Tim Kurkjian’s Catching Article

January 6, 2011

Baseball journalist and ESPN analyst, Tim Kurkjian just came out with an excellent article about the importance of the intangible aspects of catching and the impact they have on a team. Game calling, managing personalities, controlling the pace of game – all the subtle things make a catcher so important.

He called me the other day for some information and here’s a couple small excerpts of what I had to say from Tim’s article…

“You’re preaching to the choir, you’re talking to a guy who made his house payments [by calling and running a game],” said Brent Mayne, who caught in the major leagues from 1990-2004. “What’s the most important part of the game? Pitching. If it wasn’t, why would teams throw this kind of money around lately? [That said] you have to have a good catcher. It’s like having a phenomenal race horse, but no jockey. Will the horse win the race without one? Probably not. Someone has to know when to use the crop and when not to.”

“Some pitchers need to be patted on the back, some need to be kicked in the ass, and a catcher has to have a feel for that,” Mayne said. “That’s extremely important, and it’s rare today. You have to be able to sense that. You have to be an amateur psychologist in some ways. There’s so much more to pitching than following a scouting report to a tee. That’s not how it works. That’s not the ultimate decision. The ultimate decision is the feeling in your gut. Carlos Ruiz has that, and Cliff Lee knows he has that. Anyone can sit in the stands and look at a scouting report, or an iPod, and know what to throw next. But sitting in the stands, you can’t see the subtle shift that the hitter makes after a pitch. Only the catcher can see that. And that’s where the feel for the pitcher comes in. The best pitch any pitcher can throw is the one he can throw with conviction, whether it’s the right pitch or the wrong pitch. The catcher’s job is to give him that conviction.”

If you’re interested, click here to read the rest of the article…enjoy.

Steve Roden

December 15, 2010

Ah, it’s been a while. I’ve been super busy with my new scouting job, but now that fall baseball has concluded, things are slowing down. I’m finally getting a moment to catch up on emails and spend a little time on the Art of Catching stuff.

So I’m sure you’d like me to comment on something baseball related but…not now. (If you really need a fix, check out the latest tip I put out a couple days ago.) I’m going to go off the board and report about a fantastic art show I saw the other day. Steve Roden’s “in be tween” at the armory center for the arts in Pasadena. One thing that’s really nice about this new job I have is that I’m all over L.A. I love Los Angeles for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is because it’s full of art. And I love art.

I’ve mentioned it in a few past blogs, but I see a correlation between good art and athletics. The flow, the risk, the intuition, the creativity, the “in-the-momentness” of both acts are very similar to me. Enter Steve Roden. I’m no expert in the field, but I know what I like and his stuff felt honest and right. I’d highly recommend his show to anyone interested and in the L.A area. He also maintains an interesting blog.

Roden’s art runs the gamut…painting, sculpture, sound, movies, drawing, collage, etc. Here are a few pictures of his stuff that I snapped at the show…enjoy.

Scouting Adventure

November 15, 2010

Been putting some serious mileage on the Prius lately as I pound the freeways of southern California working my new scouting job with the SD Padres. I never really appreciated the little car pool lane stickers that I got on that car till now.

To be honest, I really have no clue what I’m doing. I mean, I obviously know what a good player looks like. But I’m just learning how to break it down into degrees of “how much I like him” and putting that in scouting vernacular. Basically learning how to make an accurate evaluation of an amateur player so the people spending money with the Padres know exactly what they’re purchasing.

How do I do that? I go to a lot of games. I videotape. I get running and throwing times with a stopwatch. I get velocities with my radar gun. I look at body makeups, watch mannerisms, watch how players interact, watch them take b.p and ground balls. I pay attention to how they throw, hit, and field. I watch to see how they handle adversity. I talk to other scouts, parents, coaches, and the players themselves. Basically I’m an information gathering machine in a Prius.

The honest truth about what I see so far? A truckload of below average players, a lot of mediocre players, and a handful of potential prospects. Baseball must be a tough game. Genetics must be a tough game. You’ve gotta have a lot of skill and luck on your side to be a prospect.

The one thing I can say without a shadow of a doubt is that in California (probably the rest of the country too), if you can play, one of us is gonna find you. Nobody’s slipping through the cracks. If you’re a parent or a kid at least you can scratch that off your list of concerns.

So after about a month of doing this gig, so far so good. It’s fun to be in the early stages of a learning curve and I’m loving getting a paycheck again. The driving hasn’t got to me (yet?). I really do enjoy going to games and evaluating. And the cast of characters that comprise the southern California scouting force are entertaining to say the least. Maybe not as entertaining as Mathew McConnaughey’s gay scout on Eastbound and Down, but funny none the less. Stay tuned…

Mathew McConnaughey as a gay scout from Texas on Eastbound and Down.

Texas & Molina vs. San Fran & Posey

October 25, 2010

Well, I got my wish. Ron Washington’s Texas crew against Sabean’s Giants. Should be an interesting series. Lots of great and fresh stories to explore. Not the same ol’ Philly Yanks thing.

I find it interesting that regardless the outcome, Bengie Molina will be taking home a ring because he played half of the 2010 season with both teams. I’m sure he had a huge impact on the young pitching staff of the Giants and a big reason they’re in the position that they’re in. Ditto for the Rangers.

Say what you will about the Molina brothers…they’re a little rotund, slow, whatever. The fact is, these cats are getting it done. One of them is in the hunt every year getting a big hit or putting in a solid defensive performance. No doubt, Posey, Mauer, or even Ruiz are easier on the eyes and we’d all probably rather watch them. But you’ve gotta hand it to them, the Molina’s have a knack for getting to the big dances.

So who am I rooting for? Tough one. I played for the Giants and they’re in California. I’ve still got friends there. I love Krukow and Kuiper and Miller. I can’t take my eyes off Lincecum when he pitches. I love their stadium. On the other hand, Texas might as well be a separate country, but they have Wash and Hurdle and I love watching Vlad, Kinsler, Hamilton, and the rest of their offense do their thing. And I feel the same way about Lee as I do about Lincecum. Soooooo….I’ll take Texas I guess.

2010 American and National League Championships

October 14, 2010

It’s down to four. Here’s who I want to see in the World Series…Texas and the Giants. Here’s who I think will be in the World Series…Philly and NY. I’m a big Ron Washington fan, a big Clint Hurdle fan, and I love the way the Rangers play. They’re going to have to pitch their butts off though.

And I really love the mash up of misfits that the Giants run out on the field. Obviously their pitching is fantastic, but how that group of position players came together and got this far is amazing. It makes Brian Sabean look like a genius.

Wash was the 3rd base coach for the 1997 A's team I played on...he's solid. I'm happy the Rangers stuck with him and I'm happy he's persevered.

The reality though is New York is New York. Their second string team is probably better than the Giants. And Philly is going to feature Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels on the bump. If I had to bet the farm, I’d bet on these two teams. One thing we can pretty much bank on in both series is that we’re going to see some pitching. The year of the pitcher is going out with a bang.

As a side note, I’ve taken a position with the San Diego Padres as their greater Los Angeles area scout. I feel like I have a pretty good knowledge of the game, but not a whole lot from a scouting perspective. I’m looking forward to learning how to evaluate players and this new chapter in my baseball adventure. See you at the ballpark.