Uh-oh, “the Yips” strike again

April 29, 2010

Another case of the yips has broken out…and unfortunately it’s happened to a catcher. Gregg Zaun of the Brewers got it, then cured it, all in the same game. Check out the video here. I know it’s not really appropriate to laugh at someone else’s expense, but damn, for some reason I’ve always found this hilarious. In the same way it’s funny when someone trips (elderly excluded). I dare you to not chuckle when you watch this clip.

One reason I can laugh about it is I never lost control of my ability to play catch. Like I said, funny to watch, but it can’t be a whole lot of fun having that little Vietnam going on in your head. To be honest, I don’t know how the heck it happens. I know it’s generally not mechanical and generally not health related. I also know that the yips strike out of the blue. One day a guy is throwing the ball wherever he wants to without even thinking about it, and the next he can’t hit a guy who’s three feet from him. Tragic, but hilarious (except when it ends someone’s career or the guy happens to be a teammate.)

I played with Chuck Knoblauch when he had it and it wasn’t fun because I got wore out chasing down his errant tosses. I played against Mackey Sasser when he had it and that was funny, astonishing, and sad all at the same time because it was taking down his career. I watched Steve Sax battle it. I’ve seen the yips strike golfers when they putt and even some (Charles Barkley) when they swing…which you’ve got to admit is funny by the way. I’ve watched Shaq battle the yips at the free throw line too.

Mackey in the midst of the yips.

Mackey in the midst of the yips.

So, to end this blog on a good note, I’m happy to report that all’s well with Zaun. He somehow got it under control and finished the rest of the game without throwing away another ball. He also had 5 RBI’s that game. But once you’ve had em’ are they always there…just waiting in the wings? To be continued…

Jose Molina Guns Down 4 Rays

April 26, 2010

A big day for catchers yesterday as Jose Molina of the Blue Jays threw out four Ray base stealers, including Carl Crawford…twice. Nice job Jose. He’s the first AL catcher to accomplish this feat since Terry Steinbach did it in 1992. Charles Johnson was the last to throw out four guys and that was eight years ago, in 2002.

I took a look at the video and here’s my take. By the way, click here if you’d like to see it for yourself. The first thing that popped out to me was, contrary to my Art of Catching style, Jose likes to swing his momentum way over to his left. He makes his throws from the right handed batters box. This isn’t particularly efficient in my opinion. I like to teach simplicity. And for me, the shortest path between to points is a straight line. So when a catcher comes up to throw, I prefer to see their momentum headed through the pitcher towards second base.

OK, that being said, we all know there’s a lot of different ways to get it done. And Jose proved this true because get it done he did. Here’s the things I really liked about his pegs. First, the accuracy. Aspiring catchers, notice that every single one of his throws was on the first base side of second base and about thigh high for the middle infielder to handle.

Jose Molina back in his Yankee days.

Jose Molina back in his Yankee days.

For me, in order to throw out base stealers consistently, here are the priorities in order of importance. Accuracy, timing/quickness, then velocity. Velocity is a distant third. The first two are actually interchangeable in my opinion. And make no mistake about it, Molina’s timing and quickness were dead on. His pop times were in the 1.8’s, plus dead accurate, and powerful.

The last thing I’d like to point out about his mechanics is his exchange. Notice that he correctly lets the pitch travel (doesn’t jab out) and that the glove to bare hand exchange happens in the middle of his body. In other words, the glove does not pull up to the right ear. Making that quick exchange (maybe even a flip?) in the middle of the body allows his throwing arm to complete its arc and gives him a bit more time to find a good grip.

Good stuff. Congrats Jose, that performance makes all us catchers proud.

Jeff Mathis Breaks Wrist Blocking Ball ??!!

April 23, 2010

As you may or may not know, I’m a big fan of how both Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli block the ball in the dirt. Although effective, their approach is slightly non-traditional because their bare hand doesn’t always get behind the glove. I like to call it the “rodeo block” because with the glove covering the “five-hole” and the bare hand positioned off the right hip, they resemble a bull rider in a rodeo. That being said, for me, their technique is simple, valid, and very effective. I’m not sure which Angel coach (Scioscia?) is responsible for helping them, but whoever it is does a good job.

Since I consider Mathis to be one of the best at this facet of the game, I’m kind of surprised that he broke his wrist blocking. Did anyone out there happen to see it or have access to video? I missed it and am very curious. I’d expect something like that to happen to a receiver with poor technique, but not to Mathis. Then again, maybe the ball just took an unusual bounce. Then again, maybe he just messed up.

Proper hand positioning for the "rodeo" blocking technique from my book The Art of Catching.

Proper hand positioning for the "rodeo" blocking technique from my book The Art of Catching.

In my playing days, I used this “rodeo” blocking technique quite a bit. I’d say about half the time. Half the time my hand would get behind the glove, and the other half it would be outside the right hip. I was always very conscious that the bare hand would be in one of these two spots and nowhere in-between.

In other words, for me, the bare hand should never be in “no-man’s land.” That area inside the right hip in front of the right thigh but not behind the glove. That area is dangerous and that’s the area I’m guessing Jeff’s hand was when it got hit.

But again, I’m not sure. If anyone has more information, please comment and share. Thanks.

Oh yeah, a perfect spot for a shameless plug. If you are a coach or a player and don’t want a broken wrist, check out my book The Art of Catching so you can learn how to make the area behind the dish safer and more efficient. Also, keep checking my video store for clips on blocking.

In the Bleachers by Steve Moore

April 21, 2010

Yesterday my 11 year old son had a baseball game that got rained out. On the way home, we were chatting and he asked me if I ever got “really, really, nervous about something.” I said yes, of course. I get nervous before speaking and definitely before most games…especially big ones.

Since we were coming from the baseball field, I assumed it had to do with sports. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he wants to ask out a girl or something. I’d definitely throw that into the nerve wracking experience category too. Anyway, as I was flipping through the paper this morning I saw this comic that summed it all up. My son loved it.

moore comic

So there was that, and there was something I cut out of the paper the other day which dealt with the Orioles, Indians, and Blue Jays all announcing record-low crowds last week. In response, Blue Jays President Paul Beeston had the most honest comment I’ve ever heard from a front office person. Instead of making excuses, instead of trying to play the small market card, he said, “We came off a bad season. We reduced our payroll. We traded our No. 1 star and we said, ‘Come on out and watch us.’” Nice Paul, that was refreshing.

Extra Extra Innings, Palmeiro, Lincecum, & Jimenez

April 18, 2010

Yesterday was a great day for baseball. I got to watch Lincecum pitch (and hit) against the Dodgers, Ubaldo Jimenez twirled the Rockies first ever no-hitter, and the Mets and Cards locked up for a 7 hour 20 inning game. Good stuff.

As for Tim Lincecum, there’s nobody I’d rather watch pitch. To see that little sucker get so much torque out of 160 pounds is a thing of beauty…to watch, probably not to hit. I love his focus and I especially appreciate how quickly he works.

Ubaldo Jimenez…what can I say? 98 mph on pitch 126? C’mon, that’s not fair. Effectively wild with 5 or 6 walks (although none after the 5th). It just can’t be fun facing all those arms and legs coming at you at 98…with a filthy breaking ball to boot. But what I liked the best about his whole no hitter happened this morning. Keep your eyes peeled for the next Art of Catching Tip because it’s going to focus on this event.

And the 7 hour Met – Card game, featuring Yadier Molina catching all 20 innings. Good stuff. Brings me back to June 6, 1991. Royals and the Rangers lock up for an 18 inning marathon on the toasty warm astro turf of Kansas City. I caught all 18 of that one and I’m still traumatized. If my memory serves me right, Mike Stanley caught the whole game for Texas too.

We prevailed, although I don’t think one guy on that field cared. We all just wanted out. Uncle. Make it be over. My most vivid memory of the event came late in the game, about the 17th inning or so. Rafael Palmeiro, who was 0 for 8 at this point, dragged his butt to the plate for at-bat number 9. I remember everything happening in slow motion, like we were all playing underwater. It was just pure survival. A battle of nutrition.

Anyway, up slithers Palmeiro. He fouls the first pitch off and snaps his bat in the process. Not completely in half, but as close as one could possibly come. The thing was hanging together by one or two grains. All I remember was Rafael looking down at me with these basset hound eyes and says, “There’s no way I can make it back to the dugout to get another bat…I’ve got to hit with this one…careful, it’s gonna come apart.” And sure enough, he hit the next pitch and the bat exploded and the ball rolled back to the pitcher like it was hit with a wet noodle. That was the cherry on top of his 0-9 day. Classic.

And I remember waking up the next day and nothing. Nothing hurt. I actually felt fine. It was weird. But the day after that, I couldn’t get out of bed. I would imagine that same thing will be happening to all those guys from yesterday’s game. They probably won’t feel it today, but they gonna pay over the next week or so. Trust me, that one game will take a good while to recover from…regardless of if you won or lost.