Vanderbilt's catcher advantage
The day after Vanderbilt qualified for the College World Series, a longtime evaluator mentioned over the phone how he believes that the Detroit Tigers "got an absolute steal" with their 10th-round pick -- Vanderbilt catcher Curt Casali. And the evaluator's reasons are interesting.
"He's a smart guy, and he's been calling his own pitches," the evaluator said. "You don't see that a lot in college baseball these days, because the pitches are called from the bench. Casali has worked with a good pitching staff, with guys like [first-round pick Sonny] Gray."
Something so simple -- a catcher calling pitches on his own -- can be so meaningful, but that doesn't mean Casali earned that right easily. In 2010, pitches were called from the Vanderbilt bench, as they are with almost all major programs. But Casali and Andrew Giobbi, another Vanderbilt catcher who was drafted by the Mariners in 2010, began lobbying Commodores pitching coach Derek Johnson for a change in the structure of how this was done.
The catchers' reasoning was that by allowing them to call the pitches, the pace for the pitcher could be dramatically improved, because he wouldn't have to wait for the catcher to look to the bench and for Johnson to give a sign, and for the catcher to then relay that sign. Rather, Casali suggested, that process could be streamlined if the catchers called the pitches -- and he could use what he was seeing on the field in making his choices, by reading the swings of the hitters from pitch to pitch.
Johnson agreed. "We started doing it this year," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin wrote in an e-mail, "because of his knowledge of the game and the fact that he took an interactive role with all of the pitchers."
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