Catcher

From BR Bullpen

"Let somebody do 312,000 squats . . . then come back to me and ask why I'm retiring!" - Johnny Bench, on retiring from the catcher's position

The Catcher (abbreviated C and position 2 when scoring ) sits behind home plate and receives the throws from the pitcher. He typically uses a large padded glove to protect his hand, as well as a catcher's mask, chest protector, and shin guards (collectively known as the tools of ignorance) to protect himself from pitches he is unable to catch.

The position calls for a strong and accurate arm in order to prevent baserunners from stealing. This is especially important for the long throw from home plate to second base. Additionally, catchers must have a high degree of stamina, as they spend nearly the entire game in a crouched position.

The catcher has arguably the most demanding job in baseball, in both the mental and physical aspects. First and foremost, the catcher must "call the game," signaling to the pitcher what pitch to throw and where to throw it. For this reason, many catchers spend a considerable amount of their time scouting opposing batters, memorizing their tendencies and weaknesses.

On the physical side, catchers are crouched for the vast majority of the game, as stated above. This tends to not only increase their fatigue rate relative to other position players, but tax them offensively as well - catchers are not typically known as offensive powerhouses. There are obviously numerous exceptions in baseball history. To compensate for this, most professional teams carry a talented backup catcher on the roster that spells the starter once or twice a week. Another way of accomplishing this is having a specialty catcher that works with only one pitcher in the rotation. Recent examples include Doug Mirabelli, Kevin Cash, and George Kottaras, all of the Boston Red Sox, who all caught exclusively for knuckleball specialist pitcher Tim Wakefield in 2005, 2008, and 2009, respectively. One problem is that, for instance, if Kottaras got injured, Jason Varitek would have to catch Wakefield and they would not be used to working together, which is something that can be easily overcome for a "traditional" pitcher but can be a challenge for one who is not used to handling the tricky fluttering pitch.

Catchers are traditionally right-handed, although in the early days of baseball this was not so strictly enforced. 19th century catcher Jack Clements, a lefthander, caught over 1,000 games, one of the lengthiest careers of the period. However, they have almost completely disappeared since, with occasional presences by players such as Dale Long, Mike Squires and, most recently, Benny Distefano, the only exceptions. This is not because there is a huge inherent disadvantage to being left-handed behind the plate, but because young left-handed players are systematically steered to other positions, and especially to pitching of they have the strong arm one looks for in a catcher.

Baseball positions
Outfielders: Positions.png Left field | Center field | Right field
Infielders: 3rd base | Shortstop | 2nd base | 1st base
Battery:

Pitcher | Catcher

Designated hitter


Further Reading[edit]

  • Thomas Boswell: "Half Guru, Half Beast of Burden" in Why Time Begins on Opening Day, Penguin Books, New York, NY, 1984, pp. 159-166.
  • Anthony Castrovince: "The player who no longer exists in the Majors", mlb.com, February 3, 2021. [1]
  • Tom Hanrahan: "Catcher ERA - Once More with Feeling: It's Tough to Be a Rookie", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 38, Number 1 (Summer 2009), pp. 59-61.
  • Donald Honig: The Greatest Catchers of All Time, Brown & Benchmark Publishing, Madison, WI, 1991. ISBN 0697128067
  • Conor Kelley: The Catcher’s Handbook, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2014. ISBN 978-0-7864-7938-2
  • Jason Kendall and Lee Judge: Throwback: A Big-League Catcher Tells How the Game Is Really Played, St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 2014. ISBN 978-1250031839
  • William F. McNeil: Backstop: A History of the Catcher and a Sabermetric Ranking of 50 All-Time Greats, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2006.
  • Jack Moore: "Why no left-handed catchers?", Sports on Earth, April 9, 2013. [2]
  • Peter Morris: Catcher: How the Man Behind the Plate Became an American Folk Hero, Ivan R. Dee Publisher, Chicago, IL, 2009.
  • Chuck Rosciam: "Greatest Catchers: A Composite Ranking Methodology", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 38, Number 1 (Summer 2009), pp. 62-69.
  • Milton J. Shapiro: Heroes Behind the Mask: Baseball's Greatest Catchers (originally published in 1968).