The Importance of PFP’s in Baseball
Many people question the importance of pitcher fielding practice or PFP’s. Some individuals have the perception that pitchers should only focus on throwing strikes, and getting outs. Some even hold the view that pitchers are not athletes; and they need to get out of the way and let the “real athletes” field the ball. This is a great view in theory, however, the pitcher plays a vital role once the baseball is put in play.
Knowing where to be, and what to do once the ball is put in play is important for all fielders. It is equally important for pitchers. Pitchers cover a lot of ground once the ball is put in play. If a pitcher thinks that throwing strikes and getting outs is their only job, they are incredibly mistaken. Pitchers have to: cover first on ground balls to the right side, back up throws coming from the outfield, and play pivotal roles in bunt defenses.
PFP’s have become increasingly popular at the collegiate and professional levels. Upper-level baseball players and coaches understand that situations in which pitchers are required to field the baseball can win, and lose baseball games. Collegiate programs spend several hours a week working on: bunt defenses, bag coverage, and backing up throws from the outfield. Professional baseball stresses the importance of PFP’s during their spring training.
Pitchers need to routinely work on attacking a bunt quickly, but under control. They need to fine-tune their skills in covering first base; and taking the correct angle to get to the bag. Pitchers must take pride in backing up throws from the outfield, because this can save runs due to errant throws. Pitchers need to take satisfaction in fielding, and throwing the baseball, and commit to practicing these skills. More often than not the situations in which pitchers are called upon to become fielders are critical to the game.
Youth athletes need to learn these skills early on. Youth coaches need to be able to teach these skills to their players. This is a huge part of the game of baseball that gets ignored. Our youth sports programs need to prepare athletes for the next level by introducing these principles. This will allow our youth and high-school athletes the opportunity to be well rounded, and prepared for the next level.
Michael Fulmer from the Detroit Tigers gave us a good example of how important PFP’s are in his very brief start on Saturday September,15th. He gave up back-to-back home-runs on 5 thrown pitches. Manager Ron Gardenhire stated that, Fulmer may have twisted his knee while trying to field a bunt attempt by Lindor. Fulmer’s ensuing pitches after the bunt attempt were only 91 mph. This led to back-to-back home-runs by Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley, from the Cleveland Indians. Fulmer was pulled after only throwing five pitches due to an injury later identified as an inflamed knee. We know that PFP’s are carried out routinely in spring training. However, how often are these players performing drills requiring them to get off the mound quickly during the year? Could Fulmer’s injury have been prevented with more routine PFP movements?