Catchers Using The Step Through Technique To Throw Out More Base Runners
By Brandon Smith
One of the most common throwing mistakes catchers make is taking too many steps to get rid of the ball. In this article, you will learn the proper mechanics to the “step through” technique. Using this throwing technique, it is imperative that the catcher gets rid of the ball in two steps...right foot, left foot. Some players use a “replacement method” to throwing runners out. Let’s take a look at the key reference points to the “step through” method.
With runners on base or a two strike count, catchers should be in the “action stance”. Being in the “action stance” prepares the catcher to react quickly to the situation. If a catcher is lazy and prefers to catch using the receiving stance with runners on base, he will likely have a difficult time throwing runners out.
Here are 6 key reference points to the “action stance”.
1. Feet about shoulder width apart...Coaches often refer to this position as the athletic position. Having the feet either shoulder width or slightly wider is very common for most sports. Whether you are a linebacker preparing to make a tackle, a defensive player in basketball or a short stop fielding a ground ball you will see this common placement of the feet in athletics.
2. Feet slightly pointed out...When the feet are slightly angled outward the catcher is able to do two things more easily. first he will be able to move laterally without loosing his balance. Secondly, his right foot is already opened which will make it easier for him to take his jab step.
3. Hips about knee high...Having the hips about knee high engages the leg muscles and puts the catcher in a strong position to get his foot work done.
4. Bare hand behind glove...With no one on base, it is fine to have the bare hand behind the right foot. However, in the action stance the bare hand should be in a soft fist (with the thumb tucked under the fingers) behind the glove. This will help protect the hand while making it easier to execute an efficient exchange.
5. Glove out in front of body...Starting with the glove out in front of the body not only makes it easier for the catcher to receive the ball it also gives him more room to make the exchange. Having the glove too close to the body leads to “boxing” the ball and makes it more difficult to get the ball into the throwing hand.
6. Upper body posture...Make sure that the upper torso is in a good posture. If the chest and shoulders are hunched over it will lead to poor balance and difficulty seeing the ball into the mitt.
Now that we have gone over the Action Stance let’s discuss 4 key reference points to the foot work when throwing runners out at second base using the "step through method".
This is where good catchers become great catchers. If you learn and utilize these key reference points you will see a marked improvement in your throwing abilities. I guarantee it!
1. Catch the ball first...It should go without saying, but I will say it anyway...“Catch the ball first!” Often times catchers will come up before they catch the ball, which causes them to catch the ball around the thigh or knees rather than the chest or shoulders. Although this head start may seem faster, it is actually slower because the catcher then has to get the ball up to make a strong throw. Something else here is that umpires miss calls when catchers come up too soon because it blocks his view of the pitch.
An easy way for catchers to understand this is the phrase “Be quick without rushing.” Thanks, John Wooden!
2. Jab step and open...With the right foot the catcher will take a jab step and open the instep of his foot towards second base. Wherever the instep is pointed that is where the front side of the body will line up. Without good technique with the jab step, the catcher will find it difficult to make an accurate throw to second base. The jab step is just as the word implies a small step.
3. Left foot gets in line to target...Using the point of the plate as a guide (in most instances), the left foot will step towards second base. If the catcher is in line to the point of the plate he can be assured that he is in line to second base. Make sure not to take too big of a step and step on or in front of the plate. Notice that when the footwork is completed the catcher is back into an athletic position. This is also very similar to many players’ batting stance.
4. Stay behind the plate...Staying behind the plate insures that the catcher is in line to second. Also staying behind the plate helps to control the length of the stride. If the catcher steps on the plate he could slip on the plate causing an errant throw and a possible injury.
The last area we will cover is the exchange. There are 4 Key reference points to making an “efficient” exchange.
1. Thumb up (when possible)...This does not apply to pitches that the catcher has to backhand or on low pitches. However, catchers should catch the ball with the thumb up as often as possible. Having the thumb up promotes a quicker and higher exchange.
2. Exchange higher...Throwing with a low elbow is one of the most common mistakes in throwing runners out at second. Making the exchange higher (around the shoulders or face) will lead to a higher arm angle. When catchers drop their hands to make the exchange they rarely get the arm back up to a 90-degree angle. This leads to short hops at second base or balls that tail back towards the second baseman side of the bag not to mention a really sore elbow.
3. Show the ball away from target...As the exchange is made, catchers should show the ball away from the target. This will cause the wrist to cock as the catcher turns to throw. Another important aspect of showing the ball away from the target is that it helps the catcher to have his fingers above and behind the ball, which promotes accuracy and velocity.
4. Elbow and shoulder create a 90 degree angle...As with most throws in baseball, having the elbow and shoulder at a 90 degree angle will reduce the chance of bi-cep tendinitis and or labrum tears in the shoulder.
Now that you know the key reference points to throwing out more base runners at second base, it is up to you to PRACTICE.
Here is the skills acquisition cycle for practicing.
Step 1: The better your practices are the better you will get.
Step 2: The better you get the more fun you will have.
Step 3: The more fun you have the more you will want to practice.