A pickoff occurs between pitches when a pitcher throws a ball to a fielder, who eventually puts out or assists in retiring an opposing baserunner. An illegal pickoff attempt results in a balk.
When a pitcher throws to a base between pitches in an attempt to get an out or keep a runner close to the base, it's known as a pickoff attempt. Pickoff attempts are generally used to keep baserunners close to the bag, so they don't get a big lead before attempting to steal a base. Most pickoff attempts do not reach the fielder in time for him to tag out the runner, but certain pitchers possess better pickoff moves than others.
Left-handers, for instance, are generally much better at picking off runners than righties, because most pickoff attempts occur at first base. Lefties are facing first base before they pitch and can simply throw over, while right-handers must step off the pitching rubber and pivot before they throw. However, some right-handers have mastered the art of picking up their foot while spinning toward first.
A team will sometimes use a pickoff move as a stall tactic to get another pitcher in the bullpen warmed up. Or, a team can also use a pickoff move to see if the hitter tips his hand as to whether he intends to bunt.
Watch: Wade Miley picks off Matt Holliday at first base.
In A Call
"picked," "nabbed," "caught off the base," "caught napping"