• Yanks Modify Montero’s Throwing Mechanics

    Posted by on February 26th, 2010 · Comments (16)

    Jesus Montero’s future ability to play the position of catcher is such a hot topic in Yankeeland. Related, this from Buster Olney is worth noting:

    The other day, New York Yankees coach Tony Pena took the team’s catchers through some work, first focusing on throwing the ball to second base; Yogi Berra was there, too, and so was Butch Wynegar, offering advice. Jorge Posada, who is easing his way into the throwing drills this spring, participated by taking throws at second base. Francisco Cervelli and others would glove a pitch, pop up and quickly reset both feet and throw to second in the standard throwing mechanics for catchers.

    Instead of popping up onto the front of both feet and firing to second, Montero kept his right foot anchored in place after catching the pitch; he took a short stride with his left foot and threw to second base.

    A few things about this:

    1. I asked around, with scouts and coaches, and nobody could think of another catcher who currently throws this way on a consistent basis.
    2. You cannot possibly be successful throwing this way unless you have a strong arm — and Montero does have a powerful arm.
    3. These mechanics are part of the Yankees’ effort to make Montero into a workable catcher, to maximize his value, because there is little doubt that he’s going to hit.

    Montero has Molina-like speed, so playing the outfield is probably not an option, and he wants to catch. But this will be something that he will always have to work on — and something he began to take more seriously last season, by all accounts, when staff members essentially made it clear to him that what stood between him and the big leagues was his defensive work.

    Montero’s size is something he has to work through as a catcher. He used to throw with standard mechanics for a catcher, but because he is so tall, it takes a lot of time for him to get to his feet and draw his arm through and release the ball. So in the middle of last season, some coaches in the Yankees’ minor league system worked with him on these new throwing mechanics — holding his right foot in place.

    Well, now you know what Houston Astro fans felt like back in the Spring of 1972 – reading about how the team was trying to make then 24-year old Cliff Johnson into a serviceable catcher…tying to find a place for his bat.

    For those too young to remember Cliff Johnson, the young “catching” prospect with the big bat, here are his minor league numbers, back in the day:

    Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G HR BA SLG
    1967 19 2 Teams 2 Lgs A-Rk HOU 89 9 .282 .451
    1968 20 Cocoa FLOR A HOU 117 10 .289 .439
    1969 21 Peninsula CARL A HOU 103 11 .229 .385
    1970 22 2 Teams 2 Lgs A-AAA HOU 124 28 .339 .626
    1971 23 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-AAA HOU 89 9 .208 .379
    1972 24 2 Teams 2 Lgs AAA-AA HOU 131 27 .283 .533
    1973 25 Denver AA AAA HOU 133 33 .302 .582
    7 Seasons 786 127 .281 .500
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
    Generated 2/26/2010.

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    Comments on Yanks Modify Montero’s Throwing Mechanics

    1. MJ Recanati
      February 26th, 2010 | 8:56 am

      I can’t even picture what the new mechanics look like. I used to catch and the concept of keeping your right foot planted and striding with your left to get into throwing position seems completely foreign to me.

      I guess if Montero can make it work, that’s great but there’s so much more to being an adequate defensive catcher than just throwing to 2nd base…

      I’m all for the Yanks doing everything in their power to make him into a catcher while there’s still time in his development but at a certain point both sides may just have to accept that this is all there is and turn him into a DH. It’s not ideal but it’s not the end of the world if he can hit the way he is projected to hit.

    2. Corey Italiano
      February 26th, 2010 | 9:01 am

      @ MJ Recanati:
      There’s no stride. You receive the ball, lean back lift your left foot land and throw. Your right knee ends on the ground after your throw (unless he stands after).

    3. Corey Italiano
      February 26th, 2010 | 9:03 am

      His arm would have to be pretty damn strong for that to work.

    4. MJ Recanati
      February 26th, 2010 | 9:12 am

      @ Corey Italiano:
      Crazy. And, yeah, he must have a good arm to be able to do that. It’ll be a work in progress all year, I’m sure.

      It will be very interesting to see how opposing AAA runners treat Montero’s arm and it will be equally interesting to see how our AAA pitchers work with runners on base, knowing the threat to run on them exists.

    5. February 26th, 2010 | 9:25 am

      I heard that Kei Igawa has already requested that he not work with Montero at AAA – and perfers to throw to the team’s back-up catcher.

      J/K. ;-)

    6. MJ Recanati
      February 26th, 2010 | 9:38 am

      @ Steve Lombardi:
      LOL, nothing would surprise me about that if it were true.

    7. Jake1
      February 26th, 2010 | 9:53 am

      i wonder if they’ll retire kei’s jersey in scranton.

    8. YankCrank
      February 26th, 2010 | 9:55 am

      One of the catcher’s on my college team threw like this, and it wasn’t that big of a deal. Instead of popping up with both feet, you keep your right foot planted, lean back on it and basically use all of your throwing arm and front-side pull momentum to throw the ball. If Montero can figure it out, good for him.

      All I can take from this is he’s probably too heavy to develop very quick feet, so they want to eliminate any foot movement.

    9. MJ Recanati
      February 26th, 2010 | 10:04 am

      YankCrank wrote:

      One of the catcher’s on my college team threw like this

      Weird that Olney says no scouts can think of a catcher that throws like this but someone on your college team threw this way. Makes me wonder if Olney really surveyed the scouting community or if he just asked 1-2 guys and decided to make a slightly exaggerated claim.

    10. #15
      February 26th, 2010 | 10:55 am

      Here’s a simple way to visualize the textbook approach. From the squat, draw a cross with the N-S line running between your legs, and a perpendicular E-W line touching the toes of both feet. The classic approach has you move both feet from touch the E-W line to standing on the N-S line, a 90 degree hop in a clockwise direction. So, your right foot moves from the east to the south, and your left foot moves from the west to the north. Your weight should then be transferred to your front (left foot) through the delivery and you should end up on your back toe. When you combine this with a ball transfer from glove to hand back by the right shoulder, you generate a lot of torque and enable trunk and leg muscles to contribute to the throw. By looking for a way for him to avoid that shuffle or hop, they are acknowledging his slow footwork. Now, while he can overcome slow feet with a strong arm (for a while at least), the bigger issue is that fast footwork is needed on blocking pitches, getting out of the catcher’s box for bunts, and chasing short pop ups. Losing weight, plyometric (jumping in this case) exercise and other agility training can all improve this tool, but only so much. Not every catcher does it this way. If you ever get a chance to see clips of Jake Gibbs, he would pop up with his right foot coming forward (instead of swinging to the South Pole of the cross described above). He would then drive off his right foot and push toward second base. Now, if you have a Johnny Bench or Pudge type arm, you can make the throw from your knees and none of this matters. BTW, I always thought Pena’s mechanics were terrible. A lot of sidearm sling, especially as he got older.

    11. MJ Recanati
      February 26th, 2010 | 11:01 am

      #15 wrote:

      Now, while he can overcome slow feet with a strong arm (for a while at least), the bigger issue is that fast footwork is needed on blocking pitches, getting out of the catcher’s box for bunts, and chasing short pop ups. Losing weight, plyometric (jumping in this case) exercise and other agility training can all improve this tool, but only so much.

      Agree, which is why I just don’t see how he’ll stay as a catcher long term. There’s so much more to the position than just throwing guys out at 2nd base.

    12. Raf
      February 26th, 2010 | 11:21 am

      MJ Recanati wrote:

      Makes me wonder if Olney really surveyed the scouting community or if he just asked 1-2 guys and decided to make a slightly exaggerated claim.

      Wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case. But to be fair, this throwing method doesn’t seem to be all that common.

      Something tells me that after a 1/2 at SWB, Montero’s going to have to change positions. Seems that so much has to go right in order for him to catch at advanced levels.

    13. February 26th, 2010 | 12:05 pm

      Jake1 wrote:

      i wonder if they’ll retire kei’s jersey in scranton.

      The sad part is, even if you wanted to buy an Igawa AAA jersey, they don’t sell it:

      http://tinyurl.com/ya3566e

    14. Raf
      February 26th, 2010 | 12:12 pm

      I don’t remember seeing much personalized player stuff when attending MiL games. I’ll check the next time I head down there, but I remember seeing more team related items.

      But if you wanted to buy a shirt/jersey and have it personalized, I think that you could do that.

    15. MJ Recanati
      February 26th, 2010 | 12:17 pm

      Raf wrote:

      But if you wanted to buy a shirt/jersey and have it personalized, I think that you could do that.

      I wouldn’t spend the money to personalize a MiLB jersey with Igawa’s name/number on it but I’d definitely do it for someone cool like Slade Heathcott or Graham Stoneburner.

    16. Evan3457
      February 27th, 2010 | 2:45 pm

      @ Jake1:
      I’m hoping they retire Igawa’s jersey…with Igawa in it.

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