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April 29, 2014 | BASEBALL

The Catcher’s Shadow

Joe Aguilar

The Catcher’s Shadow photo

Any hitter can read any catcher’s shadow. Adjust for time of day and source of light, adjust for pitcher arm slot, specialty, handedness. Adjust for sea level, wind, weight of air, smog or lack of smog, pollen, humidity or dryness.

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Consider count. Glove held in on a hitter’s count frequently means cutter or heavy fastball, likely borderline strike. Glove held out on a pitcher’s count means slider or change, maybe curve, nearly always a pitch wasted, so hold off unless the location is favorably missed.

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Expect deception. The catcher may pound his fist into his glove close by, may slap his chest guard close by, but the shadow reveals the glove opening low and outside. Rapid flux in the character of shadows may signal uncertainty or disagreement between signaler and signalee. Variables further hamper predictions. Bet aggressively on conviction, guess carefully on timidity, but always honor every conjecture, as only conjecture works for shadows.

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A serious man plans ahead. To read a shadow, know the man who casts it. This does not mean the Internet. Know the physical body in space. Know the body in time. Know whether the wisdom teeth are in the gums. Know the purity of the protein in his liver. Know his gait. Know his height. Know his haircut. Know where he prefers to clip his pen. Know his drink. Know his hand size. Know his big dream. Know his dress jeans. Know his disease. Know how tight his pockets get. Know the degree of mid-flight pain in his eardrum. Know his springtime allergies. Know the sound in his gut when he naps on the couch. Know the age of his cleats. Know if anything is cracked in his frame. Know the consistency of the food he feeds his pet. Know the cant of the knob on his catching arm’s elbow. Know the smell of his breath after stationary cycling. Know his mood watching TV in the chair late at night. Know how much cashew butter he spreads over his toast. Know if he likes gel or spray or solid deodorant. Know how he softens his steak. Know the arc of his shoulders in the light of the morning when he bends to wake his youngest daughter.

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Knowledge of mass means knowledge of shadow. It is very hard to get a hit.

 

image: Nicholas Mainieri


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