July 2018 - Tip of the Month
"On Bended Knee"
There have been a growing number of high-level catchers implementing the drop of a knee to their receiving repertoire. This style of catching had been labeled as either poor technique or laziness. In fact, TCC has routinely gone out of our way to plead with catchers to use better judgement with their approach to receiving. However, that does not mean that we don't believe there is value to the technique. There most certainly is. It's the frequency, timing and situational usage that gave us pause.
You see, as catchers look to MLB for guidance in how to approach the position, it's important to remind them that they play two different games. There are variables at the amateur levels that simply don't exist, or are limited, in MLB or high level softball. Not the least of which, and quite possibly the most important variable, is the quality of pitching. How many of you catchers (or coaches) can say for certain that your pitcher will hit there spot 9/10? 8/10? 7/10? 4/10?
For most of you, consistency in pitching is almost non-existent. That's normal. Athletes develop over time to become as good and as consistent as those playing the game at the highest levels of competition. It's the biggest reason why we should be extremely careful in using the one-kneed approach.
I get it. "Some of the best in the game do it. Why shouldn't I?" The answer is somewhat simple. You should. However, WHEN and HOW OFTEN you should is an entirely different conversation. Because, while those at the highest levels of the game are catching legitimate studs. You are not. No, I don't want to hear about your ace pitcher's K/9 rate. Or, how he/she is being scouted by professional organizations. Because for every one of those high-potential athletes who may see the inside of a professional clubhouse. There are nearly 3,000 others who won't sniff the opportunity. Think about it. Every single pitcher on an MLB or NPF roster is one of those studs. While there is a 99.97% chance you are catching a pitcher who will never be anywhere near good enough to justify using a one-knee approach frequently.
Most of the pitchers you are catching aren't going to be accurate enough to mitigate the risk associated with using the technique. The entire purpose for the stance (as far as we are concerned) is to lower your center of mass, thus bringing the pitcher's eyes with it and giving them a bigger target surface area. You see, if you want your pitcher to spot it low, almost completely out of the strike zone, and all you do is simply set your glove lower, you are giving the pitcher a significantly smaller target than if you also bring your body low behind the glove. That’s not to say that we should abandon that method, but only to say that if the right pitcher is on the rubber and it’s the right situation, we can on occasion use a different approach that has a slightly better chance for success. Keep in mind that we are talking about a situation that may never fully come together for most of you catchers out there.
Now, assuming that you have a pitcher on the mound or in the circle that is consistently accurate enough to warrant such an approach, there are only certain situations where dropping a knee is OK.
1. Nobody on base. (100% Non-Negotiable)
2. Less than two strikes on the batter.
3. No risk of hitter dropping a bunt down.
If all of this criteria has been met and you need your pitcher, who’s actually accurate enough to pull this off, to hit a lower than normal spot, go for it. Outside of that? Stay off the knees.