Catcher Meme #41: A Half Effort Block = A Full Run

During Saturday's Pirates/Cardinals game, Pirates' catcher Chris Stewart showed why it is so important to make sure to commit to your decision behind the plate. 

Catchers, you must trust your first instinct and commit to a block if that is what you brain is telling you to do. 

You could make the argument that Fransico Liriano threw a pretty filthy pitch here and that Stewart had little chance to block it. But, you'd be wrong. The moment Stewart's hands started to the ground, he should have initiated an all-out block to the ground. By leaving his chest and left knee up, he gave the ball room to squirt between his arms/legs and it lead to Cardinals' outfielder Brandon Moss scoring from 3B. 

Something to keep in mind...As catchers, we often feel a lot of pressure when there is a runner on 3B. However, of all the situations, it is the one scenario where we actually have more room for error. Think about it, with a runner on 1B a ball that gets anymore than 3 feet away from us is likely to lead to the runner advancing to 2B. Same with a runner on 2B. However, with a runner at 3B, the ball has to actually get by us entirely in order for a runner to justify coming home. The ball could be 10 feet in front of us and the chance that a runner would have enough confidence to try and score is very slim. 

This is why it is so important to remember. When in doubt - Block it out. It you think there's even a small chance a ball might head to the ground. Fire a FULL block. The worst thing that could happen is that you get smacked in the chest protector, or body, by the ball. Something that was going to happen anyway if the ball actually hit the ground. We might as well make whatever effort we give on a pitch like this actually count. 

Don't second guess yourself, and don't fire a half block. Commit as soon as you start moving and always take the safe approach. 

Catcher Meme #40: Remeber, It's a Team game

During the Royals' game last night, backup catcher Drew Butera demonstrated a very valuable lesson for all catchers out there. While Royals' Gold Glove catcher Salvador Perez was getting his gear on, Butera ran in from the bullpen to make sure that Royals' closer Wade Davis had a catcher to warm-up with. 

Catchers, even if you aren't the starter on your team, it is incredibly important that you are still ready to pick up the catcher who is in the lineup when they are stranded on the bases or have made the last out of the inning at the plate. Do not let your pitcher wait to start warming up. If you aren't in the lineup, make sure you have at least your shin guards on at all times so if the situation arises where you are needed to warm-up your pitcher, you can simply grab your gear and get out there!

Catcher Meme #39: Catcher, Be Aggressive

In a game against the Cleveland Indians, Red Sox catcher Christian Vasquez made a very heads up and aggressive play on a swinging bunt by the Indians' shortstop Francisco Lindor. 

Had Vasquez taken any additional time to make the decision to take the play himself, Lidor would have had a very good chance to beat out the throw. Instead, Vasquez's quick actions allowed him to ensure an easy call for the umpire and sent Lindor back to the bench. Also note that he didn't need to, nor could he have afforded the time it would have taken to, take his helmet off during this play. Masks are designed to allow the catcher to see in front of them. It's a waste of time (especially when it comes to the hockey style masks not shown in this clip) to take the mask off before reacting to the play. 

Catchers, make sure you are always aggressive on the field with your actions and your decisions. Don't wait for someone else to tell you what to do or where to go. Make the decision quick, don't waste time taking the helmet off and be aggressive in your approach to the play. Doing so might just be the difference between safe and out. 

Catcher Meme #38: Trust Your First Instinct

Watching a game a few weeks ago, Reds' catcher Devin Mesoraco showed just how important it is to make up your mind as quickly as possible. Mesoraco, was forced to choose whether to make the throw to 2B or 1B after fielding a bunt. 

In situations like this, where we have a decision of where to throw the ball on a bunt, it is imperative to make the decision immediately and live with the consequences. If we take even a moment to hesitate, we risk not only losing the double play, but also the out at 2B too. 

By reading the situation and making the decision quickly, Mesoraco gave his infielder a chance to make a clean throw to 1B to get the double play. 

Catchers, trust your first instinct and go with it. If after the play, you realize it was the wrong decision, you can learn from it and move on. But by not making any decision, you risk a hesitation that could lead to no outs or even worse, an error. 

Catcher Meme #37: When the Runner's Cleats are actually Air Jordans

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Senior captain Kasey McCravey of @ArmyWP_Softball leaps over Lehigh's catcher to score in the Patriot League semifinals.

 

It's not often that you see a play where the catcher gets absolutely posterized and can't really find any fault with their approach to the play. After all, part of my job is to find ways that a catcher could have done something better or different to achieve a more positive result to any particular play or situation.

However, in the case of Lehigh University catcher Carissa Zito, there really wasn't anything she could have done to prevent this play from happening. Sometimes you just have to throw up your hands, tip your cap and say "nice job kid".

Catchers, it's important that you know your own limitations and realize that you can't control everything. Don't let the uncontrollable affect that which you can control. Sometimes you just have to shake it off and move on. 

 

Catcher Meme #36: Need a Hand With That?

Need A Hand With That?

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During last night's game, Red Sox catcher Ryan Hannigan suffered a broken finger after a ball struck Yankees' hitter Mark Teixeira. For everyone who has asked why we teach what we teach in regards to hand placement during and after a pitch with a runner on base....This is why. http://m.mlb.com/video/v97038683/nyybos-hanigan-takes-pitch-off-hand-leaves-game

The hand MUST start out in front of the body before the pitch, behind the glove to prepare to block or throw, and the moment you realize that the pitch is not being thrown in the dirt and a runner is not attempting a steal, you MUST tuck it back to the glove side of your chest protector. Starting the hand anywhere else and leaving it exposed during the pitch increases the risk of getting it hit and injured.

Had Ryan Hannigan kept his hand behind his glove and drawn it back to his chest protector last night, he might still have a job when he returns from surgery on his broken finger. This one simple mistake has lead to the Red Sox promoting the most heralded catching prospect in all of baseball and the Sox "catcher of the future" in Blake Swihart. Hannigan will most likely find playing time scarce when he returns. All because he didn't keep his hand protected.

Now Hannigan is making $3.5MM this year, so I have a feeling he'll be okay. But this is for any of you catchers who aren't making 7-figures this season...

We don't harp on this for the sake of filling time during our camps/lessons. We harp on this because the risk of injury is real and we want every catcher who wishes to achieve great things behind the plate to be able to do so. Tough to accomplish your dreams when you have a cast on your throwing hand.

Catchers, "No man's land" is not an acceptable location for your hand. Protect your hand so you can continue to play the game we all love.

FYI, coaches, this is NOT a reason to force your catchers to keep the hand behind their body. The moment a pitch is thrown into the dirt, or the moment a runner takes off, that hand WILL come out from behind them and be even more exposed than Hannigan's was. 

Catcher Meme #35: Newsflash! Picture Frames Don't Move

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Happy Opening Day everyone! Hope you all are enjoying all the games as much as I have!

For this year's first #NECCCATCHERMEME, I thought I'd address something we get asked all of the time. Something that tends to be a point of contention and causes a bit of controversy and confusion among catchers, parents and coaches who have listened to us describe the skills that we teach. In particular, the receiving skill.

I want to make this abundantly clear....I absolutely, without a doubt, 150%, HATE the term FRAMING. I. FREAKING. HATE. IT!

"Well Jay, all I hear about on TV and from coaches in the game is how good the best catchers in the world are at "framing". What on earth are you talking about?"

What I am talking about is very simple. In fact, it could be called semantics, but I am not going to stop there.

Do we teach what we believe to be the most effective way for a catcher to present the pitch to an umpire? Yes. Do we teach the catchers to receive each pitch in a certain way, depending on where the ball crossed the plate in an effort to allow an umpire to call it a strike? Yes. Do we in any way advocate moving the glove after the ball has hit it in an effort to fool an umpire into calling a pitch a strike? NO CHANCE! Why, you might ask? It's simple, IT DOESN'T WORK! Ball hits the catcher's glove, the umpire sees it hit the glove, the umpire hears it hit the glove and then the glove moves. Umpires are NOT blind deaf or dumb.

The quieter a catchers glove, the more borderline calls that catcher will get. The more movement the glove makes, the more it looks to an umpire that the catcher thought a pitch needed to be helped back into the zone. If a pitch needed help, how on earth could it have been called a strike? Simple, it couldn't have. And that is the conclusion most umpires will arrive at as well.

Now you might be under the impression that you've been taught the same thing....to not move your glove after the ball hits it. And for a lot of you, that skill of receiving has been taught to you as framing. After all a picture frame doesn't move, right? You are most definitely right. So why don't we refer to what we teach as framing? Because the majority of people in the games of baseball and softball believe that the skill of framing is a catcher's ability to turn a ball into a strike. That is simply not what we advocate, nor do we ever want there to be any confusion with what we teach.

So, will we ever describe what we teach as framing? Most likely not. We teach "proper receiving". If the games started to widely adopt the understanding that moving your glove after the ball hits it and trying to "steal strikes" just doesn't accomplish anything, only then would we consider changing our terminology.

Until then... #DEATHTOFRAMING

Thanks for reading! Please LIKE and SHARE if you enjoyed reading this! And keep an eye out for future posts like this during the whole Spring and Summer where we will break down the catcher's position at the highest levels in ways that will help all you catchers out there understand how to make yourself into a better player.

Catcher Meme #34: Big Leaguers Don't Always Do It Better

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Yesterday, during an ALCS clinching win, Kansas City Royals' SS Alcides Escobar scored the go ahead run in the bottom of the 1st inning after Orioles' catcher Caleb Joseph made one of the cardinal sins during a play at home plate. With plenty of time to secure the ball with two hands, he instead tried a sweep-tag, and never quite controlled the ball in his glove. The ball squirted out before Escobar ever made contact with Joseph's glove (may have been able to knock it loose anyway), leading to the first run of the game.

Catchers, this is a prime example why it doesn't matter what you see your favorite MLB catcher do....often, their approach is NOT the best approach. And in a situation like this, it cost the Orioles greatly.

As a catcher we are so hands-on during every pitch/play that we have to do everything we can to minimize any negative affect on our team and the outcome of a game. Don't let a preventable mistake be the reason your team leaves the ballpark without the "W". USE TWO HANDS!

On a side note, congrats to the Royals and the city of Kansas City on their incredible run.

Catcher Meme #33: Don't Be Afraid To Wait

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During yesterday's game against the Tigers, Pirates' catcher Russell Martin demonstrated the perfect approach to a run down between 3B and home plate.

Tigers' DH Victor Martinez hit a sharp comebacker to Pirates' pitcher Edison Volquez, who made an incredible behind the back snag. He immediately fired to home once he saw that Tigers' 2B Ian Kinsler had taken off for the plate.

Martin played it perfectly, running Kinsler back up the line, making a few gentle pump-fakes with the ball to get Kinsler to stop in his tracks and head back towards 3B.

The best part of this play in my opinion was how far he pushed up the line to make sure that Kinsler was constantly moving towards 3B. Instead of his last pump-fake, Martin could have made the throw to 3B and they would have likely recorded the out anyway, but Martin saw Kinsler put on the breaks and direct his momentum towards home plate. So, instead of forcing the play back in the direction of the plate, Martin held onto the ball and proceeded to make the tag himself.

If Kinsler was going to be safe, it wasn't going to be at home. That is what Martin guaranteed with his heads-up play.

I see so many catchers anxious to get rid of the ball and they immediately throw to 3B once they see the runner break back to the bag. The problem is that it will almost always take longer for the ball to get to 3B than it will for the runner to change direction and head for home.

We always want the play moving away from home plate. That way, if the runner does evade a tag, they aren't adding a run to the board in the process.

Catchers, push the play towards 3B and away from home plate. If the runner makes it back, at least they didn't score and you've given your team a chance to get out of the inning unscathed.

Catcher Meme #32: Be Aware, Be Very Aware

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During last night's game against the Diamondbacks, Rockies' catcher Mike McKenry made a fatal, but extremely preventable error.

Throughout the game McKenry's throws back to the pitcher became predictable, with each one getting more and more casual.

The D-Backs took notice, and David Peralta took full advantage in the 7th inning in a relatively close game. The second McKenry began his lob back to the pitcher, Peralta bolted for the plate, giving Rockies' pitcher Rex Brothers little to no chance of getting the ball back to the plate in time to prevent the run from scoring.

I don't think McKenry was being lazy, but I also don't think he was using his head at all.

Catcher's, if there are runners on base it is your job to make sure they know you're paying attention to them after each pitch. Otherwise, something like this can and WILL happen.

Make a point to give them a quick look after each pitch, and make sure your throw back to the pitcher is a firm one. No, we don't want the ball heading back to the pitcher harder than it was thrown to you, but do not lob the ball back to the pitcher. A firm, but accurate, throw will do just fine. That should prevent an embarrassing situation like this from ever happening to you.

Catcher Meme #31: Get A Grip

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While taking my sister to her first MLB game last night I unfortunately got to witness Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski's inability to get the ball into his throwing hand during stolen base attempts by the Twins' Brian Dozier and Sam Fuld.

In the interest of full disclosure - Ruby De La Rosa's delivery time to home plate wasn't doing A.J. any favors. He was getting the ball to from the mound to the glove in about 1.5 seconds. That is slow if you want any chance of throwing out two exceptionally speedy runners.

Both Dozier and Fuld got decent jumps and made it from 1B to 2B in about 3.4 seconds. That means that in order for Pierzynski to to have a shot to throw either of them out he would have needed to get the ball from his glove to 2B in under 1.9 seconds. Something that Pierzynski does NOT do regularly. This likely caused A.J. to rush the throw a bit and likely contributed to a mishandled transfer.

All that being said, there is no guarantee that either runner wouldn't have tripped, slid past the bag, slid over the bag or done something else that would have given the infielder at 2B an opportunity to get the out. Those things happen all of the time in baseball and softball. But they definitely don't happen when the ball is sitting on the ground behind the catcher because of issues with the transfer.

At the end of the day, we as catchers have to get the ball into the air and see what happens. Will there be situations that require us to try to speed everything up in an effort to have a shot at the runner? Absolutely! But that doesn't mean that we should rush the most important part of the throw - the exchange.

Something I have begun telling my students is to throw from your glove. You don't need to separate your hands until you are actually beginning the process of throwing. So while you are standing up, getting your body turned, sliding the right foot underneath your center of gravity, you could be making sure that you have a good four-seam grip on the ball. It isn't wasting time if you are doing it while you are completing all of the other steps of the throw that have to happen before you start the load into your throwing motion.

Focus on making the exchange with both hands coming together in the middle of your body. Gain control of the ball first as you are standing up.

Catchers, you can't throw anybody out if you don't have the ball!

Catcher Meme #30: Use Two Hands!

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In today's Indians/Orioles game, Indians' catcher Carlos Santana had a perfect opportunity to record an inning-ending out at home plate after a great throw by Indians' OF Michael Brantley, but because he tried to make this tag with just his glove, the ball was knocked free on a relatively innocent hook-slide by Orioles' OF Nelson Cruz.

There is absolutely no reason this shouldn't have been an out.

Catchers, can't really put it any simpler than this....

USE. TWO. HANDS!

Immediately after catching the ball, secure the ball with all five fingers of your throwing hand. Keeping the hands together and then make the tag.

Had Carlos Santana used this approach, the score and possibly the outcome of this game may have been different.

Catcher Meme #29: It's Out Hunting Season!

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Last night during the Pirates/Yankees game, Yanks' catcher Chris Stewart made a beautiful throw in the 1st inning to pickoff Yankees' OF Brett Gardner.

With only one out and a runner on 3B, Stewart stealing this out from the Yankees likely changed the course of the game.

Catchers, look for the outs the other team is giving you! Stewart never hesitated, he may have even made the decision to throw before the pitch was ever delivered. He was confident is his ability and he made a great throw.

He was willing to take the risk of making an error in exchange for stripping the Yankees of a chance to score a very important run (Pirates won the game 5-3).

Catchers, it's out hunting season!

Special thanks to All-Star Sporting Goods for the heads up on this play! Check out the best gear on the planet at www.all-starsports.com.

Catcher Meme #28: Don't Make A Mountain Out Of A Mole Hill

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A couple of days ago, I was watching the Brewers Vs. Pirates game. Eighth inning, 1 out, 3-2 count, 0-0 game, Gaby Sanchez facing Will Smith in a pretty important late game situation.

Will Smith got Gaby Sanchez to chase strike three in the dirt and, although Brewers' catcher Jonathan Lucroy did a fairly decent job of getting his body in from of the ball, it ricocheted away from him towards the first base dugout.

Lucroy immediately sprinted towards the ball, drove his hand into the ground over top of the ball, picked it up and threw a strike to Brewers' first baseman Mark Reynolds for the out. No harm, no foul.

However, all too often while watching games at the youth, high school and even the college levels, I see catchers turn what is indeed a difficult turn of events into a huge problem. I can't tell you the number of times I have seen balls get by catchers, that they know they should have blocked, and instead of hustling to get the ball they are overcome by a moment of self-pity. I'll see them swear at themselves, or let out a loud grunt of anger, all the while they could be up off the ground looking for the ball to minimize the damage.

Catchers, while we must have a righteous swagger on the field and bring a level of intensity with us in order to perform the duties of our job well, do not let your emotions get the best of you!

Lucroy made a mistake, but he didn't sit around to find out how bad it could become. He busted his butt to make sure that the only difference between what he wanted to have happen and what actually did happen was that he had to work just a little bit harder.

Catcher Meme #26

Block Much?

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One of the things that has always frustrated me is to watch catchers in the big leagues making mistakes that aren't acceptable in high school, let alone in the show.

Dioner Navarro of the Toronto Blue Jays made not one, but three of the same inexcusable mistake in the same inning.

On three occasions in the bottom of the 8th inning of last night's game against the Twins, Navarro made almost no attempt to block pitches in the dirt with a runner on 3rd base.

The first time? I get it...you made a mistake. Learn from it, make the adjustment, make sure it never happens again. But to let it happen twice more, in the same sticking inning? Absolutely reprehensible.

How could he have fixed this problem after the first pitch got by him you might ask? For one, he could have been in a stance which would have allowed him to fulfill his responsibilities at the time. He was in a deep nobody-on-base stance that gave him no opportunity to adequately get his body in front of the ball should it head for the ground. His feet needed to be wider, hips up higher and his upper body should have been leaning forward a bit to create a better angle for the ball to hit after he got to the ground. That didn't happen.

The second thing he could have done is to at least try to send his body in front of the ball rather than trying to backhand pick the pitch off the ground. Navarro didn't even make an attempt to get to the ground and stop the ball with his body.

My cell phone blew up last night the moment this happened. From HS students to some of my pro clients, they couldn't understand how a guy "earning" $3 MILLION this year makes this type of mistake! Neither could I.

Catchers, don't let this be you. If you have trouble with this skill during games, you need to know that practice is the only thing that will help (as long as it's NOT rapid fire drills).

Remember, someone paid good money for the gear that you use, it's your job to PUT IT TO USE! Put in the work and give your pitchers confidence to throw the ball in the dirt.

Catcher Meme #25

Don't Think Just Throw

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While watching the Twins vs. Indians game today, there was a play I thought deserved to be the first instructional meme of the year.

With one out in the 3rd inning, runners on 1B and 3B and our friend Chris Colabello at the plate, Chris topped a pretty nasty Justin Masterson sinker straight into the ground in front of Indians' catcher Yan Gomes.

Gomes hustled out in front of home plate and quickly fielded the ball. Knowing that if he had any chance of turning a double play, he had to immediately throw the ball to 2B. One problem, though, neither of the infielders covered the bag, the throw sailed straight through to the OF and the run scored.

This is something I see a ton of every year. At All levels. And it is often one of the situations where a catcher will take some heat from a coach for letting the ball go without any fielder there to catch it.

Catchers, DON'T THINK, JUST THROW! While there is definitely something to be said for playing the game smart, it is important that we realize it is NOT our job to wait for the infielders to get to the bag. It is our job to make the read and make the decision to throw to 2B or throw to 1B.

In this case, Gomes was absolutely right in his read. He saw an opportunity to get out of the inning right there and then, and you know what? The ball beat the runner to the bag and it should have been a double play. The Indians' infielders can be seen casually making their way to the bag, with SS Mike Aviles even going as far as almost coming to a complete stop 10 feet before the bag.

Unfortunately, despite the infielder's mistake, this error will be credited to Gomes, but I GUARANTEE you that Gomes would tell you that he would make that exact same throw if given the opportunity to do it over. It was the right read, right decision and the right throw. Unfortunately for the Indians, it was the wrong result.

Catcher Meme #24

Don't Sell Yourself Short

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Haven't done one of these in a while, so what better time than the day after an ALDS clinching game!

In the top of the 7th inning of last night's ALDS Game 4 matchup between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay catcher Jose Lobaton failed to block a pitch which led to Boston's first run of the night.

Lobaton started to move in the right direction by sending his hands forward up to the ball. However, the sequence in which he gets his glove to the ground and the fact that his body doesn't really follow is what cost his team the run.

Lobaton starts his hands forward, as we want to when attempting to block an off-speed pitch. However, they were the only part of his body that really made any progress into the ball. His knees comes almost straight down and his chest stays back as a result. This allows the ball to change direction once it skips up his outreached glove. Because his body is not right up against his hands, the ball is able to sneak off to his right.

The other issue is that his throwing hand never actually goes with the glove to the ground. The hand stays back, pressed against his hip, which forces the arm back behind his body. Take a look at the third screen shot in the image...his left arm is covering the space off to his left, while his right arm is behind his body, giving him no room for error.

If his throwing hand had shot to the ground before the glove, at the very least his throwing forearm would have been in front of his body, flared off to the right, and there is a much better chance the ball hits his arm and stays in front of him.

Catchers, no matter what kind of pitch, your hands should always move first. The throwing hand, needing to get behind the glove to stay protected, should always go first. By sending the throwing hand first you also ensure that both arms are evenly flared out from your chest, thus covering more space during a block.

You body then needs to always follow your hands. The type of pitch will dictate where your hands go (on a fastball they should drive straight down to the ground as the knees replace the feet; on an off-speed pitch they should move forward out to the ball to cut down the chance of a ball changing direction and getting by you), but our body has to follow them immediately so that our chest gets out over top of the ball. Otherwise, waiting to get your body behind the ball or your arms set properly could result in you giving up a costly run just like the Rays did last night.

Catcher Meme #23

What's Better Than One Out?

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In the games of baseball and softball, we can take a look at the box score after the last pitch has been thrown and not have a complete understanding of the actual events that shaped the game. Often forgotten are the small mistakes that players make which either did or could have affected the outcome of a game.

For instance, last week in a game against the Oakland A's, Baltimore Orioles catcher and Gold Glover Matt Wieters made one of those mistakes. Now the Orioles ended up losing the game by one, but in the fourth inning of a game no team has been guaranteed a win or loss.

In the fourth inning of the game with one out, A's third baseman Josh Donaldson topped a pitch directly into the ground, right on top of home plate. A swinging bunt if you will. With a runner on first base, and the ball at rest so close to the catcher, this will often end up in a 2-6-3 double-play.

Wieters, however, attempted to pick the ball up with one hand and in the process failed to secure the ball. The misstep cost him an opportunity to take out the lead runner and he was only able to throw Donaldson out at 1B. Now, the next batter in the inning grounded out to SS, but a single is all it would have taken to tie the game. All because of one mishandled swinging bunt.

Catchers, are there going to be situations where you aren't going to have time to field the ball on the ground with two hands, raking the ball into your glove to guarantee that it ends up firmly gripped by your throwing hand like this play by Phillies' catcher Erik Kratz (http://wapc.mlb.com/play?content_id=30081841)? Absolutely! But should that be our default approach to this play? Not a chance.

If Wieters had gone to the ground with two hands and secured the ball, he has more than enough time to use his cannon of an arm to throw the runner out at 2B (you can see in the photo that the runner is still about 4 feet away from the bag when Wieters finally starts his throw to 1B).

Catcher Meme #22

Ready Or Not, Here It Comes

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Since  #NECCSUMMERCAMP season got into full swing up here, there have been some great catcher plays in MLB. None of which more impressive than Yankees' catcher Chris Stewart's pop-up catch and throw earlier this week. This play was absolutely textbook in both approach and execution.

Stewart, seeing the ball go straight up, immediately took off his mask and kept it in his hand as he turned his back to the infield and settled underneath the ball. Once he spotted the ball at the wall, he ditched his mask and made the amazing catch while falling into the stands.

If that weren't enough, Stewart demonstrated exactly how every catcher should approach this play, he immediately looked for another out. He didn't wait for his infielder, 2B Robinson Cano to get to the bag, he just fired and nailed Red Sox OF Daniel Nava at 2B.

What Stewart did on this play is something that we preach to every one of our catchers. Always look to steal an out from the other team and when you find one for the taking, do not wait for the infielder to cover the bag or hesitate to make the throw. Let it rip! It is our infielders job to know that if a runner is running to or from their bag, expect the catcher to make the throw. When everyone does their job, great plays happen.

Catcher Meme #21

Be Careful For What You Wish For

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1026039_592982084080253_1848107007_o

Last night's All-Star Game was definitely a special one, but we can never stop learning from the game we all love. During the ninth inning of the game, Royals' All-Star catcher Salvador Perez called for Texas Rangers' All-Star Closer Joe Nathan to throw an 0-2 breaking pitch in the dirt in an attempt to get Cardinals' All-Star 2B Matt Carpenter to fish at it.

Perez placed the back of his glove on the ground, signaling to Nathan that he wanted to ball in the dirt, out of reach from Carpenter's bat.

Nathan did exactly what Perez asked him to do and threw a great pitch breaking down and out of the strikezone, directly at the spot on the ground that Perez had placed his glove prior to the delivery. Perez got his glove to the ground, but never came close to firing the block at all, let alone on time. Now, can some of this be chalked up to a catcher not being familiar with the movement of an opposing pitcher's breaking stuff? A little I suppose. But it doesn't take away from the fact that he asked for a pitch in the dirt and that is what he got. A very blockable pitch in the dirt I might add.

Catchers, nobody is saying that you are catching a pitcher with the arsenal of Joe Nathan every game (though, some of you might be), but it is important to remember that how you handle the pitches in the dirt that you ask for is going to significantly affect how that pitcher locates throughout the game. If you can't sell out on a pitch in the dirt when you told your pitcher to throw it there, then how on earth can we expect them to be comfortable throwing it there again or throwing a pitch even remotely close to that height during the game.

If your pitcher is afraid to throw the ball low in the dirt, they're going to pitch to the middle of the zone more often. That will lead to hitters making better contact, and better contact very often results in less outs.

We need to give our pitcher the confidence to throw the ball in the dirt, especially when we ask for it. If you ask your pitcher to throw the ball there, don't be surprised when they actually do.