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How Does Your Catcher Stack Up?

By: Cindy Bristow

With the game on the line and the go-ahead runner at 1st base, are you confident that your catcher is quick enough to throw the runner out if she steals? Know where your catcher’s throwing times stack up – and how to improve them if she’s too slow.


Fastpitch Softball Catching - metrics  touch times for your catcher from Home to 2nd Base
Knowing your catcher’s touch to touch times is crucial for not only throwing runners out but also in deciding if their throws are getting better. Learn about touch times and how to improve catcher’s release times.

As coaches we want our catchers to throw faster to every base in order to pick off runners or throw them out stealing, but simply throwing faster by itself is a little too vague unless we measure it.  The best way to measure a catcher’s throw is to measure what we call her “touch time” which is the time it takes for the ball to touch her glove on catching the pitch to the time it takes her throw to touch the glove of the fielder she’s throwing to.

To time your catcher’s touch times start the stopwatch when the pitch touches your catcher’s glove and stop the watch when the throw touches the fielder’s glove. Be sure to time your catcher at least 4 times so you can get an average time and allow yourself a few attempts to get the hang of it.

Once you get a touch time for your catcher from Home to 2nd you can see where she compares to catchers at various skill levels on the following list:

  • EXCELLENT = 1.6 seconds or less
  • GOOD = 1.8 seconds
  • AVERAGE COLLEGE = 1.9 to 2.1 seconds
  • AVERAGE HIGH SCHOOL = 2.3 seconds

Once you get your catcher’s touch times and see where she fits on this list, you can help your catcher improve her times through the following steps:

  1. Higher Ready Position – with runners on base the catcher should get into a slightly higher ready position to be better prepared to throw runners out.  This means her hips should be slightly higher and her chest just a little bit more forward to help her start her throw faster once she receives the pitch
  2. Expect Runner to Run – don’t be caught by surprise! Expect every runner to run so get into a slightly higher ready position just in case they do.
  3. Catch First, Throw Second – throwing a runner out is great, but it’s impossible if you didn’t catch the ball, so make sure your catcher catches the ball first and throws the ball second.
  4. Throwing Speed’s in the Feet  - it might seem like catchers throw with their arms but catchers improve the speed of their throws with their feet. The faster a catcher’s feet the faster a catcher’s throw.
  5. Feet Explode Into Throw – since the speed of a catcher’s throw is actually in the speed of her feet then catchers will want to explode their feet into their throws.
  6. Pop Out, Stay Low – as catcher’s begin their throw they should focus on staying low while they pop out forward instead of just standing straight up to throw. Standing straight up will almost eliminate a catcher’s feet in her throw which will greatly reduce the speed of her release and her throw.
  7. Catch, Split, Explode – this is a common statement among catchers and it means to first catch the ball, then split the hands (while staying shoulder high or higher) and then explode the hand and body forward into the throw.

For more catching information check out the following:

Filed under: Advanced,Catching — Tags: , , , , , — Cindy Bristow @ 12:02 am

19 Comments »

  1. In the load position in the picture is her throwing arm away from her head? I have heard many young coaches teach “get the ball to the ear” and have battled with catchers coming into my program to get the ball away from their head. Please put this issue to rest for my players and young coaches.

    Comment by Scott — November 3, 2009 @ 9:41 am

  2. Hi Scott – When the catcher “splits” her hands during the throwing motion – sending her glove hand and elbow forward and her throwing hand and ball backwards her hands should stay above her shoulders with the ball staying between her head and her elbow. The ball should not go back beyond her elbow in the throwing motion. This will result in too long and slow of a release. If the catcher had a clock beside her during her throw and 12 o’clock was at her head and 6 o’clock was at her feet, her hands whould split to 10 o’clock (ball) and 2 o’clock (glove. Hope that helps! Cindy

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — November 3, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

  3. If you were just working on exhchanges with no throws concentrating on footwork, staying low, ball exchange, and getting to strong throwing position then the proper arm angle of the throwing arm should be in more of an “L” position, correct?

    The problem I have is when I do this drill with new players I see their arm angle in more of a “V” position with the ball right next to their ear.

    I think this is one of those “squish the bug” kinda coaching tips that “so and so’s dad taught me when I played” kinda things. I’m just wanting an expert set everyone straight… Do we teach catchers to bring the ball straight to the ear or straight to the power throwing position with the ball away from their head and arm closer to an “L” position.

    Comment by Scott — November 3, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

  4. Cindy, what is your opinion regarding throwing from the knee? I’ve seen a few girls over the last few years that were quicker at throwing to 2nd base from a kneeling position. Altough, it seems to me that they had “slow and lazy” feet so they compensated by using their arms.

    In your opinion, is that something coaches should teach (throwing from the knee)?

    Or would you rather focus on quick and proper footwork in all cases and perhaps teach it to catchers that have above-average arm strength?

    I believe in setting the foundation right and teaching a good footwork first before attempting it from the knee.

    Comment by Coach Marc - SoftballPerformance.com — November 3, 2009 @ 5:30 pm

  5. Scott–are you talking about to the ear literally? I teach to the ear, but it means ear level……same height as ear, but behind the head. This is more to keep kids from throwing sidearm. I assume you mean you are trying to break the habit of taking the hand right to the ear?

    Comment by Bill Vasko — November 3, 2009 @ 8:29 pm

  6. I’ve clocked our high school catchers times in the past, but I stopped the stopwatch when the tag was down. As I think about it, I think I’ll use the touch-to-touch method in the earlier part of our practice season and then go to the touch-to-tag as we get close to the start of the season. The touch-to-tag incorporates accuracy of throw into the equation.

    Comment by Jim — November 4, 2009 @ 1:40 am

  7. Dear cindy,
    In catching which is more important speed or acuracy? Im a catcher in training and was wondering also what drills can help my feet get faster?

    Comment by Samantha O'Brien — November 4, 2009 @ 10:19 am

  8. Lots of great discussion on Catcher’s Throws so I’ll be adressing them in detail in an article in my next newsletter. In the meantime, here are some quick answers:
    1. Throws from the knees can be extremely quick, but are something catchers should only do AFTER mastering the proper throwing technique from their feet.
    2. Speed AND Accuracy are important for catchers as a fast throw into centerfield doesn’t help a catcher and neither does a slow throw to the base. You’ve got to practice both just as a pitcher must and a shortstop must.
    3. In the Split position a catcher wants to keep the ball between her head and her back elbow. If it’s too close to her head she is all squished up and will lose strength and speed at her release.
    Stay tuned for more details on these topics along with great pictures to show and tell in our next Insider Newsletter! Cindy

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — November 4, 2009 @ 12:06 pm

  9. Cindy,

    What are some good drills to improve foot speed of my catchers?

    Comment by Billie Jo Derrow — November 4, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

  10. To Scott above, i am a cather my self and play for a highly competitive softball team that travels all around the country. my coach recently has tried to change my throw to the “L” position, like you mentioned, and like our other catcher uses. However, she has a harder throw, but the runner is already too close for it to matter. Catching is all Bout QUICKNESS! quick feet, quick throw. easy as that! The point is to get the ball there A.S.A.P. In my personal experience, it is much faster this way as long as the catcher practices it ALOT, b/c at first her arm might not be strong enough to make it to the bag. However, just playing catch with someone everyday, throwing as far as she can as hard as she can will strenghen her arm a great deal! I HAve A POP Time Of 1.6 Secs Consistently so I hope this info helps Your and your cathers. :)

    Comment by Madison — November 8, 2009 @ 9:29 pm

  11. A young girl catcher throwing to 2nd. Is it better to
    keep it low and get there on one hop or throw it a little
    higher and get there in the air?

    Comment by Don Anglen — February 22, 2010 @ 3:33 am

  12. Hi Don – Whenever you’re talking about a catcher’s throw to a base (in this case 2nd base) you’ve got to also consider the fielder on the other end of the throw. The fielder has to not only catch the ball but then be in a quick position to make a tag on the runner. That’s why a LOW throw is ALWAYS better than a high throw! On a low throw the fielder can still catch the ball and make a tag since she’s already low on the runner’s level, but on a high throw, the fielder is vulnerable to injury as she’s stretched out which makes it much easier for the runner to slide her legs out from under her. Low beats high anyday on a catcher’s throw! Cindy

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — February 23, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

  13. Hey Cindy I was just looking through Google softball catchers and noticed you had used my picture from my high school game of me catching in this article. I think that is awesome thanks so much! Currently at Presbyterian College playing softball.

    Comment by Jen Marshall — April 17, 2012 @ 9:26 pm

  14. hey cindy how did you get my daughter on your site.that was cool to see her being used.Iknow she really looks up yo you

    Comment by joe marshall — April 17, 2012 @ 10:00 pm

  15. Hey Jen and Joe -
    Happy to use photos of good athletes in action! Best of luck at Presbyterian College and keep playing great!
    Cindy

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — April 18, 2012 @ 11:52 am

  16. My daughter is gaining arm strength and speed on the throws to second and working on a quicker delivery. But the short stop is saying that the ball has a lot of tail to the second base side of the bag. Any idea why

    Comment by Jim thal — March 24, 2014 @ 9:00 pm

  17. Jim- She is not getting over the ball and she has side spin on the ball. She may be throwing sidearm. Draw a black line around the ball across the laces and have her throw, you should see the line while the ball is in flight just like if it wasn’t being thrown.

    Comment by scott may — April 16, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

  18. Do you prefer the catcher to take one step and throw or to “shuffle” into the throwing position? Which makes for a faster delivery?

    Comment by Sophia — June 24, 2014 @ 7:54 am

  19. Catchers don’t have time to shuffle and still get a fast runner out, so they should practice receiving the ball, and taking a quick and powerful step as they release the ball.

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — June 24, 2014 @ 10:50 am

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