What is pop time? Pop time represents the time elapsed from the moment the pitch hits the baseball catcher’s mitt to the moment the intended fielder is projected to receive his throw at the center of the base, on both steal and pickoff attempts.
Pop time is a combination of a baseball catcher’s footwork, exchange, and arm strength. Pop time is used to assess a catcher’s likeliness of throwing out baserunners. An average major league pop time is around 1.90-2.00 seconds and times begin at 1.85.
The first key to pop-time, and sometimes thought to be the most important, is arm strength and velocity of your throw. It is important to incorporate a warm up routine into your practice and games, which include bands, wrist weights, and shoulder spinners.
After you warm up your shoulder, you should build up throwing for distance, having your partner move back for each couple of throws. After your content with your throwing distance, post throwing recovery is very important and is critical to your arm health as you push your limits. This includes bands, ice and shoulder stabilization exercises.
The exchange time is also important, but often seen as the second key to a lower pop time to arm strength. If your arm strength and velocity of your throw is lacking, it is important to focus on your exchange.
Let the ball travel and make the glove-to-hand exchange closer to your body. This is especially important if the pitch is around your body, fight your need to reach out and get the ball and instead receive the ball close to your body for a quicker glove to hand exchange.
Next, you need to focus on your footwork. As with any position in baseball, moving athletically is the key to maximizing your skills as a baseball catcher. It is important to have momentum toward your throwing target when you throw, as a catcher you need to be able to use your legs to make the strongest throw possible while still being quick.
If you were to draw a straight line from your chin down to the ground while in your secondary stance, that would be the exact spot where the first step takes place. In order to establish momentum, take a step towards the right middle of the body.
This step establishes forward momentum to help get the legs into the throw, but it also keeps the step short enough so that it remains quick. Taking too big of a step forward takes too much time. Stepping behind or in a square shaped motion can create too much rotational momentum. Stepping right under the chin is the most ideal spot for the first step.
Here are a couple of the best MLB Pop times from 2018
J.T. Realmuto- 1.9
Jorge Alfaro- 1.94