Catcher Meme #31: Get A Grip
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!