Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning

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Youth Sports

What Game Changer Tells Us About Catchers

By Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC*E

Regardless of whether you are playing in the Major Leagues or youth baseball, the position of catcher is one of the most demanding on the field. Review of Game Changer data for over 70 games during the 2019 and 2020 seasons indicates that advanced level13 and 14U catchers squat, stand and throw an average 90-110 times per game, get hit by foul tips, bruised by flying bats, collide with backstops and have collisions at the plate with opposing players. And, they do it approximately 30-40 times per season in both hot and cold weather while wearing 5-7 pounds of gear.

While position players are active just before and after every third or fourth pitch, catchers are active before, during and after every pitch. The pitcher and catcher are a two-man team and what one does can significantly affect the other. Data, for example, indicate that:

  • 13 and 14U pitchers throw an average of 19-20 pitches per inning and 130-140 pitches per game that the catcher has to respond to.

  • 13 and 14U pitchers throw 49.5% strikes which means that catchers not only have to catch the obvious strikes cleanly, they have to try to frame 40-50 pitches per game that are out or marginally out of the strike zone.

  • If the pitch is not put into play, the catcher has to make 80-90 throws back to the pitcher each game.

  • Catchers attempt to block approximately 60 wild pitches per season; about 4 per game.

  • Catchers make 5 throws to second and third base per game and are successful in getting the runner out only 13% of the time.

  • Catching with no runners on base is stressful, but catching with runners on base requires more physical stress to maintain a balanced position from which to catch and throw and more mental focus to catch and throw accurately and efficiently.

  • 52% of the total pitches per game are made with runners on base, thus catchers are in an elevated state of physical and mental stress approximately one-half of the game.

  • The average pitcher gives up 5.8 hits, walks 4.8 batters and hits 1.2 batters per game. Add to this the fact that most teams make 3.2 errors per game suggests that catchers have to work with approximately 15 runners on base per game.

If all this isn’t enough, the fact that catchers are in a deep squat for at least half of the game can lead to sore knees and extreme tightness in the muscles that flex the hips, which, in turn, inhibit the action of the glutes and over stress the hamstrings and low back. Because the throwing hand is constantly exposed, it is at risk of being accidently struck by the bat or ball resulting in blunt trauma to the hand, fingers and wrist. While catchers don’t typically throw as hard as pitchers, they are the only other player on the field that throws on every play. Because they are usually throwing from a squat position with men on base and from awkward positions when fielding bunts, they can be at an increased risk of shoulder injury. And, there is the increased risk of concussions, bruises and broken bones from contact with balls, bats and opposing players and teammates.

Data suggests that the catcher has the most demanding job on the team. In addition to all of the physical demands of the game, they have to be smart enough to manage the game on the field and have a detailed knowledge of both their pitcher and the batter. They have to be durable enough to withstand the physical and mental stresses of every game.  Finally, they have to be tough minded. They have to call the game, have a short memory and avoid “bringing their bat behind the plate”. Even if they are in a slump, they have to stay focused mentally to ensure that they are framing every pitch, protecting their pitcher, and calling a good game.

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Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC*E, FACSM has over four decades as a head strength and conditioning coach (Astros) and strength and conditioning consultant (Rangers). He is Professor Emeritus in the Exercise and Health Sciences Program at the University of Houston – Clear Lake, Website Education Manager baseballstrength.org and Senior Contributor for SportEdTV.

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