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I've been wondering about something - given two catchers which one would you prefer.

Catcher A is great at blocking, 'framing', working with the pitchers, has good baseball sense, etc. but has only a mediocre arm.

Catcher B lets several stoppable balls by him every game and in general isn't as good at the fundamentals, but has a superior arm.

Which catcher would you go with and why?
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In my experience, there are far more runners advancing by the ball getting past the catcher (whether it be technically a PB or WP) than by stolen base.

Also, at least half or more of the runners advancing by steal do so on the pitcher. Some percentage also steal on a pitch that goes in the dirt and has to be blocked rather than caught by the catcher, which, even if routine, the catcher can't make a throw in time if he does his job correctly.

This all means, in my view, this question isn't even close. Give me the guy who can keep the ball from going to the backstop.

When analyzing why teams win and lose in HS years and prior, I think blocking ability is the single most underrated factor.

I've witnessed many HS games where several bases were given up by the catcher's lack of blocking ability. Then the catcher throws someone out stealing and everyone goes gaga.

My kid catches. He knows his task is to prevent any pitch from hitting the backstop. Doesn't matter if runners are on or not. The next (related) goal is to minimize how many bases were advanced during the game on pitches that were not hit.

In HS ball, he's trying to block (rather than catch) about 20% of the pitches. (He plays JV at this point. Varsity pitchers probably reduce this by half or so.)

That means in the course of a game he is trying to block 25 - 30 pitches. Some of these are 55 foot fastballs. These are very hard to block because they come in faster, bounce lower, and the catchers aren't expecting to have to block them.

Most balls requiring blocking, of course, are curves.

If my kid block them all, then he's had a great game.

If a couple of pitches get past him, it is average. Sometimes he blocks one but it gets far enough away from him that the runner advances.

The exception is a straight steal off a pitch that can be reasonably caught and thrown, where the pitcher both kept the runner close and had a pitching move that gave the catcher enough time to have a chance at throwing the runner out.

My kid gets maybe one legitimate chance to throw a guy out maybe once every two games.

All this is to say that if you ask what is more important- a good block/receiver or a strong arm? It isn't even close.

Give me the kid who keeps the ball off he backstop. At least in the HS years.
Agree with all of the above, but would ask you to think about this: what are your long-term objectives?

The skills of blocking balls in the dirt or framing pitches can be learned. A player can work to strengthen his throwing arm, but to some extent a strong arm is a genetic gift.

I would tend to start the boy who can block/receive better, but would look at the gifted arm as the long-term prospect. If he is willing to put in the work to learn his position, he has the greater upside, long term.
Midlo Dad,
I agree with you and PG Staff. During a workout with the St. Louis Cardinals I asked the scouting director why they were interested in my son as a catcher since he had only caught for three years and was not the most polished receiver. The scouting director said the receiving and blocking skills he lacked were easily taught and the skills he already had in arm strength and eye hand coordination were not teachable.
** At the college level the catcher has to have a good arm and be able to block in order to shut down the running game.
True. Good arm is optimal, but hand transfer and footwork can only be developed if athlete has quickness. Without quick footwork and hand transfer, good arm still will not get it there under 2.0 (unless absolutely perfect pitch).
I've seen catchers improve with certain drills, but that "pudge-like" quickness is natural. I've seen many "good armed" catchers slow themselves down alot by "square up" to throw, gets there but not in time. So what is the value in good arm there? With the criteria given, I'd take the "blocker" over good arm.
But, as we all know, the "whole package" is optimal. Yes, some catching skills can be developed, but quickness is often overlooked as a catching "tool". JMHO
As an aside, and a note to parents of pitchers, a ball going into the backstop is not always a sign of a "bad" or "skill challenged" catcher, in fact it could be the sign of a smart catcher.

There are situations where it is more beneficial for the catcher to try and "pick" a bad pitch rather then block it. i.e. there's a runner on first or second that is stealing and catcher will have no chance to challenge the runner if he blocks the ball, so depending upon the backstop location etc., the catcher will attempt to pick and throw the ball, --afterall the runner will get the next base whether the catcher blocks the ball or it bounces off the backstop, but if the catcher is able to pick the ball he can challenge the runner, especially if the runner lets up a little when he sees the ball going into the dirt.
Usually, the best games for a catcher are the ones when the casual fan never notices him. No one tries to steal, and the ball isn't flying to the backstop, and the crowd groans at a couple of 3rd strike calls that the catcher helped with a little bit of framing. Of course, as a father of a catcher, I tend to notice those things. Smile

As for throwing out runners, I was at a presentation where a D-1 coach was talking about what they wanted to see in a catcher, and he pointed out that yes, they needed a strong arm, however, catchers may only get 1-2 chances to throw out a runner in a game, but had to catch about 140 pitches a game. His first concern was how the catcher handled pitches (and his pitchers), and then his arm.
Good advice by all. Spending most of my last 10 years as a community volunteer coach (summer & fall) for a local high school, I took the kids that wanted to catch (and a few the HS coach wanted made into catchers) and taught and monitored the following skills with them all season long.

There is no doubt that the catcher with a rocket arm is going to have a chance to play pro ball before the ones who don’t. But eventually, even the professional catcher, will have to learn to instinctively perform each of the following skills in order to compete. That’s why I teach them to every catcher I have the pleasure of working with.

Hope this checklist helps some players and coaches here.


1. Hide signs from third base coach with open mitt and first base coach with closed right knee.

2. Automatically change signs with pitcher when a runner reaches second base.

3. Set up late (as pitcher begins motion so batter can’t “peek”).

4. Set up as close to the batter as possible without him being able to hit your mitt with his bat.

5. Use ankle sway to frame or “stick” all borderline strikes. Catch the outside of the ball with a straight but not stiff front arm. Hold it there for one full second making sure the ump saw it and throwing it back to the pitcher before you show him up.

6. Bare hand behind leg with nobody on base.

7. Bare hand behind mitt with runners on base.

8. Block all balls in the dirt with runners on base. Drop to knees, mitt between legs and bare hand behind mitt (V), forward, upper body lean to absorb the ball, then pounce to your feet and get it.

9. Trail runner to first base with nobody on. Angle is toward fence beside 1b, not straight down the base line.

10. “Sweep” up all moving bunts and dropped 3rd strikes with open mitt and bare hand.

11. Shuffle out and throw “inside” or “outside” the line to first base. Do not throw over runner.

12. “Pop time” technique has 3 parts.
A. Remain square as you catch the ball (do not turn body and cheat too “open” as it will often restrict the catch and mess up the timing of the glove to hand transfer). If there is a 3b runner, glance at him after the catch and before the throw to 2b.
B. Close off front side by flipping ball from mitt to throwing hand (turn under) WHILE you stride toward second base. Spin ball gaining a 4 seem grip on the way up/back. Step short or beside home plate when possible (not on top of it).
C. Get 90% of weight over front foot, pull back (trunk twist) and throw to second base (mask on).

13. Throwing to third base. Do not throw over RH batter. On pitches to the first base side, step to ball with right foot first. On pitches to the third base side, place right foot behind left foot first.

14. Pitch outs. Don’t commit too early. Catch the ball from “inside out”, shuffle feet, close off front side and throw.

15. Intentional walks. Stay in the catchers box until the pitcher begins his motion, then shuffle out.

16. Always slide on your “left” side to field passed balls.

17. Verbally remind your pitcher to “get over there” on all ground balls hit to the right of second base.

18. Line up your first and third baseman as cut off men on throws from the outfield (only if they are way out of line). Yell “cut or cut-1,2,3 or 4” and say nothing when you want the throw left alone (mask on).

19. While the ball is arriving from a fielder, block the plate with your left foot (one to two steps up the third base line and one step foul). If time allows, block with knee and entire body as well. Ump cannot blow the call if the runner never reaches home plate (mask on).

20. On bang-bang plays, delay blocking the plate with left foot (one to two steps up the 3b line and one step foul). Plant foot and make a quick one-handed tag. Raise the mitt high immediately after the tag so the ump won’t have to look for the ball (mask on).

21. Decoying scoring runner. When the throw is approaching, wait as long as possible before setting your left foot, body and raising your mitt to catch the ball.

22. (Short hops) Forehand picks on short hopped thrown balls (“scoops” like a first baseman). Bend knees (squat) to get fanny as low as possible, wristy motion attacking of the ball on the short hop from the ground up and out (like a pro bowler-palm up to palm down).

23. (Short hops) Backhand picks on short hopped thrown balls (“scoops” like first baseman). Bend knees (squat) to get fanny as low as possible, lock wrist and attack the short hop from the ground up and slightly out.

24. (Between or mid hops) Block with mid section (do not catch).

25. Wet grass caused by dew or light rain will cause hard throws to skip or skim much faster and farther than dry grass.

26. Home to first base double plays. Like a first baseman, both feet on the edge of the plate, step to the throw with your glove foot, shuffle out inside or outside (depending on their throw). Do not throw over the runner.

27. Pop ups. Remember the ball always spins violently toward the field. (like drawing a lower case, cursive “L” backwards). Find ball, sprint to where it will likely land, toss mask so you don’t trip over it later. Try to catch the ball with your back facing the field.

28. 1st and 3rd situations. Get signs from the dugout, stand in front of the plate and give a series of signs to the infield. The first two plays are “reads” by the middle infielders at the college and professional level but “called plays” at the youth level. The first play is “cut by middle infielder” between 2b and the mound (catcher does not glance at 3b runner). The second play is the exact same throw only the first middle infielder fakes a catch and continues his momentum toward 3b while the other one takes the throw at the bag (catcher glances at 3b runner after the catch and before this throw). The last play is a “straight throw to 3b” (right foot behind left if RH batter, square shoulders and throw).

29. Befriend the umpire. Don’t talk or chatter during the game. Don’t turn and look at him for or after a call. Don’t hold the pitch longer than one second (anything more is considered showing him up). Don’t answer your coach when he asks “where was that pitch, Johnny”? Quietly do your job. Show respect and use your manners when talking to him. If he likes you he will like your team. He also talks to a lot of scouts and college coaches about “the best catcher’s he has seen”. If he gets hit with a foul tip, ask for time and go to the mound to talk to the pitcher until he has recovered.

30. Appealing check swings. Politely turn and ask him if he will ask for help. Do not point to the field ump without asking the home plate ump first!

31. Diving catches are faster. Land on hands with elbows out to eliminate jarring.

32. Sliding catches to avoid collisions with teammates, dugout and fences. Catch ball on the way down, then slide and plant lead foot to stop.

33. Rundowns: Once a runner is hung up, chase him with ball in bare hand to get him going full speed. Throw the ball to the closing fielder and keep going toward 3b but get well out of the base line (do not stop and circle back to home). A perfect rundown takes zero to one throw.

34. Yell “room-room” or “no play-no play” to your corner infielders and outfielders that are chasing foul balls near a fence. Always err on the side of safety or you will lose your credibility as a leader.

35. Free visit. When you see that your pitcher is struggling, save your coach an official visit and ask for time out yourself to go speak to him. This will also allow a relief pitcher more time to warm up in the bullpen. Many batteries do this when they change the signs as a runner reaches 2nd base.
Last edited by THop

“You can always tell when someone is teaching something they've never done”.

Please make yourself clear. I caught for many years as a player in the 60’s and 70’s.

And as an adult coach in the 80’s, I did 10 years of research to make a list of skills that catchers routinely perform on the 60/90 fields. During that time I talked with professional catchers and professional scouts (some of which caught professionally). Likewise, college coaches and college catchers as well as elite AAU/Legion coaches in Atlanta. I even interviewed a high school teammate of mine who hit the brick wall in Albuquerque (thanks to Mike Scioscia).

To further prove the validity of each skill, I documented them during numerous Extended Spring Training and Instructional League practices and games that I attended (long lunch hours while working) in Florida as well as hundreds of college and MLB games on television (in sports bars and hotel rooms across the southeast). What started out as a hobby became a passion. Not to make a buck over the Internet (Al Gore had not invented it yet). But because I just wanted to be a good baseball coach. I guess you could say that I am a professional scout of “teachable skills”, not a scout of unteachable talent or tools.

Then in the 90’s, I really put these to the test teaching them in over 300 practices and monitoring them in over 600 games that I coached high schoolers on a 60/90 field.

That’s my “education”. What does yours consist of? Instead of me “editing my list”, why don’t you spend a couple of hours like I did and share 35 things that you teach your catchers. And then let the good people here who catch or coach it, decide whose list makes the most baseball sense when compared to what the majority of MLB catchers do on video.

Please take your time.

Last edited by THop

I read a lot more than I type here and have noticed that you claim to have caught at the college level and later, as an adult, coached high school catchers. I respect that.

Like you, I hate bad advice and seek the “truth” when it comes to baseball instruction. The “whole truth and nothing but the truth” when it comes to teaching the necessities of every defensive position, hitting, pitching and base running. Backed up by video of what the best players in the world do!

But unlike you, I support and respect many fundamentalist views from the baseball “establishment”. I believe in constant learning, but think we can learn far more from history than from the present and future.

After two weeks, have you been able to “edit” any of the skills that I teach catchers? Were you able to compare each of them to what the best MLB catcher’s do in slo-mo video to be sure? Please take your time as many catchers (and teachers of catchers) frequent this particular board.

I know that the secret is in ALL of these skills, not just superior pop time or what kind of footwork I used to throw behind the 3b runners back in the day. I know that catchers who can instinctively (I did not say perfectly) execute ALL of these skills during games before they reach high school will catch for their Varsity teams before they graduate (regardless of which high school they attend and what their pop time was as a 14-15 year old freshman)! In fact, if they have a good make up and hustle, I can guarantee it! Superior pop time might earn someone a spot on the team, but it’s ALL of these 35 skills that will earn them the most playing time.

Please share what you teach. I would appreciate your input.

Last edited by THop

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