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May 22, 2013

BP Unfiltered

Kevin Towers on Catcher Receiving Skills

by Ben Lindbergh

A former minor league pitcher, pitching coach, and scout, Kevin Towers served as the General Manager of the San Diego Padres from 1995-2009. After spending 2010 as a special assignment scout for the Yankees, he was hired as the GM of the Arizona Diamondbacks, a role in which he remains today.

On the best way to receive pitches: “It’s how smooth you are, not stabbing at balls…I’ve seen others that have taken strikes that become balls, just because they’re not soft back there. A lot of times, umpires get blocked, too.”

“Just trying to slow things down. The less movement that you have with your glove and your hand, the more apt you are to get pitches. But if you’re jerking here and there, umpires see that. If you’re setting up in, you just turn the glove a certain way… visually to the umpire sometimes it still looks like a strike.”

"Those guys that are kind of smooth and sneaky, where the opposing hitter also can’t feel you—I always said good hitters feel location from catchers, if they’re thugging [stamps foot] when they’re moving to the outside or coming up underneath. Those guys that are kind of quiet and stealthy back there, they don’t give away the location, either."

On the value of good receiving skills: “I think it’s important…Being a former pitcher, there’s nothing better than a guy that can take what potentially might be a ball and make it a strike…I think there’s a lot of value to it.”

On what he looks for first in a catcher: “I would say receiving skills and ability to call a game. We take a lot of pride as a pitching staff, we might be even a little sick when it comes to trying to control the running game and throwing over and slidestepping and holding, which I think has helped [Miguel Montero] over the last couple years. I don’t think three or four years ago that there was as much attention to our pitchers working on pickoffs. We’re almost obsessed with it. So you’re probably not going to run on us a lot, because our pitchers aren’t going to allow them to run on us, but if you’re able to receive and catch and have enough arm, they’re not going to be getting the good jumps. So not as concerned about the electric arm back there."

On how statistics and video help him evaluate receiving skills: “Those numbers, as well as video, help you a great deal. The human eye, sometimes it’s hard to sit there from the dugout or from the stands, to really sit there—I think that’s where your advanced scout, your kids that are doing some of your video scouting, are really able to look at how many pitches are taken away on a given night, or how many that you got because your catcher did a nice job. I don’t think the human eye in the stands is that good, to really be able to say he boxed that one, this one he didn’t. There’ll be some that absolutely he did. But it’s a very small margin, and I think sometimes having that information, the video, is really helpful to know if your guys are doing a good job, not only in the big leagues but in the minor leagues as well.”

On whether receiving skills can be taught: “I think you could teach it to some degree. I think a lot of it’s probably eyesight, too. Those guys that have good eyes back there are able to pick up potential location, rotation, very early, to kind of know where to go. Those guys that don’t have as good eyesight, at the very end are having to get out there… I think it could be probably taught to some degree, but there’s just some that—it’s probably no different than shortstops, middle infielders have those soft hands. They don’t stab at balls.”

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

Related Content:  Defense,  Catchers,  Kevin Towers,  Framing,  Catcher Framing

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