Most people who know baseball know what the term “framing a pitch” means. It has become almost an art form by many major league catchers. Simply put, catcher framing is the act of quietly, receiving the ball close to the chest, never stabbing at it, and turning pitches that nick the border of the zone — or at least appear to — into called strikes.
Watching a baseball catcher framing a borderline pitch is pretty cool and it is something that all youth baseball catchers should do to learn. A catcher who is skilled at properly framing a pitch can be incredibly valuable to a pitcher, especially ones who throw a lot of pitches on the borders of the strike zone.
So what does it take to be a good framer of pitches and is it something that all catchers can learn? We think so, here are some tips and practice ideas that you can try.
Fundamentals of Framing a Pitch
There are a few primary fundamentals associated with framing a pitch. First, catch the ball with your glove and in front of your body. Catching the pitch too close to your body does not provide a clear view for the umpire to see it. Also, the catching arm should receive the pitch with your elbow slightly bent.
Second, using your wrist, make a subtle move to drag the ball towards the strike zone. The rule of thumb is not to move your glove more than a few inches. Trying to pull a pitch that is clearly out of the zone only serves to show up the umpire. Anything more than a few inches will not appear natural.
Thirdly, make sure that if you call a pitch towards one side of the plate or the other, that you set up a few inches in that direction. That way, you shouldn’t have to reach for the ball which makes framing easier.
Framing Different Pitch Types
Framing a High Pitch
These pitches are difficult to frame. As a catcher, you don’t want to have the umpire see a lot of downward movement with your arm. The best way to frame a high pitch is to try and minimize the amount of wrist movement. This can be done by moving your wrist forward as you catch the ball and then drop the top of your glove down towards the zone.
Framing a Low Pitch
Another tough pitch to frame is the low ball. Make sure that you always try to catch the ball overhand. Catching it underhand will almost always get the low call from the umpire. The manner in which you catch the low pitch is probably more important than how it’s framed after you catch it. A good catcher will extend the arm, preferably so that it is horizontal to the ground, and then bring the pitch slightly up, using the arm more so than the wrist.
Framing a Strike
What if the pitch already looks like a strike? Well, remember that the umpire hasn’t made the call yet. Framing the pitch slightly more into the zone can’t hurt. And it will also show that you don’t only turn your glove on balls, but also on strikes.
Moving the Pitch Into the Zone
Although this may be obvious, catchers will always want to make sure that they move their glove so that it looks like they are closing the four-fingered part of their mitt towards the strike zone. This will result in more borderline pitches being called strikes over the course of a game.
Framing With Body Sway
One of the techniques used by good catchers is using body sway when receiving a pitch that you will most likely need to frame. As mentioned earlier, you will only want to sway your body several inches so as not to give the indication to the umpire that you are making a sudden move out of the strike zone.
For instance, for an outside pitch, a slight sway to that side of the plate could be the difference between reaching to catch the ball, or making it look like you received it on the corner of the plate. This is a subtle move and can be practiced by all catchers until you feel comfortable.
The overall goal for catchers when framing a pitch is not to overdo it. Get in the habit of taking those borderline pitches and making them appear to be strike calls. Using just a few inches of movement can make the difference between a ball and a strike.
Also, like anything, practice makes perfect.
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