4 Opponent Tendencies That Catchers Can Look For
By Kevin Hussey
Being a catcher is a difficult task for any young baseball player. It’s important to be able to learn from your surroundings and pick up on certain subtleties that your opponent may accidently show you.
Four areas to be aware of in a game:
1 – Reading Coaching Tendencies
Learning to read coaches can be a major benefit to catchers looking for an advantage on their opponents. One thing to look for in a coach is their tendencies. You can pick up on a coach’s tendencies in the first couple innings of a baseball game. Some coaches will put on plays based on counts, outs and personnel. If you notice that a coach called for a steal in a certain situation, remember the situation and look for similarities later in the game. It doesn’t mean the coach will put the same call on again but the situation may be a scenario in which the coach is comfortable taking a chance. After a coach puts on a play, try and think along with coach for the rest of the game. If you can get a feel for what the coach is comfortable with, you have a chance to understand what their next decision may be.
2 – Reading Coaches Signs
Reading a third base coach’s signs is a difficult task that most players will not be able to accomplish. The goal of a catcher should not be to steal the signs but to pick up on differences in the coach’s flow of giving signs. A lot of times when giving signs, coaches get themselves in rhythm where they will give all signs at the same tempo or repeat signs over. If a coach normally has a smooth flow to their signs and suddenly the rhythm of the signs change, there’s a chance the coach was putting more thought into giving the correct sign. Another thing to look for in a coach’s signs is location of the body for the majority of the signs. Normally a coach will stay away from their indicator until it’s time to put on a play. For example, when the indicator is above the neck the coach may be reluctant to give dummy signs above the neck in fear of confusing their own team. If a coach is constantly giving signs using the middle of their body and arms, look for the coach to give signs on their lower body or face. An obvious change in location of signs could mean a play is being put on. The next time you play watch your own coach give signs and check for differences in their dummy signs compared to the real signs.
3 – Reading Base Runners
If you’re having trouble reading a coach’s tendencies giving signs, you can look for tendencies in the players. Watch the base runners and hitters receiving signs from their coach. Everyone will take signs differently but you may be able to notice a difference in a player’s reaction to the real signs and the dummy signs. The first thing you should look for is the runner’s attention span. Check and see if the runner stops looking at a sign while the coach is still giving them. This can mean that the player got the sign that a play is on and the rest of the signs don’t matter. If you notice a player taking signs is constantly looking away before the coach finishes, it could also mean they use a system that the signs are based on the amount of touches rather than the use of an indicator.
4 – Lead offs
If you haven’t had success picking up on pre-play tendencies, watch the way the base runner leads off the base. A lot of players about to steal are completely still because of the increased focus they will have on the pitcher’s movement. A runner that’s not stealing needs a quick move in one direction and a base stealer needs a quick move in both. Look for a difference in their body and try to recognize a difference in their lead off.
As a catcher, it’s important to pick up on everything you can and use it to your advantage. When you have the ability to read coaches and players, you can use the information to call pick-offs, pitch-outs and to get your body in the perfect position for the upcoming play. The more you play, the more you will understand your opponents and how to take advantage of them. Find your own ways to take advantage of the information your opponents may be giving you.
If you have your own tendencies you like to look for in the other team, just leave us a message below – we’d love to hear about them!
Kevin Hussey BSc, MSc
The Baseball Zone