The Catcher/Pitcher Relationship
Last time we talked about the catcher and the umpire. Now I want to take a look at another important relationship. The relationship between the catcher and his pitchers. This is a relationship that, as a catcher, we must give close attention.
In this relationship, there needs to be a great amount of trust and fluidity. What do I mean by fluidity? Throughout a game, catchers at all levels will call at minimum 18 pitches. That is 3 pitches per inning for six innings, for little leaguers, then 21 for 7 inning games and 27 for 9 inning games. We know that this is highly unlikely, and it is safe to say that most catchers will be calling more than 100 pitches per game. With this many pitch calls being made, catchers need to be very in tune (mentally on the same page) and getting the ball back to the pitcher. This allows pitchers to get into a good game rhthym and pace which helps them perform more effectively. Rhthym is imporant to the success of pitchers. Catchers who have the ability to be in sync with pitchers will in turn earn their trust as pitch callers, enabling the pitchers to think less and perform better.
That being said, it is important to know each individual pitcher and their preferences as far as pace and pitch calling. Catchers need to know if pitchers have good fastball command above all else and we also need to know what the pitcher considers to be his out pitch. We can do a lot with just fastballs and one out pitch. Once you know these two things it is a good idea to learn his other secondary pitches and learn when he is confortable throwing each pitch. This will help you when it comes to knowing what your pitchers want to throw in certain game situations and counts. If you know them well enough they will begin to trust your game calling abilities which in turn gives them more confidence in their pitching.
This brings me to my next point; trust. Catchers have to earn the trust of their pitchers. Pitchers have enough on their plate mentally so catchers have to help them focus more on making pitches. How can we fully earn the trust of their pitchers? The first point we discussed was pitch calling and game fluidity. Pitchers also need to trust their catcher to catch the ball, stick pitches, earn borderline strike calls, block balls, keep runners from advancing on balls in the dirt, and control the running game. Catchers need to spend the majority of their time in the bull pen working on their hand skills to become more sure handed at catching and more skillful at getting strike calls. We should also be practicing our blocks, not only stopping the ball, but keeping it close. If the ball doesn't stay close, we didn't do our job, because the runners will advance. The objective is to keep the runner at the same base. A pitcher has to be confident in the catcher's ability to block balls in the dirt, knowing the runners will not advance. Without that confidence, pitchers will shy away from some of their secondary pitches and if they do throw their secondary stuff they will not throw it to their maximum potential because they are fearful the catcher will not keep the ball close. If we do all these things, we will be well on our way to earning the trust of our pitchers, enabling them to have more confidence and success. And that is what catching is all about. Being a leader and helping the team.