Over the last couple of years we've started to see more and more big league catchers switch up their stances to a one knee down stance. It first started as just a better stance to receive in but most guys were still using a traditional secondary stance with runners on base; now it's becoming the go to stance for every situation, even with runners on 3rd base. Is this a good thing... a bad thing... or just a thing?
I'll start by saying that I'm a big promoter of a one knee down stance. It is easily the most efficient stance for receiving, it helps you set up low in the zone and provides a better approach to catch low pitches and keep them in the strike zone. While I do promote the one knee down stance I don't think it's a one size fits all kind of thing. I think that is one of the disappointing things I see on social media from other catching coaches, some of them think this is THEE best way to do it and if you don't do it you're a dinosaur that is drifting off into the.... well, where ever the dinosaurs went. I think there's more to it than that.
I've already said a little bit about the good but I'll keep going. Other than being in a better position to receive the baseball the one knee down stance also allows catchers to save their legs throughout a season. Being in a permanent squat for a full season whether you are playing travel ball through the summer or a big league season, that gets tiring! Being on one knee can help keep catchers fresh for the year. On top of that learning to throw and block from a one knee down position is very doable! There are some situations and certain criteria I think should be met before doing that but you can succeed from one knee down with blocking and throwing. And when you can do that you are able to set yourself in your best receiving position, steal strikes and block and throw. That is the ultimate goal of the one knee down position. Here's a cool video of one of the best catchers you've probably never heard of talking about receiving.
I think one of the worst things about the one knee down trend is thinking that it translates to youth baseball the same way it works in the big leagues. That is non-sense! The goal of my facility here in Wellington, CO has been and always will be to get players to work their way to college and beyond but before they get there they need to succeed at the level they play at. That means most youth catchers won't be able to succeed in a one knee down position with runners on. I don't know if you've been out to watch youth pitchers but throwing strikes is not their forte. When you're in a one knee down stance you limit your mobility and reactive time to the knee up side. In the big leagues 80% of balls in the dirt are to a specific side depending on the throwing hand of the pitcher; so a righty misses most pitches in the dirt to the lefty batters box side and a left handed pitchers misses to the right handed batters box side. This is not true of youth baseball! You might get a pitch in the dirt to the lefty box and then one thrown behind a right handed hitter the next pitch. A more traditional secondary stance would help a youth catcher deal with the chaotic pitches they see during a game.
A stance like Salvador Perez shows here would be more beneficial for a youth baseball player to execute good blocking and throwing efficiency.
I'll keep the ugly to a minimum; but one of the worst things I've seen in this last season is passed balls with runners on third. Unfortunately I don't have access to the stats but I can't remember watching a season like this last one where so many runners scored from 3rd because catchers were in bad positions to block or were mentally focused on receiving and were surprised by a ball in the dirt. When there's a runner on third it cannot be okay to miss a block! Period! While receiving is the most important stat for a catcher, watching runners cross over home plate because you missed a block can't be excused. We catchers have to be committed to being excellent across all our disciplines; blocking, throwing, and receiving.
The one knee down stance is very beneficial in so many ways! Hopefully this brief explanation of my thoughts on the stance can help some youth coaches and players understand that it isn't a one size fits all situation and that you need to look at outside factors to determine what position you can succeed from. Take into account the game situation, the pitcher you're catching, your own athletic ability, and what position you have the most success in. Don't get caught up in what's cool or what everyone else is doing. Do what makes you better and during practice or private lessons learn to get better in a one knee down stance or get better in the traditional stances.
Either way... get better!
Good luck out there and hope this was helpful. Feel free to leave a comment about your experience with the one knee down stance and how it has helped or what has been difficult with it.