FanPost

Am I Being Framed?!  II

In Part I (http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2012/12/19/3786388/am-i-being-framed ) , I short-changed the discussion on the low pitch. It was actually a piece I had written some time ago, incompletely developed (and not-yet edited error free!). I didn’t expand on the bases for my opinion that the catcher’s palm-up, supinated position was optimal for making the low pitch look like a strike. While musing on red/white celestial bodies zipping through space on Christmas, I did a little experiment with my 10-year-old grandson to get confirmation of my bias. I took my catcher’s mitt, assumed a receiver’s crouch position, and then simulated catching a low pitch over the middle of the plate. He observed from the side, at a right angle to my glove and arm. With my forearm held in the same position in relation to my body, I turned the wrist and glove to "catch" the pitch. The glove and wrist were rotated through 3 positions: a pronated fingers-up, thumb-right (vertical) position (Fig. 1), to a more horizontal palm forward, thumb-down position( Fig. 2), to a wrist-supinated palm-up, thumb-out, fingers-forward position (Fig. 3), and then back and forth between the three positions( Fig. 1-3, below). I asked him whether the glove and ball stayed in the same position in relation to distance from the the plate. No, he said: it got closer to the plate with the palm up.

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Fig. 1 Above: Wrist pronated (glove vertical; palm forward, thumb right, fingers up). Note position of mitt in relation to shadow line on wall in background. The ball is hidden in the pocket, which is behind the line, and hidden from the umpire's view. More than 1/2 of the mitt is below the ball. Camera is at slight, identical angle to shadow line in all 3 images.

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Fig. 2. Above. Wrist semi-pronated (glove horizontal; palm forward, thumb down, fingers right). The ball is behind the line, hidden from the umpire's view. Almost 1/2 of the glove is below the ball.

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Fig. 3 (Above). Wrist supinated (palm up, thumb out, fingers forward). The ball is hidden, but the pocket/web is inches in front of the shadow line. The majority of the glove is above the lowest point of the ball ball. The umpire would be looking down and reading the signature on the ball.

That’s a fact that’s been apparent to me for years. When the ball is caught in the most commonly applied positions, as illustrated in three of the images inserted by Editor Justin Bopp into the original posting (palm forward, thumb down, fingers right), the act of bending the wrist and glove back to present the pocket to the ball essentially retracts the mitt back from the plate. So, too, if the glove is held vertically (palm forward, thumb in, fingers up) Therefore, if a low pitch is at the inferior aspect of the strike zone, it is caught further away from the plate with these latter techniques. If the elbow is bent, and the arm is not extended, it’s caught even further back. . If it’s a breaking or sinking pitch (curve, slider, change up, split-finger, fork ball, Cuban palm ball, spit ball, etc.) the pitch will be sinking further from the strike zone in the distance that the palm-up and palm –forward positions represent. OK…it’s a matter of an inch or two, you say: no big deal. Sorry, that’s the difference between a higher % of pitches being called strikes than not. As I’ve suggested before, the closer a low pitch is caught to the plate, and higher in its trajectory, the better it will appear to the umpire.

It’s not an optical illusion: try it yourself. In the classic anatomist’s supine position, a subject is lying on their back with their hands and arms positioned with the palm facing upward, fingers extended toward the feet, thumbs out, little fingers in. In this position, the radius (the long forearm bone on the thumb side) is parallel to the ulna (the other forearm bone, on the little-finger side). The forearm in this position is as straight and extended as it can be between the elbow joint through the radiocarpal joints to the tip of the middle finger. However, when the forearm and wrist are turned with the palm down, (pronated), the radius rotates up, then over the ulna, in effect reducing the effective 3-dimensional length of the radius, secondarily foreshortening the effective forearm length in doing so. If the subject were wearing a catcher’s mitt, the edge of mitt would now be farther from his feet. However, the fingers and the mitt are now pointing toward his feet, with no pocket open to the oncoming ball. For the subject to present the pocket and web of the mitt to the ball, the tips of the fingers and glove must be retracted or lifted back more vertically (extending the wrist), exaggerating the distance from the feet even further. The anatomic principles of these movements extend to rotating the forearm, and extending the wrist, while crouching behind the plate, receiving a pitch.

What about other movements less than full pronation? If the glove pocket faces right toward the middle of the plate (palm right, fingers forward, thumb up), the difference in position of the glove is less marked than in the fully pronated position, compared to supine. However, not all pitches lend themselves to being caught in this fashion. A left-hander’s curve, slider, or cutter certainly does, but a right-hander’s doesn’t. A curve, sinker, circle-change, or screwball, etc., from a right hander still can’t be handled as frequently as when the wrist and palm are supinated. Over-pronating to face the back of the glove toward the plate, the palm left, thumb-down, fingers forward might be used to catch the right-hander's curve on the inside corner. But this pitch can still be caught with the supinated position.

Not only is the supine position optimal for getting the glove closest to the plate (and catching a breaking pitcher higher in its trajectory) therefore, but I believe it’s also the position where the greater percent of the glove can appear to be in the strike zone for the key pitch in question: one right at the bottom of the zone. With the glove vertical and wrist pronated (palm forward-right, thumb right, fingers up), the low pitch at the bottom of the zone leaves at least 50% of the glove below the strike zone. With the glove horizontal (palm forward, thumb down, fingers right), the bottom ½ of the glove is outside the zone. With the palm up, thumb out or up, the leather of the pocket and web is essentially the lowest point of the glove, with the "pillow" of the remainder at a higher level, and in the zone, all contributing to the appearance of a smaller % of the glove outside the zone.

Again, these goals of receiving the low pitch (the ball caught not only closer to the plate but also higher in the zone, with more of the glove actually inside the zone) dovetail with the ability of the catcher to be moving his glove centripetally as the ball is caught: toward the middle of the zone and the ready-position. He moves the high pitch down toward his throwing hand, brings the outside pitch back to his throwing hand, the inside pitch inward toward his throwing hand, and he raises the low pitch up toward his throwing hand. He's constantly drawing his mitt and ball toward his body. He’s preparing to reset and reload from all points on the compass. This might be seen by some as an opportunity to "frame" by quickly moving the glove centrally as well. In addition, with the palm up/forward, the catcher’s ready to block the low pitch forward to keep it in front of him.

Some less controllable factors have some bearing on my construct. The receiver’s position in the catcher’s box (dependent on the hitter’s position in the batter’s box) aids or hinders his ability to catch the ball on a higher trajectory (check the editorial image inserts of the original posting). With no men on base, the receiver can sit with his glove in any position he wishes to allow the umpire to deliberate. But when runners are moving, there’s only time to receive the pitch in the most optically, mechanically, anatomically favorable position as possible.

So the facts are the facts. Some say "Don’t confuse me with the facts, my mind’s made up!" Admittedly, the facts and implications are open to interpretation for impact and significance. I propose these framing suggestions as recommendation of a single, overriding, anatomic operational principle for pitches on the fringe of the zone: where possible, keep the ball central to the open pocket of the glove as it is received, the pocket thereby acting as an outer frame looking inward toward the ball, allowing the receiver to draw the ball toward his body to meet his throwing hand, keeping the ball visible to the umpire the longest possible time through the maneuvers.

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