Ahead in the Count

2nd Game of Two…1st Inning…Catchers Get On The Plate

So, enough about me!!! As I am now in the top of the 1st inning, of the next phase of my life, owning an indoor baseball facility, All-StarPerformance, and helping run a youth team baseball program, the St Louis Gamers, I am observing a plethora of youth baseball, and some things that catch my eye are alarming!!

Being a pitcher, I know and understand how important a catcher can be to our successes, or lack of. As I observe many High School and youth baseball games, I routinely see catchers being asked by coaches to split the corners of the plate with their body. That may be sound advice for the guy who is catching Chris Carpenter, Tom Glavine or any other Major League pitcher who makes his living by throwing 90 mph heaters, and being able to hit gnat in the

A_ _ with them. For High School pitchers, even the most accomplished of them, it is at best unnecessary, and worst a recipe for disaster. By allowing, or asking, catchers to sit on the corners to High School hitters, you are asking for a multitude of 1-0, 2-0 counts, extremely high pitch counts (more to come in a later blog!), and infielders who are on their heels with excitement. If a pitcher has any movement at all, and the catcher is on the corner early in the count, there is a very good chance the movement will be lost, as it will end up off the plate, and result in ball ONE. Repeat this scenario on 1-0, and now you are in a definite hitters count. Sitting at 2-0, you are forced to throw a fastball, and groove it. It is a given, that throughout baseball, hitters averages go down between 50 and 100 points, the further they fall behind in the count. Conversely, the averages rise by these same point totals the further ahead they are in the count. Why not have your catcher set up on halves of the plate early in the count (0-0, 0-1,1-0, 1-1,), and teach your pitchers to pitch to contact. Let the natural movement they have work to the corners, instead of off the corner. You will keep your pitchers pitch counts down, keep your fielders on their toes, and in the game, and force the opposing team to get 3 hits to score a run, as opposed to having 2 walks, an error by a previously bored infielder, and a blooper that turns into a 3 run inning. If it is important on a fastball, then it becomes doubly important on a breaking ball. I do not see many High School hitters who handle a breaking ball very well. Not a hanging breaking ball, but a ball that changes directions and planes. So if the hitters are not going to hurt you with the pitch, why try to throw it to the corners and take a risk of falling behind. Get your catchers on the plate, and ask your pitchers to start the ball at the arm side ( pitchers throwing arm side) ear of the catcher, look to have the ball stay on the plate, and be received by your catcher near his opposite knee. 0-2 you ask??? Same thing!!!! Now you want your pitcher to start his breaking ball at the catchers (pitchers arm side) knee, and expect it to finish around the catchers opposite foot. You will have many more hitters offer at, and miss that pitch, than the ball that starts off the plate, and ends up in the batters box. A realistic approach to pitching at the highest levels ( College and Professional) is to get a hitter out, or on, in three pitches or less. That shouldn’t change at the lower levels of baseball. It should be encouraged, and tracked. Getting your catchers on the plate will give your pitching staff a shot at achieving this, while keeping down their pitch counts and keeping your position players in the game.

Side Note: The same coaches who are asking their catchers to set up on the corners early in the count, are the coaches complaining that their pitcher is “nibbling” at the corners. Pick your Poison!!!

March 4, 2009 - Posted by | On the Field, Sports Around the World, Uncategorized, written by Matt Whiteside

2 Comments »

  1. Hey Matt, was a big fan of yours while you were here in Texas, always thought you were one of the best!….best of luck to you and i will continue to read your blogs they are very good my man!

    Comment by Rodney | June 15, 2009

  2. Matt,
    I don’t even know that you read this anymore since the last post was a while back, but I just want you to know what an inspiration you were to me as a pitcher. I don’t know if you remember me, but I was a batboy when you were pitching for the Rangers. You were always such a nice guy. It really meant alot to me. I just wanted to say thanks!
    Yours,
    Breck

    Comment by Breck Dixon | June 24, 2010


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