Bullpens Should Always Be Caught By a Real Catcher

Tips For Bullpens For Pitchers and Catchers

There are many times throughout the year where bullpens are caught by somebody other than the actual game catcher.  Sometimes a coach will stand (crouch) in, sometimes a player who just likes to catch will do it, and other times pitchers will just throw to a target.  

There are plenty of good reasons why there isn't a real catcher available for every bullpen.

Sometimes there are numerous pitchers that need to get their work in on any given day, and there aren't enough catchers.  Sometimes a catcher is doing something else, maybe even pitching.  It's not at all uncommon for anybody but the actual game catcher to catch a bullpen.

There are many reasons, however, why this shouldn't be happening and why every bullpen that a pitcher throws should be caught by the actual game catcher.

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Bullpen Tip #1: Every Pitcher's Pitches Are Different

Every pitcher is different, and so is every catcher.  When it comes to game time, it's extremely important that the pitcher and catcher understand each other.

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The first place this shows up most commonly is in the variances of each pitcher's pitches.  Some of their fastballs move down, some tail glove side, some fly straight as an arrow.  It is vital that a game catcher knows every possible subtlety of the pitcher's movement and velocity.  

How many pitches have we seen in the amateur ranks that were called balls because of the way they were caught?  Pitches that came through the strike zone only to be moved out of said zone by the catcher's mitt.  This is not always the fault of the catcher, sometimes he just doesn't know quite how to handle a particular pitch from a particular pitcher.

One of the things that MLB catchers are best at is catching each pitch perfectly and making it look easy.  Quiet, not a lot of movement, seemingly beating each pitch to the spot.  Watch next time a backup catcher comes in.  We guarantee you that a number two catcher on a Major League Baseball team is very good at receiving pitches. Indeed, one of the best in the world at it.

However, watch how bad they often look if they're forced into the game due to injury or some other factor.  They often look like they have no idea how to catch the pitcher.  This is not because they're bad catchers, it's because they don't catch those pitchers often enough.  The part we were talking about above relating to movement on pitches is even more pronounced in MLB.  

Most pitchers at that level have absolutely unfair, and crazy late, movement on their pitches.  So when a guy comes in to catch them that hasn't been their regular catcher, it shows. One of the primary reasons why big league catchers look so good catching their guys, is because they've had so much practice catching those exact guys.

While it isn't as hard to catch a high school kid as an elite high level pitcher, the principles are definitely the same.  The more pitches from that particular pitcher that a catcher has received, the better he'll be with those pitches.  He'll learn how to handle the late dive on one of the pitcher's fastballs, and he'll be able to control the arm side run from another pitcher.

Secondary pitches are also very different from every guy.  The spin is different, the movement is different, the look is vastly different sometimes from pitcher to pitcher.  The only real way for a catcher to understand these unique aspects of each pitcher is to catch them, a ton.  He'll know from release point if the curveball needs to be blocked or if it'll make it all the way.  He'll know not to reach for the slider, because the way this pitcher throws it, it always comes right to that spot.

There are a lot of differences in each pitcher's stuff, and the better the catcher knows them, the better they both will look on game day.   

Repetitions are critical if a catcher is going to catch a pitcher well.  One of the best places to get them is in the bullpen.

We'll be adding many more articles in this series and linking them here, please follow us on Twitter and join our Newsletter to get updated instantly when they're written!

 

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