Jesse Crain’s Pickoff Move | The Process Report

Jesse Crain’s Pickoff Move

Earlier today, friend of the site Jonah Keri published a short Q&A with James Shields. Among the pickoff-related topics discussed was which pitcher had the best move in the league, to which Shields said Jesse Crain.

Crain is an unusual choice for a few reasons: A) he’s a relief pitcher; b) his career caught-stealing rate against is worse than the league-average (18 percent versus 27 percent); and c) he’s picked off seven baserunners in his career. Yet, in isolating Crain’s pickoff move from the numbers, it does appear Shields is correct in his evaluation of the reliever’s quick feet. Take these two examples, in which Crain nabs Mark Reynolds and—potential future future teammate—David DeJesus at first base.


Watch carefully (or examine the images above) and something should become apparent. In both instances Crain’s front leg moves before he spins and fires. This move is called a knee pop, and it’s lethal for baserunners when umpires aren’t calling it a balk. Crain, for his part, has been charged with three balks, albeit none since 2011. Whenever the right-hander debuts for the Rays—and it should come sooner than later—keep an eye on him and his front leg when someone is on first base.

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