This week, we finish our quest to help you improve your catch-play with a segment dedicated to pitchers. Since 90% of what pitchers do is throw the ball, we don’t need to waste time convincing you that playing quality catch is extremely important in taking your game to the next level. Let’s get right to the 5 areas that you need to work on.
Many pitchers get too accustomed to pitching the ball and don’t devote enough time to playing quality catch (one reason why many pitchers develop problems throwing to bases). When playing catch, you should devote plenty of time to working on mechanics and delivery. Whether just getting loose at 30 feet, or fully warmed up at 60 feet, you should aim for consistency in the delivery of every throw. Let your arm go at the speed of your delivery, but keep the mechanics/arm slot/etc. consistent, unless working on something specific to the contrary.
- Working on Different Throws
While working on your mechanics/delivery is important during your catch routine, set aside plenty of time to work on non-pitching throws. You’ll want to incorporate all the types of throws that you will be asked to make in the game, and then some others simply for the purpose of athleticism. This means practice fielding the ball and/or throwing the ball to your infielders. Being able to spin the ball, make throws with touch and feel, and make throws from a variety of athletic body positions and arm angles are all important and needed skills. You will have to make throws from the field, there is no getting around it. If you don’t practice, bad throws may cost you bases or runs. On the other hand, if you work on these skills as part of your catch play, they will start to become second nature and easier to make in your games.
- Location, Location, Location
Don’t work on simply throwing the ball to your partner, pick out specific spots. The best thing to do is to pick two different spots and alternate between the two. When you are throwing to a specific (small) target, you will get immediate feedback on each throw by looking at the flight of the ball and where/how you miss your target. If you aim small, you’ll miss small. If you aim big, you’ll miss big and not get the feedback you need to make small adjustments that go a long way to being a better pitcher and player. Pitching is all about making the ball do what you want it to. Location is a HUGE part of this.
- Build Arm Strength/Long Toss
As a pitcher, your catch play is your life blood. You won’t get to throw off the mound every day, so your catch play becomes your main form of practice. You should have a plan for improvement and something you are working on every time you play catch. Long toss and building arm strength should be part of the bigger development plan. Throw with intent and make sure you are incorporating long toss and pull-downs into your regular catch play.
- Alternating Different Pitches
Once you are comfortable with changing locations (and hitting your targets!), alternate throws using your fastball and change-up (or another secondary pitch) with an emphasis on maintaining the same delivery, arm speed, and arm slot on both. You don’t have to do this at max effort. This will help you get comfortable with your secondary pitches. Alternating these as you change distance can also be helpful in forcing you to find your release point and improve your feel for pitches without over-taxing your arm.
At the end of your catch routine, take a few minutes to work on your pick-off move. Position yourself to simulate throwing to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd and work on quick feet, a short arm, and accurate throws. Ask your partner for feedback.
We could probably go on forever with ways for you to improve your catch-play but now, it’s up to you to put in the work! For more suggestions, check out our other catch play resources here.