When watching Major League Baseball last season, hopefully you noticed a difference in how catchers set up behind the plate. Many guys are implementing a one-knee down (OKD) set up vs. the traditional primary and secondary that we’ve used in the past. This is not new, Tony Peña caught out of a kickstand stance.
First, it’s important to understand why this change is making its way back into the game. The number one thing looked at when grading catchers at any level is how well we receive the baseball. Our goal when receiving the baseball should always be to keep strikes, strikes. Anything we do beyond that when receiving the baseball is a plus. The OKD system puts us in a position lower to the ground, which in turn helps us feel more stable and allows us to gain more strikes beneath the zone, where pitchers are trying to locate. It also takes a great deal of stress off of our body.
Hand speed is very important in a OKD system because we are trying to move the ball from point A to point B as quick and efficient as possible. We’ve implemented weighted balls to improve hand speed as well as J-Band drills to improve direction in our catcher practices. We also invested in a number of training gloves from All-Star that are available for our catchers. Our favorite training glove is the Anvil, a weighted glove that helps improve our hand/forearm strength as well as feel our pull back to center.
With all of the data available, it is hard to argue against a OKD set up for all catchers in our program. We make it a priority for our catchers to try all of our setups (primary, secondary, OKD) to find where they are most comfortable. We encourage a OKD system with empty bases; with runners on, we leave it up my catchers and what stance they feel most comfortable blocking and throwing out of. Although, we must understand that our receiving will be negatively affected when in our secondary setup with runners on base.
Mitch Garver of the Minnesota Twins, is the most notable catcher who made the switch to a OKD system in the 2019 MLB season. He went from 110 out of 117 ranked catcher in 2018 to 23rd out of 110 in just one year. He credits this massive defensive improvement to implementing OKD variations. Mitch Garver caught every single pitch in a OKD stance in 2019.
We will go into more detail on our OKD system in future Clubhouse Articles.