2010 Catching Playoff Preview

October 1, 2010

With only a few games left in the regular season, I suppose we can safely check out our catcher viewing options for the playoffs. We’ve got a few repeat offenders in Philly, the Twins, and the Yanks, and a few new ones too. Here are the teams and their catchers along with a bit of commentary…

Twins – Joe Mauer. You’ve gotta know how I feel about this guy already…in short, fantastic, technically sound, but entertainment wise (defensively), kinda like watching paint dry. He’ll smooth you to sleep.

Philly – Carlos Ruiz. You should probably already know how I feel about this guy too. One of my favs. Obviously not in the same planet as Mauer offensively, but defensively right there. Entertaining to watch and mechanically sound.

Giants – Buster Posey. The second coming I guess. I really haven’t seen him enough to give an accurate judgement; however, here’s what I’ve seen so far. Offensively a terror, defensively new to the position and a work in progress…if someone out there knows him, give him my number and I’ll help him get right. Can’t wait to watch him more.

Cincinnati – R Hernandez/Ryan Hanigan. I’ve seen and played against Ramon quiet a bit and I like him. Not exactly my style, but I like his offense and his defense isn’t horrible. I haven’t seen Hanigan at all.

Texas – Bengi Molina. I love him because he’s slower than me. Seriously, I love the way this guy goes about his business. We might also get to see local So Cal product Matt Treanor.

Tampa Bay – J Jaso/D Navarro/K Shoppach. I’m sure all of these guys are good catchers. One of them might be defensively fantastic, I just haven’t seen enough to make a call. But, if nothing else, this trio should be an encouraging sign for the catching youth of the world…if this is the crew one of the best baseball teams on the planet is featuring, anyone has got a chance.

Yanks – Posada/Cervelli. Posada is Posada. He’s gonna clank a few balls, but he’s gonna get it done. I appreciate Francisco’s enthusiasm and how hard he plays, but what can I say…he bugs me.

San Diego? – N Hundley/Yorvit Torrealba. See my comments on Tampa Bay.

Hotlanta? – Brian McCann. Obviously offensively dangerous. This is going to sound weird ¬†because I’ve seen this guy catch at least a dozen times, but I don’t have a clue how good or bad this guy is defensively. I’ve gotta pay attention.

Brian McCann.

Francisco Cervelli.

Nick Hundley.

Ramon Hernandez.

John Jaso.

Bengie Molina.

Ken Burns, Flip Flop Fly Ball

September 28, 2010

For those of you without plans, documentary maker Ken Burns will be airing part one of his two part “Tenth Inning” baseball series on PBS tonight and tomorrow (9/28 & 9/29). Apparently, this installment will pick up where the 18.5 hour epic Baseball left off.

I’m especially interested because this four hour series focuses on my era (1990-2005). This includes such huge events as the 1994 strike that cancelled the World Series, the McGwire/Sosa home-run chase, Barry Bonds, the rise of Latino and Asian players, and steroids/performance-enhancing drug use. I’m excited…Ken Burns + the steroid era = good.

A graph of the footprints of all major league fields from Flip Flop Fly Ball.

And on another note, a friend of mine turned me on to a neat little website called Flip Flop Fly Ball. You know I’m into baseball art and quirky sites…well, here’s a good one. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss his graphs…make sure to click on and enlarge them so you can see what they’re all about. I laughed my butt off.

That’s all I’ve got for now. September in Southern California equals good surf and empty beaches which results in less blogging. Adios.

Picture from Flip Flop Fly Ball of one of my favorite hitters.

Pedro. Simple but nailed it...another great drawing from Flip Flop Fly Ball.

New “Throwing Out Base Stealers” Video

September 21, 2010

Alright, I’ve finally completed my instructional video to help catchers improve their throwing technique. I believe this is the seventh installment of the Art of Catching video series. Previous clips cover athletic posture, stances, “off-set” technique, “drop knee” approach, glove mechanics/receiving, and blocking. We’re getting there.

I’ll guarantee this 18 minute¬†throwing video will improve your caught stealing percentage, lower your “pop” times, and improve your understanding of the position. As with all of the clips, the material presented is appropriate for coaches and players of all levels, from Little League all the way to the big leagues. Learn the right way from a pro!

Here is a general outline of the topics covered in the How to Throw Out Base Runners video…enjoy.

1. Opening discussion (sub 2 second “pop time”)

2. Throwing priorities

A. Accuracy
B. Timing & Quickness
C. Velocity

3. Handwork & Exchange

A. Let the ball travel
B. Whipping glove up to ear (over-rotation)
C. Arm Arc
D. Quickness

4. Footwork

A. Proper direction
B. Come out low (in legs)
C. The “X” Factor

5. Timing

A. Syncing left foot with right hand
B. Starting “on time”
C. Throwing from a position of balance and power

6. Conclusion (game speed example)

7. Slow Motion Views

Click here to view the whole video.

John Lindsey and Other Notable September Call-Ups

September 14, 2010

I’ve got to be honest, I haven’t been watching a ton of baseball lately…especially my local Dodger and Angel teams. Following clubs having off years – just waiting to be put out of their misery – isn’t my idea of fun. I’ve experience enough of those circumstances first hand.

So, when I picked up the paper this morning I was surprised to see a guy by the name of John Lindsey on the front page. It’s September call up time and it turns out, this guy is getting his first taste of the big leagues after spending 16 years in the minors. I repeat, 16 years.

I’ve heard of some pretty awesome things, but this is one of the awesomest. I’m pretty sure we can safely assume this Lindsey guy loves baseball. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t getting rich in Albuquerque or any of the other towns he played in for the last decade and a half.

Turns out, Lindsey led the PCL in hitting this season at the age of 33. As his father was quoted as saying, “Follow your dream, never give up. If you believe in and have a passion or a love for something, don’t quit. Play until they take the uniform off.”

John Lindsey, 1,571 games and 5,589 minor league at-bats before being summoned to the show.

And here’s even better news for all of those catchers out there. Here’s three more September call ups, all whom are catchers and all whom have persevered. I’ve said it a million times before as it relates to catching. There just aren’t enough good catchers to go around. If you just hang in there and learn the craft, chances are you’re going to get a pop. Here’s living proof…a heartfelt congratulations to all of these guys. May you all stick long enough to max out your pensions!

Max St. Pierre, 14 seasons and 978 minor league games before getting the call.

J.C. Boscan, 14 seasons and 976 minor league games before joining the Major Leagues.

Brian Esposito, 11 seasons, 669 minor league games with 6 teams before making it up.

For those interested, here is a link to the full length L.A. Times article about all of these players.

The Pitchers Mound

September 11, 2010

I was listening to Tim Hudson of the Braves being interviewed on XM radio the other day. One of the guys tossing questions asked for Tim’s thoughts as to why the Braves have had such excellent success at home and none on the road this year.

Basically he gave the standard “it’s just one of those things” response; however, he did go into how much he and the other guys on the Braves staff loved pitching at home and that maybe that had something to do with it. Hudson went on to add that in some ballparks, pitchers felt uncomfortable because the mound had the illusion of being far away. In Atlanta, and he named a few others, he felt like the mound was right on top of the hitter and that this feeling had a lot to do with his confidence and ultimately his success.

Interesting. I never really thought of that. I obviously had these thoughts as a hitter, but I just never flip flopped it. I definitely had parks where I saw the ball better, where the mound seemed further back, where I just felt more comfortable. I also had places where the pitcher seemed like he was going to touch me and I didn’t see the ball at all. I know all field dimensions are consistent in the big leagues, it’s obviously just an optical illusion.

Which got me to thinking. If someone ever pays me a few million dollars to design a field, I’m getting the best magician/optical illusion guy and maybe the best movie set designer guy or girl to throw in their two cents about how to make the mound look closer from a pitcher’s perspective and farther away from a hitter’s view at the plate. Don’t you think that makes sense? Doesn’t it make sense that your pitchers and hitters feel as comfortable as possible?

For the your pitchers, maybe make sure the backstop is pretty close make the color light or dark depending on which would make it appear tighter in. And do similar things for the hitters. I’m not exactly sure what these things are…that’s why we’re hiring the magician and the designer. I wonder if teams do this already?

While were at it, I would absolutely make sure that the visiting teams bullpen mound was different from the mound on the field. Shorter, higher, different dirt consistency, whatever. Not messed up or anything, just different. That can’t be good for the opposing pitchers right? They’ve gotta hate that. Technically, that’s not cheating is it?

Ah well, maybe it is. But you know what they say in baseball…”if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” Anyway, just some thoughts.

A view from the mound at Dodger Stadium.