Plays at the plate.
They are one of the most exciting plays in baseball, and yet for the catcher, they are one of the most dangerous. If a catcher is in the wrong position then he can get hurt very, very badly.
Enter Buster Posey.
Here are three pictures that illustrate the sequence of events that ended Buster Posey’s 2011 season, and very well could have ended his career behind the plate.
Thankfully, Posey has gone on to make a full recovery and MLB has finally changed the dumbest rule in sports by outlawing home plate collisions. However, Buster Posey is one of the best catchers on the planet, and if he can make a mistake like this, then every catcher should make sure they are practicing so they don’t find themselves with a season or career ending injury.
How did this happen?
It comes down to one simple thing – Posey’s positioning at the plate during the play. More specifically, his left leg was in the worst possible position.
Right toe pointed up the foul line. This keeps the leg in the safest possible position for the impact of the runner sliding into the catcher.
Right knee to left foot instep. Once the ball is caught the catcher should bring the right knee down to the left foot instep. This covers the “5-hole” and safely blocks the plate.
Two hands on the ball. Whenever possible the catcher should secure the ball with two hands – ideally with the right hand holding the ball inside of the glove for security and safety from the spikes of the sliding runner.
As the catcher catches the ball and executes the tag, the catcher should sweep the hands and knee into the position diagramed above with force and authority, expecting an impact from the runner.
This position allows the catcher to absorb the impact of a runner without injury in two ways:
- If the runner does hit the catcher high (which is illegal but can still happen) then the catcher can fall backwards with the impact. This position prevents the leg/ankle from getting twisted and injured as the catcher falls back.
- If the runner slides slow then it also allows the catcher to absorb the impact and simply roll over onto the runner while securing the tag and avoiding injury.
Plays at the plate don’t happen as frequently as many of the other skills required of catchers, but when they do happen they have a disproportionate effect on the game (it literally is about a run scoring or not) and can result in serious injury if the catcher is not in the proper position. Every catcher needs to spend some time practicing this way to tag runners (as well as getting in the proper stance and executing specific plays at the plate drills).
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