Cause Bad Nightmares For Your Opponents

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

STILLWATER, Okla. — The goal of every coach is to shut down the opponent’s offense so no runs score.

Rob Walton, one of the elite pitching coaches in college baseball at Oklahoma State, has made this subject his life’s work.

He pitched at Oklahoma State in the mid-1980s and also in the Baltimore Orioles’ organization. Then he became area supervisor for the Cleveland Indians and assistant coach and head coach at Oral Roberts from 1999-2012 before becoming the pitching coach at Oklahoma State for the past eight years.

At every step, he has studied the game as few have to find out how to stop runs from scoring.

His plan of action is intriguing.

“Pitchers not only have to slow down the running game of opponents by keeping runners close to bases and picking them off. But your infielders and outfielders must limit runners to one base at a time.

“Whether the third base coach makes the decision to hold a runner or send him home will be dictated on when the defender in the outfield is touching the ball and where he is. With good scouting information, our infielders can catch more ground balls hit up the middle and in the holes. Then we are more likely to have the third base coach stop the runner at third instead of sending him home.

“One year when I was at Oral Roberts, we had 16 more assists than the year before, and our ERA dropped 1.5 runs. However, the pitching numbers as far as strikeout to walk ratio and hits to innings pitched were virtually identical to the year before.

“Another important factor is the slide step in our system. We use it with a runner on first and also with man on second so they can’t get a big secondary lead. We also slide step with runners on third in case the batter wants to safety squeeze. We are trying to create the longest run possible for their offense.

“If we can create the longest run for a base runner and can close distance from our fielders, we are forcing our opponents to go one base at a time except for obvious extra base hits.

“We also play ‘do or die’ outfield. The slide step for pitchers is incredibly important in our system. With our pick moves, runners are cautious. Many runners at first base are in that 10-11 foot lead area instead of 12 foot. With a slide step by our pitchers, they aren’t really expanding leads.

“It then allows us to have more double plays. On base hits, runners at first trying to go to third and are getting thrown out left and right.

“The second thing that happens is that runners from second base can’t score on a base hit with our outfield positioning. They usually stop at third. We will either throw them out at home or the third base coach will stop them because the outfielder is too close to the plate.

“By slide stepping and playing fast in the outfield, it completely changed our dynamic. Our pitchers really bought into it because they saw runners stop at third often. Then they would strike out the next guy, and the inning was over. They should have given up a run, and they didn’t.”

To read more of this article, purchase the Sept. 4, 2020 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.