In baseball, a pickoff is an act by a pitcher, throwing a live ball to a fielder so that the fielder would tag out a baserunner who is either leading off or about to begin stealing the next base. A pickoff attempt occurs when this throw is made in an attempt to make such an out or, more commonly, to "keep the runner close" by making it clear that the pitcher is aware and concerned with the runner's actions. A catcher may also attempt to throw runners out who likewise "stray too far" from their bases after a pitch; this can also be called a pickoff attempt. A runner who is picked off is said to have been caught napping, especially if he made no attempt to return to his base.
A pickoff move is the motion the pitcher goes through in making this attempt; some pitchers have better pickoff moves than others. Pitchers in professional baseball use the pickoff move often, perhaps several times per game or even per inning if speedy baserunners reach base. Pitchers with more confidence in their ability to eliminate batters directly via strikeouts or flyouts use fewer pickoff attempts, such as Johan Santana. In lower-skilled amateur games, the pickoff move is less common due to the potential for an error if the pitcher throws wild or the fielder fails to make the catch. In youth leagues that don't allow leading off, such as Little League and Cal Ripken League, the need for a pickoff move is eliminated.
When there is a baserunner on, the pitcher will pitch from the set, one of the pitching positions. For this example we will say the runner is on first base. From the set position the pitcher can still see the baserunner out of the corner of his eye, if it is a right handed pitcher. If it is a left handed pitcher then the pitcher has a clear view of the baserunner because of the way they are standing on the pitcher's mound. If it is a right-handed pitcher there is only one main method of this pickoff move. This involves a quick shuffle of the pitcher's feet to turn towards first base and throw the ball to the first baseman. The first baseman will then attempt to tag out the runner. The left handed pitcher, due to their natural stance and the way they are facing, has multiple moves. The two main methods are called the "snap throw" and "spin move". The snap throw is when the pitcher quickly lifts his back foot behind the pitching rubber and slings the ball to the first baseman. The spin move is when the pitcher lifts his leg like he is going to pitch the ball but then rotates his body toward first and throws the ball. The pitcher will try to vary this move by doing this move while looking at the runner or at the batter, which can be deceiving to the baserunner. The final pickoff move can be done by any pitcher called "third to first" and can only be done if there are baserunners on first and third. This move is very uncommon and not very useful but it's performed by the pitcher attempting to pick off a baserunner at third, stop, spin and throw the ball to first base instead. Former Kansas City Royals right-hander, Steve Busby is credited for popularizing the "third to first" move.
Saddle Brook's Joe Auteri getting back to the bag on a pickoff attempt as Waldwick's Tom Russo takes the throw in Musial action.
Jul 18, 1996; The Record (Bergen County, NJ) 07-18-1996 Saddle Brook's Joe Auteri getting back to the bag on a pickoff attempt as Waldwick'sTom...
North Haledon first baseman Dave Stupinski losing handle on the ball as he applies tag on Waldwick's Dan Mistretta during pickoff attempt Tuesday in North Jersey Majors.
Jul 14, 1993; The Record (Bergen County, NJ) 07-14-1993 North Haledon first baseman Dave Stupinski losing handle on the ball as he appliestag...