2015 World Series (Salvador Perez)
Fitting, my first blog post comes at the end of the baseball season, but, this post is one that people need to read and digest. I do not write this post lightly nor am I out to get people to follow my agenda. What I am out to do is to open the eyes and the minds of those who are reading this post. There is too much misguided, deceitful information out there that is doing nothing to help anyone, which is exactly why I have decided to start a blog for Benji Johnson CatchingTM. I have listened to and read opinions of enough people who are ready to lead you to believe that they know everything about catching and that their way is the best way to go about playing the position. I hope this first blog post captures your attention and gains your trust and respect in what I have to say.
In game 1, the Royals catcher, Salvador Perez, took a foul tip to his throwing hand in the picture above. There are plenty of fans as well as "catching gurus" who are screaming that Perez and no other catcher should ever put there hand in this position. They claim that it is dangerous and you could get hurt. They are trying to use this one instance to tell every catcher that it is wrong to have the throwing hand in this position. The problem I have with this claim is that Perez, along with plenty of other big league catchers that are depicted at the end of the blog post, consistently put their throwing hand in this or a similar spot. Those who claim this is wrong will point to the fact that on the very next pitch, Perez placed his throwing hand behind his body, which they claim is where it should always be for a catcher. However, what they will fail to point out to you is that Perez put his hand back in front of his body the very next time a runner reached base the next inning. I wish I still had the game recorded on my DVR so I could take a screen shot for you but I deleted it a few days ago. If you have the game recorded, I encourage you to go take a look so you can see my claim to be true.
Why does it matter where the throwing hand is placed? The answer to that question is that having the throwing hand in the front of the body allows for a faster exchange and more efficient throw to bases. It saves time. It also helps some catchers to get their hand behind the mitt on a ball in the dirt. Perez is not the best example of that as he tends to rely on picking the ball more than blocking, but for those who go to their knees on blocks it will greatly benefit. If you pay close attention to catchers, they will have their throwing hand hidden behind their body in the receiving stance, when there is no need to be fast with that hand. Meaning, no runner is on base to throw out and the game situation does not demand for a pitch to be blocked.
Now, I want to show you some numbers that mathmatically support the safety of having the hand placement in front of the body and I will also compare these numbers and logic to automobiles. I assume most of you reading this post have a drivers license. I will also assume that since you have a license you drive a car. Have you ever stopped to think about your safety each time you hop in the car and the statistics that support the dangers of being in an accident? I pulled some data on my home state, NC, so we can get a sample of the risk of driving a car simply because driving a car is more efficient than walking, riding a horse, running, or riding a bike. In 2013 there were 6, 822, 902 registered drivers in NC. There were 220, 271 crashes reported. If we do the math that gives NC drivers in 2013 a 3% chance of being in an accident. But, people choose every single day to hop in the car and drive down the road. Now lets take a look at the world series numbers. Salvador Perez caught all but 1 inning in the world series. I added up the pitches thrown to him and came up with 775 pitches over a 5 game span. This stat can be a bit misleading so I want to preface the statistic by saying that his hand was not in front of his body on all 775 pitches That being said, he took 1 foul tip off of his right hand in 775 total pitches thrown. That comes out to .01% of all pitches hitting his hand. As I mentioned, he did not have his hand out front on all 775 pitches, but we can deduce from this that the likelihood of being struck in the hand is low nonetheless. Even if we argue that he was only in this stance half of the time which would cut the pitches in half to 387 total pitches there is a .02% chance of being hit in the hand. And even further to a fourth of the pitches which gives him .05% chance of being hit in the hand. Not to mention, he missed zero games this year due to an injured throwing hand. So the argument of this technique being unsafe does not hold much weight if you actually look at the numbers. I can also attest from my own career of 10 years post high school catching while at UNC for 3 years and professional baseball for 7 years I never injured my throwing hand while having it set in front of my body. I did take 1 foul tip off of my hand in those 10 years of catching but was not injured. If having the hand in front of the body allows a catcher to perform his duties more efficiently with such a low risk of being hit then it is worth the risk. Being a catcher is a risk and unsafe in and of itself. You do not go behind the plate and come out without any bumps and bruises. So by the argument of safety, we should eliminate the position all together. We all know that is not going to happen, so how about we play the position the way it demands us to play it and if we get hurt, we get hurt.
Here are a few more images for you to take a look at to see that Perez is not the only catcher in the big leagues who has his hand out front. I would argue that Perez's hand was actually in a more protected spot than all of the catchers below. Since his hand was against his body, it made his hand able to withstand more. Not to mention the fact that the ball did not even hit his hand directly, as the ball hit his chest protector first.