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I am sick of watching major league pitchers lose strikes that are "right there," because the catcher’s glove has to move a foot, or so, to catch the ball. I cannot blame the umpire for missing the call, as the pitch looks like a ball, even though it catches much of the plate. With the umpire looking from inside the catchers inside shoulder and the catcher almost in the batter's box on set-up, it virtually puts the umpire in another time zone. So often, that scenario leads to ball one, ball two, and then pitchers face either grooving the next pitch or walking players, with either situation a bad one. I believe the catching position has lost its way, about what receiving the ball is.
I remind you that I am not generally for the pitcher, being a batter and position player, but I believe the correct strike zone helps all, including batters, who do not have to worry as much about pitches 3 to 4 inches off the plate being called strikes, because the catcher caught it in the middle of his body.
When I pitched, way-back in the day, the catcher set up in the middle of home plate, with the catcher’s mitt in the same spot on every pitch. After all, it was little league and no one knew any better. Even though the glove was always in the same spot, I would aim for the catcher’s right knee, or left knee, or right shoulder, etc… The catcher would adjust to the pitch, and with any pitch close to or in the strike zone, the glove would move a few inches in the direction necessary, but still appear to be the strike it was, to the umpire.
I remind you, I was in little league and it was not hard for me to aim for different targets, other than the catcher’s mitt. Not only was that easier for the catcher and umpire, it also did not tip the hitter off as to the location of the pitch.
If I am a pitcher at any level and especially in the Major Leagues, I want every strike I throw, not just the ones,
when I hit my target. It is time for some major league pitcher or team as a whole, to step up and teach baseball catchers to set up down the middle on all pitches, give location with their sign to the pitcher, as they do anyway, and let the pitcher throw the ball to that location. Pitchers should be able to easily visualize and use the catcher’s body parts for the target, besides the glove. If pitchers learn to do it that way at the younger levels, it will be easy to do from then on, giving umpires a much better view of the whole strike zone. It would make watching games with the strike tracker much more bearable too, as the umpire's calls and the strike tracker technology will agree much more.
One might argue that by moving to the outskirts of the plate, baseball catchers finesse the corner pitches into strikes. Probably so, but that is only when pitchers hit those spots, and there is a good chance umpires would give them that call anyway, with catchers that know how to frame pitches correctly. Catchers are good enough and mobile enough to adjust to those corner pitches. Additionally, it is OK for baseball catchers to shade in one direction and occasionally move in or out, as they once did, but certainly not on every pitch, all game long. Of course, I recognize that it may work best to move on every pitch for a Mariano Rivera, but there are very few pitchers like him out there.
Finally, it is another reason games last forever, as more pitches are necessary when strikes are balls, and batters have no urgency to swing at close pitches.
Good article and very true how much a catcher receives the ball can affect the game. I too have been a catcher all my life and prided myself on the ability to be able to get "the strike" call. Frame and sway is the correct answer. Lots of catchers will try and frame but if you aren't able to sway and get your body centered on the pitch the umpire will most likely not give you the call. Not an easy task to learn and requires some agility to be able to move from side to side on a 95 mph fastball but it can be done.
I would have to agree with Brandon Bull on this one with the techniques of receiving the ball. As a former catcher, if you catch a ball moving to the right or left of your body the umpire will usually call it a ball, even if it actually is a strike.