Although we talk about the catcher’s stance in a prior article, there are some things that will carry over from the stance to the setup positions. You will want to remember whether you will be setting up in the relaxed or ready position and remember to stay balanced with your feet slightly apart and the torso upright.
The setup will require the catcher to determine where he will position himself within the catcher’s box in relation to the batter. Generally, you want to be as close as possible to the batter without the possibility of your glove interfering with the batter’s swing. Setting up closer will also provide your pitcher a more accurate target to aim for.
However, different batters have different swing paths so make sure that you adjust your position based on each batter and if you are unsure, it’s better to stay back a little. If the batter does make contact with your mitt, you will be called for catcher’s interference and the batter and any baserunners could be given a free base.
As a catcher, you also want to be aware of when you should get into your setup position. Getting there too early may provide a tip to the opposition of where the pitch may be located. If you watch professional catcher’s, you’ll notice they try not to give away much with their final setup until the pitcher is close to delivering the pitch.
Your job as a catcher is to provide a target to your pitcher for where you want the ball to be thrown. That should be indicative of where your setup turns out to be. If you want a pitch on the outside corner, setup that way. If you want it up and in, move towards the inside of the plate for your final setup position. Regardless of where you set up, make sure that your target is directly in the middle of your body, and just above your knee level or the knees of the batter.
Setup Tips for Fastballs
The rule of thumb is that you really don’t want to ever throw a fastball directly down the middle of the plate if you can avoid it. That is a pitch that most hitters are able to put a good swing on. So catcher’s should provide a target at least a few inches from the center of the plate on either side.
You can also gauge the umpire and how they are calling the game. If his strike zone is tight, your margin for error is slim so you want to give just a few inches from center. But if he has a fairly wide zone, you may be able to get away with calling pitches just off the plate.
The count is also important. Hitters tend to be a little more anxious to swing with two strikes on them than with less than two strikes. A catcher can provide a setup in this case where he may call for a pitch off the plate and see if they can get the hitter to chase.
Off Speed Tips
When the catcher knows a breaking ball is coming, he needs to be aware of the need to block that pitch if it ends up in the dirt. Even though the pitch may start over the middle of the plate, the catcher may set up more inside or outside anticipating where the pitch will end up. The count can also be a factor. If the pitcher is ahead of the hitter he may want to waste a pitch out of the zone and the catcher may want to cheat a little to make sure he can block it.
When a change up is called, the catcher should set up normally on the outside part of the plate. The ball should preferably be low in the zone so make sure you provide a good low target for the pitcher to throw too.
A catcher may also have a pitcher who just can’t seem to find the strike zone. In this case, the setup position may always be closer to the middle of the plate or several inches either way. A good catcher will have to judge this and work with the pitcher to make sure they can get back to hitting the target.
Worst case scenario, the pitcher can’t find the zone. You will need to know how to block the baseball to prevent extra bases and /or extra runs! Take a look at our video below!