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Rock Bottom

Why Follow The Pitch Into the Mitt?

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Since the strikezone has everything to do with the ball crossing the plate, and not where it ends up in the mitt, why are umpires taught to follow the ball into the catcher's mitt?  It seems like that would lead to more bad calls than good ones.  What am I missing here?  

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20 minutes ago, Rock Bottom said:

Since the strikezone has everything to do with the ball crossing the plate, and not where it ends up in the mitt, why are umpires taught to follow the ball into the catcher's mitt?  It seems like that would lead to more bad calls than good ones.  What am I missing here?  

A couple of reasons.

First, and probably most important, it forces you to watch the whole pitch. By following into the glove, you're not bailing on it when it's a few feet away from the plate. Following it all the way through is the only way to make an accurate call.

Second, seeing how it's caught can tell you a lot, too. If the catcher's glove was over the corner of the plate before the pitch and you aren't seeing movement through the pitch, that pitch probably hit the corner of the plate. If you're seeing the glove moving, it's probable the pitch was off the plate. Now, you probably shouldn't base your call on how it's caught, but it can help on those borderline ones.

Third, you're getting a reading on if the catcher caught the ball in flight. This is especially true with runners on base or with two strikes. If you aren't following the ball, you're not getting the best view on that ball right at the dirt and was swung for strike three, or able to necessarily determine if that contacted-by-bat pitch was a foul tip or foul ball.

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1 hour ago, yawetag said:

 

Second, seeing how it's caught can tell you a lot, too. If the catcher's glove was over the corner of the plate before the pitch and you aren't seeing movement through the pitch, that pitch probably hit the corner of the plate. If you're seeing the glove moving, it's probable the pitch was off the plate. 

 

So ball movement stops when it gets to the plate and it goes straight to the glove from there?   That's the crux of the matter and it's why the tracking systems were developed and implemented. Call the zone, not the catcher.

 

 

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It's best to watch the entire pitch.  A lot can happen during a pitch.  If you get distracted or look away at any time, you can miss location, foul tip/ball, catcher's interference, etc. 

Then, there's always the timing thing.  Watch the pitch all the way in, let the catcher put his hand on the ball to retrieve it to throw back to F1, then call it was how I was taught. 

Consistency and repetitive actions lead to a well-called game and will help you hear less negative feedback from the fans/coaches.  

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The following text is taken from an article written for the website umpirebible.com.

“The number one requirement for seeing the pitch is keeping your head still and tracking the ball with your eyes. I put all of that in boldface because it is so important. In fact, this is so important that I'm going to say it again: The number one requirement for seeing the pitch is keeping your head still and tracking the ball with your eyes.

“This does not come naturally. You must train yourself to keep your head still and track the ball with your eyes, not your head. Our natural tendency is to turn our head as the ball approaches the catcher's glove. In fact, one of the biggest tip-offs that an umpire is not well trained is his tendency to move his head and sometimes even his body. On outside pitches, this movement is particularly noticeable.”

The number one mistake

“The number one mistake you see with inexperienced umpires is their not seeing the ball all of the way to the catcher's glove. They see it most of the way, make their decision (ball or strike), and then the ball breaks or drops and you end up with a ball called strike or strike called a ball.

“This happens unconsciously, of course. But it's still a perfect segue into the issue of timing, which is cause of this problem – poor timing, that is. A breaking pitch over the middle of the plate, but low (even in the dirt) looks absolutely perfect when it's fifteen feet from the plate. And that's where many inexperienced umpires are making their ball/strike decision – probably only a dozen thousandths of a second before the pitch reaches the catcher's glove. But if you're calling a pitch the instant it hits the catcher's glove, you're almost certainly making your decision while the ball is still in flight. And that's why those decisions are so often wrong.”

One of the best discussions about working the plate can be found in a three-part essay written by Peter Osborne which is available on the website umpirebible.com and at the ABUA site.

 

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41 minutes ago, Rich Ives said:

So ball movement stops when it gets to the plate and it goes straight to the glove from there?   That's the crux of the matter and it's why the tracking systems were developed and implemented. Call the zone, not the catcher.

I specifically said to not base your call on the glove, but to use it to help you.

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2 hours ago, Rock Bottom said:

Since the strikezone has everything to do with the ball crossing the plate, and not where it ends up in the mitt, why are umpires taught to follow the ball into the catcher's mitt?  It seems like that would lead to more bad calls than good ones.  What am I missing here?  

The same reason you teach a batter to follow the ball to the mitt - it enforces the habit of keeping both eyes on the ball for the entirety of the pitch, so that you don't give up on the pitch, or simply assume you know where it's going.

2 hours ago, yawetag said:

Second, seeing how it's caught can tell you a lot, too. If the catcher's glove was over the corner of the plate before the pitch and you aren't seeing movement through the pitch, that pitch probably hit the corner of the plate. If you're seeing the glove moving, it's probable the pitch was off the plate. Now, you probably shouldn't base your call on how it's caught, but it can help on those borderline ones.

Seeing where the catcher caught it is really only necessary at the higher speeds - like 90+mph.   At those speeds, the physics of the speed of the ball compares to your brain processing speed can cause the illusion of the ball jumping through space, and sometimes your only hope is to see where it was caught...and your only hope is to watch it all the way.

At anything under 80 mph, if you need to see the catcher's mitt to call a ball/strike you're not watching the ball.  It's a good habit to watch the ball into the mitt, it's a poor habit to get fooled by framing.  At NCAA and pros, it's necessary and inevitable.   Umpires that get fooled by framing at the younger levels need to track better.

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At most levels any of us call, how the catcher catches the ball is going to have a lot to do with game management and the perception of your zone. As beerguy says don't wholly rely on the catcher but definitely use him, especially on close pitches. If a catcher catches a really good/close pitch like a strike, you aren't going to have a computer to explain to the coach where it missed. I'm going to get it.

And "framing" a pitch isn't a terrible thing. A good catcher should be trying to catch every pitch like it's a strike. If the catcher is good at setting up with the glove touching the plate squared with his body, sticks close pitches, and the pitcher can hit spots, you are going to get a lot of strikes and not a lot of complaints. At least that has been my experience. That's different than jerking pitches, which as others have wisely said, you want to knock off early if you can. Unless it's a cock shot, don't get a pitch with the glove moving across the zone in anything varsity and up. Working early with your catcher to establish your zone and a good relationship will help you get more strikes, which is what you want. And good catchers will help you get more strikes. I had a game last weekend and the catcher stuck a pitch off the plate. I barely got the word "ball" out of my mouth before he apologized for trying to get that pitch, and he didn't do it again. (Actually that exchange with the catcher made me feel good about the rest of the game. I knew he got it and was going to help us have a good game.)

Also, beerguy, your handle autocorrects to "beergut" on my computer, which is hilarious to me.

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Great info - thanks everyone!  Keep the comments coming if you want - I have a ton to learn!  Caught through HS (MANY years ago), and coached for 15 years, but umping is a different game.  Perspective changes a lot of things, and no matter how much I thought I knew the rules, when you come to this site I quickly learned how much I didn't know.

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19 hours ago, Rich Ives said:

So ball movement stops when it gets to the plate and it goes straight to the glove from there?   That's the crux of the matter and it's why the tracking systems were developed and implemented. Call the zone, not the catcher.

 

 

coming from a highly trained umpire :rolleyes:

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17 hours ago, mwest5575 said:

I barely got the word "ball" out of my mouth before he apologized for trying to get that pitch, and he didn't do it again

However, if you had called strike (and many umpires would) you would have had a GREAT relationship with the catcher the rest of the way, and had a LOT of strikes. 

And this is why even as young as 14 years old club coaches, pitchers and catchers scout their umpires - and frame accordingly.

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15 hours ago, Rock Bottom said:

Great info - thanks everyone!  Keep the comments coming if you want - I have a ton to learn!  Caught through HS (MANY years ago), and coached for 15 years, but umping is a different game.  Perspective changes a lot of things, and no matter how much I thought I knew the rules, when you come to this site I quickly learned how much I didn't know.

Keep that humble attitude.  Best way to learn is to realize I don't know everything and then I can learn from others. 

The next thing is to learn some have a lot to share, while others have to share a lot - not necessarily the same thing.  You'll begin to notice the difference and learn who to trust, especially if you get to do games with them.

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7 minutes ago, wolfe_man said:

The next thing is to learn some have a lot to share, while others have to share a lot - not necessarily the same thing.  You'll begin to notice the difference and learn who to trust, especially if you get to do games with them.

The old "20 years of experience, or 1-year of experience for 20 years?" mantra.

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2 hours ago, Thunderheads said:

coming from a highly trained umpire :rolleyes:

Though I respect your qualification and years of training and experience, and would have to take tremendous odds to compete against you in a ball/strike accuracy contest, be careful on that generalization.   You're better at it than me, and I know you have a hard job, but I'm not ignorant of the task at hand simply because I'm not a card-carrying member of the Blue Brotherhood (some of whom are less qualified than Frank Drebin).   And, yes, I know there's as much a game management piece here as there is the technical definition of a ball/strike.

You don't need to be an umpire of any degree to speak intelligently about how a ball moves from the pitcher to the catcher, including as it passes the plate.  You certainly need to have some experience at or near the plate.   The catcher has the same view you do, and though a different angle, an experienced batter gets it - he, after all, is the one who has to hit the damned thing - he better know where the ball crosses the hitting zone, and whether or not he can make contact...from there, it's just repetition to truly see a strike zone (in reality, a good hitter doesn't really care what the strike zone is until two strikes...he only cares about what he can and can't hit)

I have "volunteered to stand behind the plate and call balls and strikes" (I won't sully your sensibility and suggest I "umpired") in scenarios where the ball is travelling mid 80's from 60'5 feet...and where the ball is travelling 80+ at 46 feet, and 60+ at 35 feet.   I have also been a catcher, and a batter, in those situations - including catching/batting for pitchers who threw 90 at 60.5 feet.   I've seen stupid breaking balls, sliders, knuckles, ridiculous drop balls, and, in fast pitch, genuine rise balls (or as genuine as it gets) - in other words, balls moving in ridiculous ways at or near the plate.  Though you will be better at it than I will, I think I can speak to how a ball moves to and beyond the plate, and confidently assess if it is a ball or strike.  As a batter, I know when that pitch I let go by was a strike or ball.  I know when the ump got it right.  I know when I got away with one when Blue calls it a ball.  And I know when I got hosed.  I don't need to see where the catcher caught it.    And the ones that are THAT close, I can live with the call whatever way it goes.

I can't comment on Rich's capabilities, but he's not wrong.   I have caught for umpires whom I could set up eight inches off the plate, and if the pitcher stuck it I got the strike.   And I've had others where I've lifted my glove six inches to get the strike.  And one in particular where I sold the third strike by immediately throwing down to third to start the "around the horn".  That's the type of umpire he's talking to.  They're out there in droves, and coaches/catchers/pitchers play them accordingly.  And, to your point, most of them are highly trained and experienced.

Don't dismiss the qualification of an experienced batter to assess a ball/strike.  My signature is a testament to that.

Edited by beerguy55
grammar

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59 minutes ago, beerguy55 said:

Though I respect your qualification and years of training and experience, and would have to take tremendous odds to compete against you in a ball/strike accuracy contest, be careful on that generalization.   You're better at it than me, and I know you have a hard job, but I'm not ignorant of the task at hand simply because I'm not a card-carrying member of the Blue Brotherhood (some of whom are less qualified than Frank Drebin).   And, yes, I know there's as much a game management piece here is there is the technical definition of a ball/strike.

You don't need to be an umpire of any degree to speak intelligently about how a ball moves from the pitcher to the catcher, including as it passes the plate.  You certainly need to have some experience at or near the plate.   The catcher has the same view you do, and though a different angle, an experienced batter gets it - he, after all, is the one who has to hit the damned thing - he better know where the ball crosses the hitting zone, and whether or not he can make contact...from there, it's just repetition to truly see a strike zone (in reality, a good hitter doesn't really care what the strike zone is until two strikes...he only cares about what he can and can't hit)

I have "volunteered to stand by behind the plate and call balls and strikes" (I won't sully your sensibility and suggest I "umpired") in scenarios where the ball is travelling mid 80's from 60'5 feet...and where the ball is travelling 80+ at 46 feet, and 60+ at 35 feet.   I have also been a catcher, and a batter, in those situations - including catching/batting for pitchers who threw 90 at 60.5 feet.   I've seen stupid breaking balls, sliders, knuckles, ridiculous drop balls, and, in fastpitch, genuine rise balls (or as genuine as it gets) - in other words, balls moving in ridiculous ways at or near the plate.  Though you will be better at it than I will, I think I can speak to how a ball moves to and beyond the plate, and confidently assess if it is a ball or strike.  As a batter, I know when that pitch I let go by was a strike or ball.  I know when the ump got it right.  I know when I got away with one when Blue calls it a ball.  And I know when I got hosed.  I don't need to see where the catcher caught it.    And the ones that are THAT close, I can live with the call whatever way it goes.

I can't comment on Rich's capabilities, but he's not wrong.   I have caught for umpires whom I could set up eight inches off the plate, and if the pitcher stuck it I got the strike.   And I've had others where I've lifted my glove six inches to get the strike.  And one in particular where I sold the third strike by immediately throwing down to third to start the "around the horn".  That's the type of umpire he's talking to.  They're out their in droves, and coaches/catchers/pitchers play them accordingly.  And, to your point, most of them are highly trained and experienced.

Don't dismiss the qualification of an experienced batter to assess a ball/strike.  My signature is a testament to that.

well ...... first off, thanks for this, secondly, this was intended / directed at Rich's comment.  Lastly, it was posted based on other quips/responses he's posted in the past before your time. ;) 

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Watching the ball into the glove is important for me for two reasons: one is timing, two is it is more information to have to make the correct call. 

To watch the ball into the glove, it makes sure that a plate umpire is watching the ball go through/not through the strike zone. Most developing umpire call balls/strikes too quickly because they are calling the ball before it enters the strike zone. That is why they struggle with low pitches and breaking pitches. They have decided the pitch before confirming it went through the strike zone. To develop the skills at calling a better game, we are taught to “track it to the glove.” It ensures that we track the ball all the way through/not through the strike zone. With all the information, then an umpire makes the call.

Further, I see the catcher’s gloves as confirmation or proof of our call. If a catcher sticks a pitch 6” outside that’s a ball. The catcher proved it was a ball. If a catcher sticks a pitch where the glove is on the outside corner, it confirms the umpire’s decision it was a strike. If a catcher, pulls a close pitch into the strike zone, it confirms the umpire’s judgement it was a ball. 

Even with breaking pitches, the glove assists in the tracking the rotation of the ball and it’s movement. If I see the glove, I can imagine the arc the ball travelled. If I see breaking ball that starts outside and the catcher sticks it thigh high six inches in the strike zone, I see the imaginary arc of the pitch catching the corner. 

The bottom line is this for all calls: the more information you have, the better the call. Tracking the ball into the glove gives you the most information to know whether it was a strike or a ball. 

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1 minute ago, catsbackr said:

@beerguy55,

 

It could just be me, but, I think others would take you more seriously if you had a different handle.  Like I said, it could just be me.  :sarcasm:

I take my beer (and scotch) drinking VERY seriously.

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The first sign might be damp drawers and a significant gap in last night's memory.

Just saying....  :beerbang

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2 hours ago, Kevin_K said:

The first sign might be damp drawers and a significant gap in last night's memory.

Just saying....  :beerbang

Same sign as a concussion. :confused:

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