Exclusive Pitch Calling Coach

Pitch Calling Coach

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Baseball is full of many no-hit, all field catchers that have a reputation of “calling a good game”. Why not replace them with a strong arm, good hit pre-arbitration player and call the game from the bench?

Gregg Zaun has started to get this reputation in Toronto due to his low staff ERA when he’s behind the plate. Yet he doesn’t hit and can’t throw out base stealers. Another catcher with the same pedigree is Brad Ausmus, who in 2007 had a catcher’s ERA that was a run and half less than his teammates, all with a 15% CS mark.

If these players are so savy, why can they not call games from the dugout when they are not starting? This would allow teams to give their no-hit catchers time off. Of course the catcher doesn’t get the same feel in the dugout as they do behind the plate but would this change be all that measurable?

Some major league teams employ their manager to call pitches during the game. In many of these instances the managers in question are past catchers. Why not take this a step further and hire catching coaches that A) work with the catchers and B) are the exclusive pitch callers during games.

This would free up the manager during the game and would make their pre-game research easier, thus delegating the task to the exlusive pitch calling coach. And by doing this teams could go out and select past catchers that may not have the pedigree to be a major league manager, yet they know how to call a good game.

The difficulty behind this would be some managers giving up control and what some would see as “underdevelopment” of young catchers.

The latter could be solved by simply allowing younger, developing catchers to begin calling games in less consiquential circumstances, such as a blowout.

By employing this strategy major league teams could replace the vetran/no hit style of catcher for one (providing good mobility & basic catching skills) that can hit, be of a lower contract value or one that is adapt at slowing down the running game.

Example

Vetran

17% CS
ERA: 4.02

OPS: .603
Salary: $2 million

Pre-Arbitration

16% CS
ERA: 5.32

OPS: .734
Salary: $375,000

Let’s take the game calling out of the young catchers hand by having a grizzled vetran call the pitches. Presumably this would help to lower the young catchers ERA against and once again the “gloves” could be taken off in unimportant game situations. The catcher can also learn a rymthm to pitch calling during this instance. Eventually he may be able to handle calling a game by himself (or he may not).

To a point this is done in high school, college and minor league ball already, except the manager is calling the game. Regardless this would be an interesting test in the MLB. Could it work?



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has written for mopupduty.com since 2006. Follow Matthias on Twitter, Facebook and Google +

  • I think the change would be all that measurable. I think the relationship between a pitcher and a catcher is more important than you realize. The manager can’t see if a pitcher is hitting his spots, the movement on his pitches and the overall state of his psyche. A pitcher may be tired, have a hitch in his mechanics/delivery, lack confidence in a certain pitch and these are things a catcher picks up intuitively. As well, there is a level of trust between pitcher and catcher that is not the same as pitcher and manager. I do think a “catcher’s coach” is a better idea than just having a manager call the game, but the same “intangibles” still apply.

  • I’d have to disagree with some of the things you’re saying.

    The pitch calling coach can be right on top of bullpen warm-up, where he will be able to gauge movement.

    He’ll also know if he’s hitting his spots by communicating with the catcher (signals) and by the fact that he’s calling the pitch. Mound visits by the catcher can be called from the bench as well.

    Pitching coaches are usually on mechanical errors before the catcher picks it up.

    Granted that a veteran catcher can do these things as well but I think outsourcing it to an exclusive coach can help develop an otherwise unready catcher at the MLB level and get a better bat in the line-up.

    A large portion of the catching position is mental. Have someone else do the heavy lifting.

  • Early

    LaRussa is the most notable manager who calls his own game and he has probably the worst hitting everyday catcher in the lineup everyday. Based on his defensive capabilities. I on’t think most managers are smart enough to do this even with the help of a fluffed up coaching staff.