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Keeping Off-Speed Strikes Looking Like Strikes

May 7, 2008
172
0
Hudson, NH
I wanted to add another area of receiving that is part of this whole skill of receiving. I wrote in the original post that “beating the ball to the spot” is a cornerstone of good receiving. If not done properly, when the pitch is a fastball the results will be the glove arrives to the point of contact late, the glove is still moving when the ball hits it and the force from the impact causes the glove to be deflected out of the strike zone. This is a good description of the results of not beating the ball to the spot.

Now when the pitch is an off-speed pitch that has movement the problems keeping strikes looking like strikes become even more pronounced. The challenge for the catcher is to again beat the ball to the spot. But this time the ball is not flying on a straight path. It is either curving left or right, or moving up or down. If the pitcher is real good it may be moving in 2 planes at the same time.

I see so many great curve balls thrown middle-out that catch the out side edge of the plate and are called balls. Many times the catcher has caught up to the ball late, caught the back half of the ball, (the half closest to the catcher) and had their glove continue traveling in the path it was on to the ball and carry the ball off the plate. Loosing the strike.

Why does this happen? The main reason it happens is the catcher is not using a receiving technique that allows them to beat the ball to the spot on a pitch that is curving or dropping. What you will see if you watch catchers is this. Picture a Right hand batter, rt hand pitcher, good curve ball starting at middle of plate and breaking down and away from the batter. As the ball approaches the plate most catchers will begin to track the ball by having their glove follow the ball as it begins its break. They will begin to let their glove arm begin to cross over their body and begin chasing the ball as it curves across the plate. The will try to have the path of the glove match the path and trajectory of the pitch. They will almost always be chasing the back of the ball, almost always be behind the ball, as if they were chasing a comet across the sky. When they catch up to the ball their glove is moving quickly left to right, makes contact with the ball while still moving, AND THEN KEEPS MOVING, carrying the ball further right, most likely off the plate.

I see so many great off-speed pitches carried off the plate because the catcher is tracking the flight of the ball with her glove.

So what is the answer? Beat the Ball to The Spot. This can only be done on an off-speed pitch if the catcher uses something else to track the path and trajectory of the ball. That would be her eyes. What I teach is that the catcher follows the ball with her eyes, let her eyes and her brain track the ball, let her eyes and her brain figure out where the ball is going, let her eyes and her brain figure out where the best point will be for the glove to be waiting for the ball, and get the glove there. Get the glove there before the ball gets there. So when this breaking ball hits that glove it is like it is hitting a stone wall. When Blue looks down he will see a glove that is still sitting on the edge of the plate, not wildly carrying the pitch off the plate. This is done when the catcher sends the glove to the contact point directly, in straight line, ahead of the pitch.

The same techniques apply for change-ups that drop. Again catchers follow the flight path of the ball with their glove; they end up chasing the top of the ball as it drops. When the glove finally gets to the ball the glove has so much downward momentum from the chase that the glove pushes the ball down deeper into the strike zone, or maybe right out of it below the knees. If the catcher had followed the ball with her eyes and sent her glove to the contact point she would have caught the ball with no downward momentum, keeping the pitch right at the batters knees.

The technique takes practice for sure. But I have catchers playing 14U and some 12U that do the skill quite well. To teach it start by getting about 20 feet away, and “pitch” them underhand rainbow balls. Watch how they will raise the glove up first and then follow the ball down, chasing it till they catch up with it. You will also usually see how they then drive the ball deeper after the catch. When they first start learning it remind them to only “follow the ball with their eyes, send the glove to the spot where the ball will be”

You will be amazed at how well young catcher’s minds can actually do the math problem and compute where the ball will be and have their glove there waiting for it. The key to teaching this skill is to start out slow with pitches with an arch.

How many times on 0-2 have you seen a changeup thrown that crosses the front of the plate at the top of the knee, the batter checks her swing, the catcher the proceeds to get to the ball late and drives the ball and glove down near the top of the batters shoes. The batter checking her swing was her way of telling Blue, “Hey Blue I see it’s a pretty good pitch, and I know on 0-2 I should be swinging at something this close, but come on Blue you can see it’s too low!” The ump would love to call strike 3, but the catchers receiving technique has basically agreed with the batters decision that it was too low by driving the ball down to the batters knees. Maybe….Ball 1.

Now the same situation but this time the catcher tracks that same pitch with her eyes, sends her glove to that spot right in the middle of the knees, her glove sitting there waiting for the change to drop. Pitch drops, catcher sticks the pitch right at the middle of the knees, batter checks her swing and glove is motionless just below the middle of the knee.

Most likely Strike 3.

Again, the way to teach it is slowly have them work on following the ball with their eyes and sending the glove directly to the contact point. They may miss some at first but most girls pick up the technique quickly.

Sorry this was so long, let me know if you have any questions. I have girls at 12U who are very proficient at catching off-speed with this kind of precision.

Copyright 2007 New England Catching Camp LLC
 
May 28, 2008
2
0
Thanks for the advice - will give it a try at home. Is this technique a thing that should be practiced regularly or just till she "gets it."?

Related question - should the pitcher or the catcher be calling the offspeed pitch? (12U age). DD catches the #1 pitcher on her team, who likes to signal the offspeed pitch herself. Trying to get DD to call it herself, because its pretty easy to figure out the signal, and also because DD needs to work on establishing leadership in the catcher role.

And while I'm at it...after a third out strike out, are catchers supposed to roll it to the pitcher's circle, or throw it back to the pitcher and have the pitcher drop it? Again, more of a mental thing rather than technique, but I'm curious about it.

Thanks again for all your advice - very helpful information.
 
May 7, 2008
172
0
Hudson, NH
Thanks for the advice - will give it a try at home. Is this technique a thing that should be practiced regularly or just till she "gets it."?

Related question - should the pitcher or the catcher be calling the offspeed pitch? (12U age). DD catches the #1 pitcher on her team, who likes to signal the offspeed pitch herself. Trying to get DD to call it herself, because its pretty easy to figure out the signal, and also because DD needs to work on establishing leadership in the catcher role.

And while I'm at it...after a third out strike out, are catchers supposed to roll it to the pitcher's circle, or throw it back to the pitcher and have the pitcher drop it? Again, more of a mental thing rather than technique, but I'm curious about it.

Thanks again for all your advice - very helpful information.
1. Is this technique a thing that should be practiced regularly or just till she "gets it."?

I make this part of the training of all catchers, at all ages, at all skill levels.

2. Related question - should the pitcher or the catcher be calling the offspeed pitch?

If you allow the pitches to be called on the field, rather then sending them in from the bench, then the catcher should be calling them. Pitchers should NEVER be calling pitches. They can shake off the catcher, and wait till they get the sign they want. At 12U the catcher needs to be developing the "field leadership skills" she will need in the future. She is in charge, she calls the pitch on the field. She needs to learn to call pitches based on her pitchers strenghs, not the batters weaknesses.

3. And while I'm at it...after a third out strike out, are catchers supposed to roll it to the pitcher's circle, or throw it back to the pitcher and have the pitcher drop it? Again, more of a mental thing rather than technique, but I'm curious about it.

My catchers are all taught to just toss easliy towards the circle. Pitchers job was done with the 3rd strike. She heads for the dugout.
 
May 7, 2008
235
0
Catching Coach:

Your input is so good. I have printed off your posts and shared them with the coaches I know...I am glad you are not sitting on that wealth of knowledge but sharing it. Many young catchers will benefit from it.

Thanks,

Ang
 
May 7, 2008
172
0
Hudson, NH
Ang,

Thanks for the kind words. I see so many wonderfull athletes struggle behnd the plate, many times because their coaches just do not know what or how to teach this very unique position.

A good part of my time is spent "training the trainers".

Just got to pass it forward.....
 
May 7, 2008
235
0
Training the trainers...I hope you are multiplying that philosophy.

We have known many wonderful people who know the game inside and out, but it doesn't mean they can teach it. I say that with respect and not to insult. We are all gifted in different ways...

Ang
 

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