I constantly harp on catchers to push the pace of the game. Am I crazy?
Here's a question for you. From 2003 to 2009, can you guess who the five quickest working pitchers were? Just five schleps named Greg Maddux, Mark Buehrle, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Jake Peavy. I'll take that starting staff.
Who Controls the Pace?
Once again, let me reiterate that working quickly works. And I think it's important to understand and teach that the catcher (as much as anyone) is responsible for this facet of the game.
How quickly you catch the pitch, get it back to the pitcher and put another sign down will dictate how quickly a game moves.
Here are the simple facts: Pitchers who work quickly are more effective. The defensive players behind a fast working pitcher are more consistent. Hitters facing a quick pitcher are less effective. Short games are a thing of beauty.
Here's White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper on the pitching style of all-star hurler Mark Buerhle.
"He sets the pace; he's attacking. He doesn't give the hitters time to think and regroup," said Cooper. "He may get away with not making some pitches because he's on the attack."
Here's another fascinating thing about Buehrle's approach: he'll go games without shaking off his catcher.
"Sometimes I don't pay attention to what hitters' tendencies are; my catchers see their tendencies, so I just go with what they say," said Buerhle.
Mark wisely understands that execution and location are far more important than "the right pitch."
How Pace Affects Hitters
From a hitter's perspective, here's what Darrin Erstad has to say. "You hate it. You're trying to be slow and calm in the box, and it feels like he's already let go of the ball."
I'll finish with this Greg Maddux quote on why he loved working with catcher Eddie Perez.
"Eddie got the ball back to me in exactly two seconds after every pitch. That allowed me to work at whatever pace I wanted."
If it's good enough for Maddux, maybe it's good enough for you.
Good luck, have fun and keep your eye on the ball.
Brent Mayne is a 15-year veteran of the Major Leagues. He ranks 75th in the history of baseball with 1,143 pro games caught, and his .993 career fielding percentage is 4th all-time. Brent is the author of the book "The Art of Catching"--a comprehensive guide to teaching and building defensive catching skills.