"If you're not five minutes early, you're late"
My dad had a saying, and I’m pretty sure most of you all have heard something similar from someone in your life...
“If you’re not 5 minutes early, you're late.”
The purpose of which is to stress the importance of preparedness and punctuality. Nobody likes to wait. Especially not your teammates.
This month’s tip of the month will focus on that sentiment, specifically in regards to throwing. While some may equate what we’re about to cover as “cheating” during a throw to 2B, we believe it’s the best approach to the real life application of the skill.
Whether in a showcase format or in the bottom of the ninth of a close game, the ability to keep runners out of scoring position is paramount. Controlling the running game and an opposing team’s aggressiveness on the base paths can have a profound impact on outcome of a game.
Repeat this phrase. “I will trade a strike for an out all day long.” Now memorize it, and burn it into your brain. I’m not saying there aren’t certain situations that warrant a more conservative approach (i.e. Two strikes on a dangerous hitter, late in a close game, with two outs), awareness is key. But, the majority of the time, risking a strike for a much better shot at an out will in the long run lead to better long-term outcomes. It holds especially true for those underneath the magnifying glass of college and professional scouts.
Below is a video of one of our student instructors. A college athlete at a very high level, and a catcher who should get a shot to play at the next level.
I asked him permission to use this clip because I believe it exemplifies the point we’re trying to make here. Earlier is better, as long as the initial direction of the body is consistently up.
These throws are off of a pitch to roughly the exact same location so we can get a good sense of the key differences between them.
In the “before" clip on the left you can see the catcher’s hips kicking to the side with minimal amount of upper or lower body rotation. There is also very little movement upwards. In the “after” clip on the right, you’ll notice the adjustment he made by starting his body up and beginning to close his front side earlier in the process. The phrase we use is “every inch up should be an inch turned.” The result is control of our body momentum and the ability to create better direction after out back foot plants underneath us. If the hips continually kick to the left, most of the time we won’t be able to create forward momentum, and instead we'll fall off to the side during the throw. This will lead to a throw that tails into the runner (or away from the runner, for all the lefties out there) and most likely very high, if not a complete overthrow of 2B.
The key to all of this is that in the “after” clip, the catcher has started these movements before the ball has touched his glove. By the time his right foot is firmly planted to the ground, his entire side is pointed towards his target and he has complete directional control of his body from that point forward.
Is there a chance that starting the process earlier might lead to us impeding an umpire’s view of the strike zone? Admittedly, yes. Again, there is a time where sticking the strike will be more important than the runner stealing on us. But most of the time...“I will trade a strike for an out all day long.”
Catchers, remember it’s not cheating if the umpire calls the runner out. Start the process of your throws earlier. The quicker we can get our body athletically upright and turned, the sooner we can get rid of the ball. In this catcher’s case, it sped up his release by over a tenth of a second. That is plenty of time to turn a lot of “safe” calls into "outs”.
Thanks for reading this month’s Tip of the Month!