What makes a truly great catcher is unfortunately tricky to identify with statistics. There are the obvious things like caught stealing percentages, and the offensive side of the plate is covered the exact same way as any other position; however, the nuances of a particularly excellent catcher involve an eye test that’s unquantifiable.
Good catchers earn the trust of their counterparts on the mound, forming a battery that when working together is often unstoppable. With the pitcher performing the action, a strong catcher will act as their brain, calling their pitches in a specific manner tailored to outsmart whoever steps into the batter’s box. The trust of a pitcher is crucial here, because all it takes is one hit to disrupt a battery’s communication – pitchers are known for being finicky, nervous creatures. Once the pitch is called, the catcher’s job is not done. Aside from their actual function of an at-bat – catching the ball, as per the position’s title – top-tier catchers will frame the ball in a manner that gives them the best possible chance of having a strike called in their favor. If you don’t believe me, watch a bit of tape from this year’s World Series and compare Kansas City’s Salvador Perez to the Mets’ Travis d’Arnaud. The latter was far more artful with this particular skill than the former.
Our lead character of Princess Nine is not a catcher, but a pitcher. More importantly, she’s a pitcher who, as of the series’ second episode, will instantly override her partner behind the plate.
Ryo Hayakawa is a typical diamond-in-the-rough archetype who is scouted by Kisaragi Girls School President Keiko Himuro. Although Princess Nine makes it apparent that Ryo learned from her late father – Hidehiko Hayakawa, a former Koshien champion and ace pitcher – when she was very young, the series makes it clear that she has received little to no professional training. Presumably, her development will be a key narrative of the series.
In her final “test” – she’s completely oblivious to the fact that the President is watching her go up against star batter Hiroki Takasugi – she gets caught up in the batter’s taunts and shakes off her catcher’s sign. This actually almost spells disaster for Ryo, as he does crush the ball. Magically, the force of her pitch breaks the bat, resulting in a line drive directed back at Ryo, which she miraculously catches.
It’s all a very standard setup, and it works because Ryo is rather charming, although there’s likely trouble for her catchers in the future.