A pitchout is when a pitch is thrown outside the batter’s box so the hitter cannot reach it. This allows the catcher to essentially stand up to receive the ball and be in position to throw out a base runner attempting to steal. If the base runner does not go, then it is simply a ball, and the offense is aware of the defense trying to throw out the runner.
The pitchout is an effective way to control an opposing team’s running game. It allows the pitcher to be quicker to the plate while having a bigger target to throw to. This also gives the catcher a clearer throwing lane and puts him in a better spot to throw from. When thrown correctly, there is almost no way a hitter can make contact without leaving the batter’s box or throwing the bat at the ball.
Another use of the pitchout is an intentional walk. Major League catchers will stand up with their arm reached out to signal the pitchout. The pitcher intentionally throws a ball far outside of the strike zone and typically outside the batter’s box. The upside is the intended result of putting the hitter on base; the downside is if a pitcher can’t throw accurately to the catcher. It happens!
Some pitchers have a hard time throwing more softly to a standing catcher. Rather than staying fluid with a regular motion, they slow everything down to throw softer. This can be disastrous and result in a wild pitch allowing runners to advance and runs to score, negating the original purpose of the pitchout.
Despite the horror stories of a pitchout, the purpose is generally successful. In the case of defending against a base runner, it gives the catcher a better chance to throw him out, or prevents the runner from attempting to steal in the first place. In the case of an intentional walk, it puts a hitter on base to set up a double play or allows the manager to set up a better pitching matchup.
Ever seen a great pitchout? Have a favorite “pitchout gone wrong” story? Let us know in the comments!