The most important split-second in a catcher's game.
The split-second sequence between receiving the pitch and throwing to second can make all the difference. A tip for any coach - any time you have a player struggling such as below, try to duplicate the problem movement yourself - you may get a clue in the way it feels to you that helps you realize where the timing or mechanics are 'funk' as he puts it.
Here's the email we received...
I'm a college level catcher that seems to have developed a funk with my mechanics. When I perform the jump pivot, my left leg stays open - toe is pointing towards second before I release the ball. Plus, I seem to take a huge stride, almost like a pitcher winding up. It seems to strain my arm in addition to losing velocity and accuracy. I guess I want to use more of my legs, but I end up becoming too long and slow.
I noticed that it says the jump pivot does not utilize the legs when throwing. How is that possible? Also, I need some advice on how I can make sure my left leg and hip do not open too early as they have been doing. My upper body stays aligned (shoulders lined with second) but my lower body does its own thing.
Secondly, I was told to come into the ball when receiving a pitch to throw a guy out. Should I wait instead a split second before the ball hits my glove, almost waiting for the ball to hit my glove to move? Maybe coming into the ball is throwing my timing? Will my throws be stronger if my left side stays closed?
Many different questions - but as is often the case, they are all connected.
Most of these concerns are on two topics...
1) The Jump Pivot
Sounds like your body is trying to do a jump pivot but your brain wants to do the stride throw - hence front-side staying open and the huge stride. As you are aware, both of these are not letting you fully close the front side and so the hips are not powering your throw - hence the arm strain, loss of velocity, etc.
Start by practicing jump turns without throws. You want to stay low with a carterpillar tractor move - in other words, front and back feet slide in clockwise rotation but stay close to the ground. Just practice this a few times. That's really what's meant by legs not moving - they don't change their angle or relationship to the body - everything just turns on a dime. Also by thinking of it as a slide rotation rather than jump pivot - you are less likely to feel the need to pop up as you turn - stay low.
After doing this caterpillar turn for awhile (lower body only), position the arm in your cocked throwing position from the start (catching position) then do the rotation a few more times.
Then do that (arms already cocked then pivot turn) with the addition of ball release. Only after you're comfortable with the entire finishing sequence, should you go back to the start position, this time with glove in receiving position.
What you've done is isolate the key change needed - foot turn then added the pay-off move, then gone back to the transitional sequence - this is a good training method for many baseball corrections.
2) Going to the pitch
There are two reasons to delay till glove-ball contact.
First, so that you stop the tendancy to generate thrust towards second base until you have done the pivot - as corrected above. In fact this may be the major cause of your poor pivot now, as you pointed out - wrong timing (meaning wrong sequence of actions).
Second, in moving to the ball when receiving, you have a tendancy to come up - bad form, but more critically, it takes you out of your catching stance and may block the umpire. So even if you do get the good throw down to second, you'll never get the called strike. Think how many times the runner goes on a 3-2 count and instead of a strike-him-out/throw-him-out DP you end up with a walk and two runners on - just because you blocked the plate ump's view.