Can Defense Go in a Slump?

(Getty Images Sport/Brian Bahr)

The other day somebody asked me a question I'd never heard before. Does defense ever go in a slump?

Heck yes, defense slumps. Just ask Steve Sax, Mackey Sasser, Chuck Knoblauch or anyone who's ever had that throwing thing.

That's the most obvious kind of defensive slump. But even if it's not that dramatic, we all go through defensive ups and downs.

Defensive Slumps for Catchers

For us catchers, let's take throwing out base stealers for example. Since success in this arena is so timing-dependent (just like hitting) we're all prone to hot and cold streaks.

In addition, there are many variables that are out of our control: the baserunner's jump, the pitcher's delivery time, etc. This might be similar to a hitter enduring a period where he's centering the ball but constantly lining out.

I considered myself as good a receiver, game-caller and blocker as anyone in my day, but I definitely had times when my thumb hurt because I was miscatching the ball.

There were also extended times when I had no idea what to call. Every number I put down got crushed (bad fingers).

And most of the time I knew the ball wasn't going to get by me, but there were streaks where I felt a step behind and doubted my ability to block the ball.

Having Perspective

So I say all of this to (hopefully) ease your mind. Yes, just like your offensive game, you will go through defensive highs and lows.

Because the fact is, failure is built into every facet of baseball--ups and downs, ins and outs, hot streaks and cold. It's just a matter of accepting this truth and figuring out a way to persevere and have fun.

My advice is don't get too giddy when you're good or too low when you're bad. Just remember, this too will change. What shouldn't change is you're zeal for the game.

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.

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