Bullpen sessions do not simulate the feeling of pitching late in a tight game with a fast runner on first base looking to get into scoring position. When you are focused on being quick to the plate and holding runners close, your attention can gravitate more towards the runner than the hitter. This is a whole different situation than commanding pitches in the comfort of the bullpen.
Good base-runners can wreak havoc on timing, tempo, and rhythm in a game situations. There is such a small margin for error on release points of the ball in pitching, the smallest amount of rushing towards the plate can cause you to loose command or leave the ball up in the Danger Zone.
You almost always make the most important pitches of the game from the stretch, very rarely does the solo home run beat you. That being said, you also have to recognize who is a threat to run and whether the game situation calls for you to pay close attention to runners.
Below we have listed some general rules of when to:
Pay Attention to Runners
- Late in a tight game with good base-runner on first
- In bunt situations, cut down secondary leads
- Lead off batter gets on base in a close game
- In off speed counts with good base-runner on
- With 1 out and a good base-runner on second
- When your catcher struggles throwing runners out
- When you can't get the ball to the plate in under 1.3 seconds
Focus on the hitter
- When you have a big lead or are way behind
- When the runner is slow
- When you have 2 strikes on the hitter and 2 outs in the inning
- When you slide step or are very quick to the plate
- When you're struggling with command
- With bases loaded, second and third, or third base occupied
When throwing bullpens in practice make sure to spend an equal amount of time pitching out of the stretch. Concentrate on changing the amount of time you come to the set position so the base-runner cannot time you and get a great jump. Work on being quick to the plate on pitches where you are paying close attention to the runner and then take a little more time getting the pitch away when you're focusing on the hitter. Simulate looks towards base-runners when throwing pens.