How to Increase Your Pop Time
Catching is one of the more difficult positions to play on the diamond. When it comes to specific skill sets, the skills of being a catcher are mostly observed and aren’t stats or other data you can traditionally write down. Some are framing, blocking, and receiving. But the one thing that can be measured is pop time.
So, what is a catcher’s pop time? Well, in lamest terms, it is the time it takes for the catcher to get the ball from home plate down to second base on a steal play. It starts when the ball hits the catcher’s mitt and ends when the second basemen or shortstop catches the ball. Now, the only way to measure this is on the throw down to second considering it is the furthest of all basepaths. You can measure to third or first, though it won’t hold as much weight as your throw down to second. An elite pop time is normally 1.80 seconds or less, which is extremely fast. This is the magic number for college and pro players. Now, if you’re a catcher and are looking to improve your pop time, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve got a few tips that can help you throw some people out!
- Throw Accuracy:
When you’re throwing down, the best way to get the most accurate time is by hitting the target. Remember, this is timed from when the ball hits the catcher’s mitt to the time it hits the fielder’s mitt, so the better the throw, the better the time. If your infielder is jumping, having to reach around to grab it or make a great play to scoop the throw, it’s going to slow down your time. Practice your throw downs as much as possible (preferably with a batter in the batter’s box) to simulate a game situation and perfect the accuracy of your throw!
- Smooth Transfers:
One of the most under trained aspect of catching is the transfer of the ball from the glove to your throwing hand, and as easy as this may seem, it is botched more often than not. Remember, the minute the ball lands in your glove, the timer begins. So, if you go to grab it and can’t seem to find the handle on the ball, the time it takes for you to search around for it in your mitt can seriously hurt your time. Not only that, but you pretty much eliminate any chance you have at throwing the runner out. Unless its an offensive lineman or a bigger DH or corner guy. Then you may still have a chance. The point is to work on transferring the ball from your glove to you hand and making it as smooth a transition as you can to ensure there are no delays when your get it out of the mitt.
- Cheating (But not the way you think):
Yes, I’m serious when I say “cheat”, but not by stealing signs or doing anything that would get you in trouble between the lines. It’s more of prepping yourself for the throw as the pitch is being delivered. If you say in a low, relaxed position, it is very hard for you to come up and throw someone out in an explosive manner. If you begin to coil and rise to the balls of your feet as the pitcher begins his wind up, it gives yourself a better chance to explode through your throw and increase the speed in which your body moves to throw the ball down. Not a huge change, but when you are talking about seconds, this can help make you quicker!
Making sure your feet are fast is one of the biggest advantages that you can have behind the plate. People think that in order to throw people out, you have to have an absolute cannon (which yes, that does help), but that isn’t the only thing that can aid you in becoming a great catcher. Having quick feet and moving them efficiently is the best way. If you look at most MLB catchers, they get rid of the ball extremely fast. Yes, they do throw extremely hard, but it’s their footwork that gets it there fast. Practice your footwork as much as you do anything else and your pop time will decrease. I guarantee it!
- Arm Strength:
Yup, you knew this was coming and as I’m sure you’re thinking, this is the most obvious one. I don’t think I need to go too in-depth with this one, but in case you were wondering, throw efficiently and throw hard! Start a throwing program or a training regimen that can help you build arm strength. In addition to the tips I have given above, this one should come as no surprise!