Welcome to Discuss Fastpitch

Your FREE Account is waiting to the Best Softball Community on the Web.

Register Log in

Is Catcher Framing Worth It?

Ken Krause

Administrator
Admin
May 7, 2008
3,470
48
Mundelein, IL
rachael-catching-e1553262663942.jpg


If there’s one thing you can count on, especially on the Internet, is if there is a prevailing opinion, sooner or later someone is going to offer a contrarian opinion. If nature abhors a vacuum, it’s also true that the Internet abhors agreement.

What made me think about it was a recent discussion I saw about the value of framing for catchers. For years now teaching catchers proper framing technique has been, as they say in the business world, industry best practice. A great deal of time and effort has been spent on determining the best way to receive a pitch to give it the best chance of being called a strike.

So naturally, the talk on discussion boards and Facebook groups is now turning to “framing doesn’t work and is a waste of time.”

Respectfully, I disagree. In my experience, when catchers learn to frame pitches properly they can help their pitchers immensely – if for no other reason than they’re not carrying the ball away from the plate and making the pitch look like an obvious ball.

Since I’m not tied to any one team or program, I get the opportunity to watch a lot of different teams play. Pitchers who throw to catchers who are good at framing tend to get more borderline strikes called than those who don’t.

Here’s one great example. This spring, thanks to another great Internet benefit, streaming video, I got to watch a student of mine catch several games, including some playoff games. This was strictly low-budget video – i.e., someone stuck a video camera up behind the plate, hit the button, and you could watch the game. No multi-camera moves, no chance of the point of view of the camera changing, no announcers to influence what I was seeing.

Quite frankly, I was a bit shocked by some of the strikes that were being called when my student, who is an excellent framer, was behind the plate. Pitches that looked outside to me (perhaps due to the camera angle) were getting called. Hitters were also a bit surprised so I don’t think it was all camera angle.

The proof, however, was what happened when the other team was in the field. The same pitches were being called balls. Same umpire, same camera angle, but different outcome.

(Who is this catcher you ask? I’m not alerting any umpires to the identify of this magician, but I’m sure she knows who she is. And no, that’s not her in the photo although this catcher is a darned good framer herself.)

You’ll see the same thing if you just stand in one place behind the backstop where a good framer is at work. Pitches that are being called balls for one team seem to be called strikes more often for the other.

Again, this doesn’t mean the umpires are bad. Far from it. It’s just that there are a lot of visual cues that go into making a call on a pitch speeding into you, and how the ball is received is one of them.

Of course, one of the things that makes for a great framer is NOT trying to make obvious balls look like strikes. That’s just insulting the umpire’s intelligence.

The key to framing is knowing not just how to do it but WHEN to do it. It’s also about being confident enough in your abilities that you don’t look like you’re trying to get away with something. Just stick it and move on.

The Internet is filled with free advice, and it’s worth the price. For my two cents, though, framing is a very worthwhile skill for a catcher to acquire and practice. Whether you want to believe it or not, it makes a difference.

More...
 
May 29, 2015
762
63
I’m the resident contrarian on this one ... as an umpire and a former catcher ...

First, what you are discussing is selling, not framing, Your picture frames on your living room wall don’t slide around and try to convince you that grandma is a swimsuit model. (Yeah, that’s a fall back line for me.).

Somewhere along the way the term “framing” was highjacked into this chicanery. Framing, if the term is used properly, should be used to reference how the catcher is setting up and the “frame” that is created for the umpire to look through. The “frame” being the batter, the catcher’s arm and glove, the plate, and the top of the strike zone. A catcher who builds a bad frame does make it tough for an umpire to get a good look.

Second, yes, it does mean the umpire is bad if he/she is calling pitches based on anything other than where the ball crosses the plate. I am an umpire and I will say that. I don’t care how it looks on TV or from the dugout ... that is why we umpires don’t call the game from the dugout or a TV monitor. If those pitches were good and you were right from the dugout, do you think we would be wearing all that gear and sitting in the line of fire? Angles change everything. The best, most accurate angle is sitting behind the catcher, working “the slot”, with your eyes at the top of the zone where you can see the entire strike zone. Anywhere else and you are losing perspective on when/if the ball enters or exits the plate. (If you think that strike zone box on TV is accurate from centerfield, I encourage you to really dig into the history and current state of “automated strike zones.”) Sit in the dugout or the bleachers and you are more reliant on watching the catcher’s actions ... and now you are being sold on strikes and balls.

Admittedly, there is a philosophical schism in the Blue Ranks on this. Some umpires will try to tell you it looks bad if you call a strike that catcher misses. No, it makes the catcher look bad. If the catcher were required to make a good catch to get a strike call, we wouldn’t have uncaught third strikes.

One time I had a coach riding me on my strike zone because the other team’s had a nasty drop ball and cacher was not keeping up. The coach claimed “This is next level ball! It can’t be a strike if the catcher can’t catch it!” I advised him to open up a rule book and read the requirements for a strike. Nowhere in any rule book does the catcher’s actions predicate a strike.

To Ken’s point, is “framing” worth learning? I would encourage you to teach your catcher proper framing:
*set up behind the plate for every pitch, not extreme inside or outside based on the desired pitch location
*arm bent and reaching out (not back at her shoulder) prepared to catch the ball out in front of the body
*glove planted (not wiggling around and blocking the umpire’s view)
*glove “pointing” until she is ready to receive the ball (a “flared” or wide open target with the glove may be blocking the umpire out)
*make a solid catch and throw it back to the pitcher; do not hold it there begging for a call.

Now, to what Ken is calling “framing” (selling!) ... is it worth it to learn that skill? Not if you hire better umpires.
 
Jan 22, 2011
775
18
Watching Dave Weaver's talk in his video about not embarrassing the umpire in preparation for working with catchers on the Middle School team. Need to turn a rec 6th grade catcher with potential into a receiver for two 8th grader pitchers.
 
May 29, 2015
762
63
Had a coach start to argue this in a middle school baseball game yesterday. Catcher was sitting way back and the pitcher was knee-capping like he was Tonya Harding’s bodyguard.

“Coach, I don’t care if it bounces or what the catcher does. The strike zone is over the plate.”

Coach started to try “the catcher is embarrassing you” card. “No, I’m proud of my work when I call actual strikes. I’m not the one missing those.”

He sulked back down to third base.
 

Ken Krause

Administrator
Admin
May 7, 2008
3,470
48
Mundelein, IL
Now, to what Ken is calling “framing” (selling!) ... is it worth it to learn that skill? Not if you hire better umpires.
Actually, I agree with you on that. A high-level umpire will call the ball where it's pitched, not where it's caught. Unfortunately, here in the real world there are a lot who don't qualify - even at the collegiate level. Or at least they can be influenced if they're uncertain. And who isn't uncertain from time to time?

One of the caveats I give catchers when I teach them framing is to only do it on pitches that are basically borderline. If you try to grab a pitch that's obviously off and try to bring it back in you're insulting the umpire's intelligence, which is not a good strategy. Although I have seen even blatant yanking the pitch back work from time to time.

To me, it's a skill worth learning whether it has any effect on a particular umpire or not. Not everyone is at the top end of the bell curve.
 
May 29, 2015
762
63
Let me ask an odd question Ken, do you see value in bringing the glove towards the shoulder and throwing hand immediately each time? This was something I did as a catcher and many of my coaches mistook that for me trying to sell (“frame”). Even as a catcher I was of the mindset that the ball already crossed the plate, I’m not holding or moving my glove to try to present something.

For me, it was an immediate “cock and load” mechanism to build the habit and prepare for a faster throw.
 

Staff online

Latest threads

Forum statistics

Threads
34,380
Messages
500,243
Members
15,833
Latest member
SunshineDad
Top