By Ryan Sienko, Owner of Catch and Throw
Catchers are sometimes guilty of giving a target that doesn’t help the pitcher out in any way. Pitchers trust us to call pitches, know hitters, give locations, and if we don’t come through with that trust, we are not helping that pitcher, but hurting him. I can think of one instance when I gave a sign for a fastball middle inside to a right handed hitter. I gave the target and the pitcher pitched. The ball never reached my mitt and was a three run home run. I, like many other catchers, held the spot with my glove for a second after the ball was hit. The problem was when I saw my glove and realized where the pitch was; I saw that the pitcher hit the exact spot that I laid out for him. Perfect pitch if you were to look at the target and pitch location. Getting lazy with a target or giving the wrong target is just a bad as calling a wrong pitch.
When giving a target for the pitcher there are some things to think about:
• Hand Position in Glove
Fingers Up – Make Sure to keep the fingers up when giving the target. Some people want to have the thumb parallel to the ground when giving a target. This can cause the chance of jamming the thumb on the glove hand side by sliding the glove to the receiving position instead of turning the glove to receive the ball
• Least Amount of movement as possible – Try not to give away the target or the pitch by moving the body too much while setting up. The moves are slight, soft, and quiet. Hitters can hear and feel where you are going if you are loud and big with the movements
• Glove position in relation to body – Try to keep the target in the middle of the body. It makes the whole target look bigger to the pitcher because he can hard focus on the glove, but the catcher’s body is right behind the glove. If there is nothing behind the target, it makes it look smaller and harder to hit.
• Bottom of the Strike Zone – Unless you are trying to elevate the pitch, try to keep the ball down. The standard deviation for a pitchers at 60’ 6” or around 54’ where they let the ball go is about 8” from the target on each side. So a 16” diameter. If you give a target that is above the knees or mid thigh and the pitcher misses 8” that will be almost to the belt or belt high. Not too many pitches reach the catcher at any age if the ball is belt high
• Glove Timing – Some pitchers will like the target early and some will like it late for their target. Make sure that the catcher knows what each pitcher’s preference is.
• Body Placement on Plate – Know where the pitcher is capable of throwing the pitches. If he can hit the target with no problem, you are more apt to go to the thirds, or corners. If it is a pitcher who has great movement, but not always sure where the ball is going, set up in the middle of the plate and give the pitcher some margin of error on both sides of the target. Let the natural movement get the hitters out, not the exact location. This will help many pitchers who cannot throw tons of strikes. Let them be wild, but in the strike zone
• Body Placements
Middle – Split the catcher’s body with the point of the plate
Thirds – Divide the plate into Three Pieces
Corners – Split the plate with the body on the corners of the plate
Off – When trying to get the ball in off of the plate or away from the hitter.
Ryan is the founder of Catch & Throw and also is the Catching Coordinator for the 2017 & 2018 National League Champions, and 2020 World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. He held the position of Assistant Catching Coordinator for the Los Angeles Dodgers from January 2015 to Oct 2018. Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org