Author: JD Closser

For anyone that knows me as a coach, they know that I despise using the terms “When I played” or “This is how I did it.” For this though I feel as if I may have to make an exception to my personal rule.

Catching has probably been the most rapidly changing position on the field.  The ability to accurately measure a catcher’s ability to gain extra strikes (which can vary from model to model) has been the driving force for what has become the biggest change in my opinion.  THE SETUP.

I was just discussing this exact thing the with other catching coaches the other day.  If you look back, let’s say 75 years guys used to stand up behind the plate.

Once they realized there might be a better way to go about it, they began to squat on two feet.  I do not have any data or insight as to why this happened, but my personal guess would be, pitchers were beginning to learn that they needed to throw the ball down in the zone.  So, we as catchers need to make an adjustment so that we could save both our backs and our shins.  Here comes the when I played part of this, when I played this was the primary position that was used. It had two forms, one that was used when there was no one on base and less than two strikes, then another which was used in the previous situations.  The first stance has had many names along the way: relaxed, primary, receiving etc.  Same went for the second stance: ready, action, secondary the list goes on and on.  While they seemed to work for many players along the way, myself included, new information and technology has challenged if they are/were the best stances to use. 

Enter the newest change to catching at all levels of the game. The one knee stance.  Let me back up a little bit and say, while these is new to many, there were pioneers that were doing this on occasion even before I played.  There was that statement again.  The first name that comes to mind for me is Tony Peña. 

If you go back and watch any video from his playing days, you will see him not only go to a knee but go all the way down to the ground and onto his butt.  There were a few others that could and did use this method from time to time but no need to give list them all.  I even utilized it from time to time (left knee down only), albeit never in a situation that called for the possibility of blocking or throwing.  My optimal time to use the knee down setup was going inside to a right-handed hitter, with a left that was either throwing a slider or had a little cut to his fastball.  I did it because it allowed me to feel as if I could tuck myself up under the hitter to make sure that my pitcher did not miss out over the plate.  While it did not always work, it certainly helped more than it hurt, at least that is how I felt.  

Fast forward to the present the knee down setup has become in my opinion two things.  First, the most commonly used setup throughout the game and two the most controversial setup throughout the game.  It has pitted old school vs new school, traditionalist vs progressives however you want to say it.  Setups and which ones to use became the easiest way to start an argument amongst “baseball” people.  While I used only a left knee down stance, many have taken it to another level and have implemented right knee down also.

Which one is best is still up for debate in my opinion.  Like everything in life there are pros and cons to each, and as a player it is your job to figure out what is the best setup to use. Not only by weighing the pros and cons, but probably most importantly understanding the why of what you are choosing.  When people ask me which setup they should use, my standard answer is I don’t know. Which setup/setups to use is as individualized as our finger prints.  

No matter which setup/setups you as a player choose to implement, do what works best for you individually. 

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