There are so many differing opinions when it comes to technique behind the plate. That much is true. What is also true is that for years the information surrounding the position grew stagnant. Nothing new to report; same 'ole, same 'ole. Complacency of any kind, let alone in the game of baseball or softball, is incredibly maddening to me. After all, I have always tried to seek out "the best way" when it comes to the information we give to our students and clients at every level of the game. So many others are reserved to what they "know" and what worked for them. That approach will stymie informational growth in our game, not stimulate it. We need to look at what we all thought that we knew and question it all at every turn. Attempt to poke holes in what we were taught to help us give the best information to the players in front of us.
This month's tip of the month is about one of the misconceptions that has largely been viewed as fact. The reality is that it's far more "Trick" than "Treat".
There's this old adage - "A deep exchange will speed up your release". I am not sure where it started, or who coined the approach, but I would like to, for once and for all, abolish this monstrosity of a technique from our brains.
The idea is simple. Let the pitch travel at pitch speed longer and the ball will get to where it needed to go, which was assumed to be by our ear, faster. This will allow us to save time since the pitch at 85MPH in Baseball or 58MPH in Softball travels much faster than our glove arm ever could.
I just described that in a way that might make you nod your head and say "yeah, that makes sense". Here's the thing....No it does not! It doesn't even remotely describe what actually happens in an elite throw/throwing pattern. But it's easy to sell because people largely want to assume that the info their hearing from a respected coach/player is factual and will help their catcher. But, it's unfortunately not. It's no fault to them. They are regurgitating what was told to them from their coach, which was told to them from their coach, and so on, and so on and.....you get the point.
Let's forget for a moment that I actually do NOT want to pull the ball to my ear, since this forces me to spin around the ball during the throw, creating inefficiency while adding a significant amount of stress to the wrong parts of our body. Let's forget about all of that.
In fact, let's assume it actually worked. It did what they all said it would and allowed us to throw sooner. In order for us to actually take advantage of that theory, letting the ball travel pitch speed longer, here's what we'd have to do - WE HAVE TO CATCH THE BALL BY OUR EAR!
No catcher in the history of the game has ever caught a pitch at their ear and truly let a pitch travel pitch speed to that point. If they did, more often than not, they would get drilled in the head over and over again since we would lose the ability to track the ball into the glove and any miscalculation would result in taking a blow to the dome.
I have actually heard coaches refer to the best in MLB using this technique and I am not sure that we are watching the same game.
Salvador Perez, James McCann and Jonathan Lucroy were the top three in CS percentage in Major League Baseball in 2016. Let's take a look at their exchange point.
Not one of these guys is making a deep exchange. The three best in the Big Leagues....not one doing what a lot of coaches will tell you is the fastest way to get rid of the ball. All three making the exchange in the middle of their chest under their chin.
By making the exchange at the middle of the body, we achieve balance. We also give ourselves the ability to begin our throwing motion sooner. I don't want to make the exchange deep and wait to start throwing. I want to begin throwing the moment I am turned and have control of the ball in the throwing hand. We should begin our throw from our mitt. The moment the hands are separating, I'm throwing. I do not want to pull the ball to my ear. I want my hands separating from my middle, the arms to work behind me while I open into the throw, and the forearm, wrist, hand and ball to fall behind my head as my hips turn open while striding forward into the throw. This is what will get me to layback and allow my arm to whip forward to release, taking advantage of the resistance I am creating with my lower body. By getting the ball into my throwing hand sooner, I allow myself to get rid of the ball sooner.
Hope you enjoyed this Tip of the Month!