Our 2017 series on learning baseball from those who teach it best debuts with this week’s feature on one of baseball’s most underutilized pitches…from University of Dayton pitching coach, Ryne Romick.
By Ryne Romick
Many pitching prospects will arrive on a college campus without really ever working on several areas that make some pitchers so tough to beat: managing the running game and fielding their position. Some teams will win games and knock pitchers out of games who can pitch the baseball extremely well just by exploiting these two huge areas. Most games at the college level boil down to “free 90’s”. These are those extra bases that don’t get lumped into hitting homeruns or getting 4-5 hits in an inning.
We talk on day 1 about there being 3 keys to being a “guy” at UD. This doesn’t mean you’re all-conference, this means we feel like you can be trusted to pitch in any situation if we need to use you. Those three things are very simple:
* Compete in the strike-zone
* Manage the Running Game
* Field Your Position
Most will talk about number one on this list at length but the other two fall by the wayside. Most young players that are good at the last two are good simply because they are athletic enough to overshadow shortcomings in technique. The problem with this is when the heat turns up because of the moment simple technique can save you.
Managing the Running Game:
The first thing to point out is the terminology, which we think is key: “Manage”. We’re not going to “control” or “stop” the running game. Even if we do, it won’t be because that’s where our focus is. Our focus is always on the task at hand, the hitter. We must understand that we don’t use the pick to get outs, those are bonuses for us. We use the pick to manage distance from the bag.
Breaking rhythm and being void of patterns is a huge key to your success in managing a good running game. Any type of patterns and rhythm will allow the opponent to gain a momentous advantage and eliminate any type of chance for even a good catcher to play a role in managing the running game. Base stealers don’t run on the catcher, they steal on pitchers.
At first base, the effectiveness of the pick is also a key to managing distance. If we can keep our pick around 1.0 seconds, we can cut down the comfortable distance of the runner. A small jab with the right foot is key. We use a fence or our outfield wall about 6 inches from our toes in order to keep the footwork small. It’s valuable for the pitchers to think “time of possession”. The tool we use to work on arm action on the pick is a football. Hold the football in the normal “set position” and work picks with a partner. We want Tom Brady arm action, not Tim Tebow on the pick. The ball shouldn’t go down from hand break.
The last thing that is commonly overlooked during even catch play is being “comfortable” holding the baseball in the set position for an extended period of time, 4-5-6 seconds. You can even count out loud. This will feel like an eternity for some pitchers but trust me; it does to a base runner as well. There are great videos online of Max Scherzer in the outfield before a playoff start, without a baseball, working on his holds. If you don’t feel comfortable picking quite a bit, this can be your saving grace against an aggressive running game (i.e. Jon Lester).
Check back next article for Part Two: Fielding Your Position and learn how to become a more complete player on the mound.