who is the primary coverage person for holding of the runner. On a right handed hitter, we have the second baseman signal the shortstop as to who is the primary coverage person. Mouth open means you got it; mouth closed means I got it.
- Pick off throws should be chest high to avoid a throw in the dirt that rolls into center field.
- On the daylight play, the shortstop gets daylight behind the runner and wiggles his glove that he wants the pickoff play.
- On the timing play, a verbal or motion signal is given. When the pitcher comes to the set position, he begins to count 1001, 1002, then turns to throw to second. The middle infielder leaves on 1001 and both infielder and ball arrive at 1004.
- You can vary the timing play with a shortstop cut, meaning that the shortstop runs between the runner and second base just before the pitcher makes his move. This will slightly delay the baserunner’s retreat back to the base, just as a pick in basketball does.