Monday, May 28, 2012

Personal Catchers

If you don’t know who Joe Mauer is, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog.  He is regarded as one of the most well-rounded catchers in the game for his ability to hit and catch.  But for some odd reason Carl Pavano, who is by no means a Greg Maddux type,  likes to have Drew Butera catch him instead of the three time Gold Glover. 

Greg Maddux was known for always having his own personal catcher.  Some believe it was because he was able to coach this catcher into doing exactly what he wanted, where the regular had to work with 4 other starters and all the relievers. 

Pavano’s reason for using Butera, who is a career .180 hitter, versus Mauer, a career .322 hitter, is he because he gives a lower target.  Mauer stands at 6-5, while Butera is at a smaller 6-1.  Groundballs is Pavano’s game and if he needs a lower target to get them, so be it.  But until he starts pitching like the guy who got $40 million from the Yankees, I think Mauer might be the better choice behind the dish. 

H.A. Dorfman, a long-time sports mental skills coach, wrote about catcher pitcher relationships in his book The Mental ABC’s of Pitching.  Dorfman has worked with the Oakland Athletics and Florida Marlins along with being on staff at Scott Boras Corporation. 

In his section about catchers, he talks about Terry Steinbach.  Steiny’s great competitiveness actually hurt him when he caught some pitchers, like Bob Welch.

Welch was also said to be a fierce competitor and Steiny would fire him up even more.  Seeing that wasn’t working, Steiny spoke with Dorfman and he suggested that instead of firing Welch up more, try and calm him down. 

Sure enough, it worked.

Steinbach then made an effort to know all of his pitchers and know their tendencies and what would make them succeed and help the team win.

The reason I bring this up is because I don’t understand why Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson can’t simply say to Mauer, “Give Carl the lower target so we can have your bat in the lineup.”

Being a pitcher, I can relate to this mess.  At one point in time, I had to throw to a catcher with the nick name “ejecto-mitt.”  Even though he could hit better than the backup catcher, and there is no possible way to statistically measure it, I imagine having the backup in would’ve saved us as many runs as the starter helped create.

I understand that having a strong defensive catcher can create a confidence in the pitcher, but when the catcher is still a Gold Glove caliber player, I don’t see why the pitcher can’t have confidence.

Some pitchers like a certain set up.  Some like a certain target.  But at the Major League level, shouldn’t catchers be able to adjust and give their pitchers what they want?

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