If you watch Major League Baseball with any regularity you may have noticed more catchers setting up with one knee down on the ground. In the 2019 season we have seen a significant increase in this stance being used and many variations of it (see pictures below), including one knee down and the other leg out straight to the side (picture a half-split). In the world of catching there is a some debate around the pros and cons of single-knee stance. So, here is my take.
First off, I don’t believe we can view proper stance behind the plate through a black and white lens. There isn’t an absolute right and wrong way to set up to receive a pitch. Each catcher has a different frame and body dimensions in addition to a different degree of joint flexibility & mobility. Each catcher also has a different level of athleticism. With all these factors to take into account, there is no single stance that is ideal or best for everyone. With that being said, I do have an opinion regarding the single-knee stance.
I believe there is a time and place for this stance. By setting up with one knee down it can allow the catcher to more effectively set the target low and extend through the pitch at receipt. For those catchers who are somewhat limited in their flexibility limiting their ability to set-up for a low pitch, this single-knee stance can help them set the glove lower than if they were set up in a more standard primary or secondary stance. Additionally, the single-knee stance can give the legs a bit of a break from the constant squatting a catcher is required to do throughout the game.
In my opinion the issue with the single-knee stance is that it limits the catchers mobility to both block balls in the dirt as well as to transition into a throw. Youth catchers see what MLB catchers are doing and want to emulate it. MLB catchers are elite athletes and have played the position for years. They have learned how to react and move behind the plate while youth catchers up through the high school ranks lack the body awareness, control and experience to effectively move out of a single-knee stance to block or throw. But, even the professionals find themselves in a single-knee stance at inopportune times during games.
Youth catchers are learning the position and how to move and react behind the plate. Their focus should be on the core fundamentals of playing the position which are rooted around primary and secondary stances.
For youth catchers, we believe it can be appropriate to use a single-knee stance in specific game situations. When there are no runners on base and less than a 2-strike count on the batter a catcher can be in a single-knee stance. In these situations there is less need to block balls in the dirt and no need to transition to a throw for a base stealer.
When we (CO Catchers) coach a youth catcher, we want to ensure they learn proper primary and secondary stances first and become very comfortable with them before we introduce a single-knee stance. We also want to ensure the catcher understands the proper time and place for this stance.