Baseball Magazine

Catchers and Throws to Third Base

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
Catchers and throws to third baseIn the summer of 1998, I had the pleasure of coaching under former 8 year major league catcher Ed Ott.  "Otter" played for the Pittsburgh Pirates where he helped win a World Series in 1979 and finished his playing career with the California Angels.  Before one game, I was talking to our catcher about some of the opposing hitters and I asked him if he had picked up any catching tips from Otter.  He said that he had and gave me an example of a small tip that has improved his throwing times to third base.
As the photo to the right shows, an obvious problem a catcher has when a runner tries to steal third base is that a right handed batter is in his direct path towards third base.  As a result, a catcher must clear the runner before making the throw to third.  The YouTube clip below shows what I'm talking about.  Around the 2-4 second mark, the catcher steps behind the batter before throwing.
The tip that Otter passed on was to simply set up farther back in the catcher's box.  He said when a base stealer was on second base, he would set up about 6-8 inches farther back towards the umpire.  This additional space would give him an almost clear line to third base without the batter being in the way.  Because of this, he said he almost never had to waste time clearing the runner.  He would just catch and throw to third without having to move his feet very much.  Less footsteps = less time.Notes:
  • A catcher obviously would not do this with a left handed hitter batting.
  • Setting up farther back can have an impact on the catcher's ability to keep a pitch in the strike zone (framing).  The farther back the catcher is, the more gravity will pull the pitch down.  A catcher's first priority is his receiving so he'll have to weight the pros and cons of each depending on the situation.

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