Don't Compound Your Own Mistakes
During the Braves vs. Phillies game yesterday I saw one of the game's most highly regarded catchers make one of the most common catching mistakes.
In the sixth inning of a 5-1 ballgame, Atlanta Braves' catcher Brian McCann attempted to block an off-speed pitch in the dirt, but he was late to the ball and it caromed off of his chest protector into foul territory in front of the 1B dugout.
Now, the ball shouldn't have ever gotten away, as McCann never got his glove to the ground and because of that, the ball ricocheted up off the heel of the glove instead of hitting the chest protector flush. Had the ball never struck the glove, it probably stays in front, but McCann was late getting to the ground, didn't lead with his hands and, as a result, the trajectory of the ball was forced out to the side instead of straight down.
Had this been McCann's last mistake the Braves may have been able to keep the game close, but McCann compounded his original mistake with another just as costly.
As he sprinted towards the ball, McCann failed to control his momentum and attempted to pick the ball up while standing. This presents a number of different issues. For one, there is no way to keep our body from falling backwards during this throw. We can't come to a complete stop in time to pick up the ball and get it back to our pitcher covering home. So we are forced to make an off balance throw that will almost always turn into an inaccurate release of the ball towards our target. This is exactly what happened here.
The second issue is that it is very hard to throw level or on a downward plane to home plate while our body is falling backwards. So this throw will almost always be higher than it has to in order to give the pitcher a chance to make a successful tag in the first place.
By sliding on two knees to a ball that gets away from us, we at least can control our momentum to the point where we can make an accurate throw back towards our pitcher at home plate. Not many outs result from this particular play, but we have to make the attempt without costing ourselves a second run from an inaccurate throw like McCann demonstrates here.
Catchers, we aren't magicians, but we can very easily turn one run into two with just a flick of our wrist. Don't compound one mistake by attempting to make a play that has a very small chance of ending in an out and a very large chance in resulting in another run being scored. Stay under control or simply hold onto the ball.