Don't Sell Yourself Short
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.