There is no doubt that certain situations dictate a defense choosing to intentionally walk hitter from the opposing team. Setting up a force play, avoiding pitching to a team’s best or hottest hitter, setting up a double play or creating more favorable matchup are all good reasons to walk a batter. My point today isn’t whether walking a hitter is the right choice. My question is what is the best way to accomplish this goal.
Those of us with a baseball background are used to the old standby where the catcher stands up, with arm extended, near the opposite edge of the catchers box. Also standing as far away from the hitter as possible. The pitcher then throws her four pitches to the catcher and first base is awarded.
Here is where it gets interesting. The pitcher rarely practices pitching to the catcher in this position. The catcher rarely practices receiving the ball in this position, either. We always think we are practicing this situation enough but, when you think about the high pressure situation this is, asking the pitcher and catcher to do something they are not completely comfortable with seems, a little risky.
During this postseason, I watched a bunch of softball on ESPN3 and have seen several situations where really good teams have had mishaps attempting this version of the intentional walk. To see runs score in this situation made me feel the need to address this topic.
Here is what I think is a better choice. What most of us think of as the “unintentional” intentional walk. As always, there is give an take but I think this is a much better way to achieve our defensive goal.
Have your catcher remain in her crouch but position herself as far away from the hitter as possible. She will be just as far away from the hitter as she would be in the standing version but remains in a position she normally assumes when catching a pitch. I think the pitcher is also more comfortable because she’s throwing a fastball, just a couple feet outside, without having to also throw it much higher than she normally would.
What can go wrong with he “unintentional” version? Your pitcher might make a mistake and throw a pitch too close to the zone, that is hittable for the batter, but that can happen with either version of the intentional walk. I feel what you gain by allowing your pitcher and catcher to operate in a manner that is much more like what they normally do, is a much better recipe for success!
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