Receiving is the most important skill in catching. We talked about that in more detail HERE if you want to learn why we believe that, despite the fact that many coaches believe throwing is more important.
WINNING PITCHES means that a catcher is able to receive pitches in ways that influence the umpire to call more strikes. This is especially important when receiving stri-balls (borderline strike or ball). The better a catcher is able to win pitches, then the more effective the pitcher will be. At the end of the day, a catcher’s ability to help his/her pitcher throw more strikes is going to have a greater impact on the outcome of the game than anything else.
How exactly does a catcher win pitches? They key is THUMB UNDER.
Catchers should receive every pitch that is a strike or a stri-ball with a thumb under glove position. The graphic above shows what this looks like.
Many of you have probably heard of the concept “framing pitches.” This is slightly less common now, but it is still a popular understanding of how a catcher is supposed to receive the ball. Framing refers to manipulating the glove as a catcher receives the ball to make the ball look like a strike. Often times it includes turning or twisting the glove in different ways depending on the location of the pitch. This is how I was taught to receive when I was younger, and it’s still taught or expected by many coaches today.
The thing is, this is not effective. I would go as far as saying it’s flat out wrong.
In order to win pitches, the catcher must present the ball consistently to the umpire. Less is more should be the focus when receiving pitches. If a catcher twists and turns their glove based on the pitch location, all that does is draw attention to the umpire and everyone watching that the catcher is trying to manipulate the call. Perception is enormously important when it comes to presenting pitches to the umpire. If a catcher screams that a pitch is a borderline ball with his/her glove action, then good umpires are going to call that pitch a ball.
Receiving pitches with the glove in a thumb under position, like the graphic above, presents a consistent visual to the umpire on every pitch that is a strike or a stri-ball. The goal as a catcher is to make the umpire believe that the pitch was delivered in the location it was intended. Some umpires, especially at the older levels, will call a strike a ball simply because the pitcher missed his spot. Receiving the ball with a thumb under glove position reduces the chances that the umpire perceives a missed pitch location, and it greatly increases the chances that the umpire calls the pitch a strike.
Catchers need to practice catching the strikes and stri-balls with their thumb under in every drill and every bullpen. This is one of those “little” details that make a huge difference in receiving skills.
WIN PITCHES by receiving strikes and stri-balls with the THUMB UNDER.
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