New Catching Program and Article: The Importance of the Stance

Written by on October 14, 2015 in Catching, Catching, Drills / Training - 6 Comments

Thank you to the many of you have been avid readers of our hitting and pitching material on Baseball Rebellion. We absolutely love sharing what we know and love with you. JK Whited and I are excited to bring you more free content in the catching discipline! Catchers are arguably the most important defenders on the field but there is little detailed information available to adequately teach catchers to receive, block, throw, and handle their pitching staff’s to the best of their ability. This article is going to begin with the importance of the basic stances and setups that enable catchers to excel behind the plate. There are three main categories of stances that all catchers should utilize. They are the:

  • Signals Stance
  • Primary/Relaxed Stance
  • Secondary/Ready Stance

For the purposes of this article we are going to only focus on the primary and secondary stances. We will discuss the signals stance in a later post.

The idea for this article began when I was watching Noah Syndergaard pitch in his second start against the Milwaukee Brewers. Syndergaard’s blazing fastball and 12-6 breaking ball certainly caught my eye but I couldn’t stop watching his catcher, Johnny Monell. Monell essentially telegraphed every pitch with runners on base due to his mistake in stance and setup. Below is a video of Ryan Braun’s ten pitch at bat that resulted in an RBI single, the only run the Brewers would score that day.

I want you to pause the video before each of the ten pitches thrown as soon as Monell gets in his stance. Can you guess what pitch is coming?

Did you figure the pattern out? If not, don’t feel bad. It doesn’t appear that the Brewers, Mets, or Syndergaard did either. Below is another video where I reveal Monell’s mistaken pattern.

Now that you have seen it, you will notice it in many games at many different levels. Most teams look for pitchers to tip their pitches but rarely attempt to read the catchers. I think it is safe to assume that the Brewers would have had a better day at the plate had they known what pitch was coming any time a runner was on base. It is also likely that the Mets and Syndergaard would have urged Monell to be consistent with his stances based on situation and not pitch type had they seen this pattern. I hope this case study helps catchers at all levels to see the importance of having a foundation of consistent stances. Below, I will take you through the key characteristics and purpose of the primary and secondary stances.

Primary/Relaxed Stance

The primary stance can take on various styles but should allow a catcher to receive the baseball to the best of their ability. In order to do this, the catcher should be stable and have a low center of gravity. This gives the catcher the best opportunity to receive the low pitch, which can be one of the hardest pitches to receive and one of the hardest pitches for umpires to judge. Having a comfortable and stable base also allows the catcher to sway slightly from side to side in order to give the umpire the best presentation on borderline pitches. The primary stance should only be used with zero runners on base AND less than two strikes. In these situations, there is no real need to be prepared to block or throw as long as the catcher can keep the umpire from getting hit. Many young catchers will make the mistake of staying in their primary stance with two strikes, because they forget that they may have to block a swinging third strike. Below, I will examine some of the aspects of the primary stance through examples of high level catchers.

Example 1 : Russell Martin

Russell Martin Catching

The picture above shows Russell Martin in his primary stance. Martin is one of my favorite catchers to watch for a variety of reasons. One of which being how smooth and quiet he is when he receives the ball.  Martin uses the most common style of primary stance. His feet are turned out slightly which allows his glutes to sit lower than his knees, giving him a low center of gravity. In this position, Martin will be able to comfortably receive the lowest possible strike and give a great view of the pitch to the umpire. If you are a pitcher, you know how critical it can be to have this pitch called a strike. Along with his low center of gravity, Martin also has a great deal of stability in his primary stance because he allows his heels to stay on the ground. This allows him to subtly sway laterally with his body without losing his balance. Many catchers never attempt to keep their heels down and struggle to move smoothly behind the plate because of it.

Example 2: Salvador Perez

Salvador Perez Catching

Salvador Perez often uses this rare but effective style of primary stance. He drops his left knee to the ground allowing him to be comfortable yet low and stable. The low and inside strike (right handed batter) can be difficult to handle, particularly if the pitch has some movement inward towards the batter. One of the reasons for this is that the catcher’s left knee is an obstacle that has to be worked around. Perez’ setup allows him to handle the low and inside pitch fairly easily because his left knee is out of the way. Salvador Perez is a very large catcher at 6’3, 240 pounds. The catching position can be stressful on the knees especially with the weight of a player like Perez. By utilizing this version of the primary stance, Perez is able to take a lot of the load off of his knees and better conserve his energy throughout the course of a game, season, and career. This allowed Perez’ to catch in an extraordinary 90 percent of the Royals regular season games in their very successful 2014 season!

Example 3: Tony Pena

Tony Pena Catching

Tony Pena used a style that was and still is a bit less conventional than the two catchers previously highlighted. He would tuck his right leg behind him and sprawl his left leg out, allowing him to sit even lower than Martin or Perez. Pena enjoyed an eighteen year career and likely took a great deal of stress off of his body by utilizing his unorthodox stance. While unusual, Pena’s primary stance allowed him to be comfortable, stable, and low to the ground.

As you can tell from the three examples I used, there are many different ways of positioning the body to get in a solid primary stance. The variation of primary stance a player decides to use should be based on their size, strength, and flexibility. The secondary stance appears to be much more uniform due to the need to be ready to receive, block, or throw efficiently.

Secondary/Ready Stance

The secondary stance should prepare the catcher to receive, block, and throw effectively. For this reason, the secondary stance should be used any time there are runners on base or when there are two strikes. Catchers generally point their toes straighter and hold there glutes higher (even with knees is a good benchmark) but are still able to give a low target in their secondary stance. They will also stagger their right foot slightly behind the left foot in order to put their hips in a good position to turn at the start of their throwing motion. This stance can be a harder position to hold compared to the primary stance, so it is important to encourage young catchers to practice this stance often and to implement a training regimen that focus’ on the legs, hips, and core. Let’s take a look at some of the same players highlighted before to see how there stances change when there is a potential need to block or throw.

Example 1: Russell Martin

Russel Martin Catching

The above photo of Russell Martin is distinctly different than that of him in his primary stance. Notice how he has moved his feet further apart, pointed his feet straighter, raised his glutes to be even with his knees, and staggered his right foot slightly behind his left. This position allows Martin to block and throw more effectively than if he had remained in his primary stance. While receiving is harder in this position due to a raised center of gravity, it is certainly possible to be effective from this position.

Example 2: Salvador Perez

Salvador Perez Catching

Due to Salvador Perez’ unconventional primary stance, his secondary stance is a more drastic change than that of Russell Martin. The picture above gives us a good look at the staggered stance used by most catchers where the right foot is positioned slightly behind the left. As mentioned earlier, this allows for an easier path for the hips to clear as the catcher turns to make a quick throw. You can also see that he has raised his hips and glutes to be even with his knees as his heels stay on the ground.

Example 3: Jonathan Lucroy

Jonathan Lucroy Catching

I wanted to use Jonathan Lucroy as my last example here because he moves very quickly behind the plate. One of the reasons for this is that he uses a good secondary stance to consistently put him in position to react and move. His stance is very similar to both Martin and Perez. One difference is the placement of his throwing hand. He places it behind his glove whereas Martin and Perez hold their throwing hand’s near their right knee and right hip respectively. The placement of the throwing hand can change based on comfort level but should put the catcher in position to tuck their throwing hand behind the glove when they block.

No matter how elementary catching stances may seem, it is vital that catchers at all levels remain consistent in their stances based on the situation presented. Solid stances will allow for the best performance in the given situation and will inhibit the opposing teams ability to get a read on which pitch is coming.

I hope you have enjoyed reading our first catching article. We will have more articles in the future that highlight many of the essentials of the catching position but you can get individualized training from JK and I through our online catching program! Check out our catching lesson page here to purchase. If you combine catching instruction with a Baseball Rebellion hitting or pitching subscription, you will receive 15% off of your monthly catching subscription.  For more information contact us at gabe@itsbaseball.net or jk@itsbaseball.net. In our next post we will discuss how to properly give signs and why it is important to give signs at a young age.

Thank you for Reading!

Gabe Dimock – Baseball Rebellion Certified Catching Instructor

About the Author

Gabe Dimock is the 2nd instructor to be certified in Baseball Rebellion and I.T.S. Baseball’s Hitting System. He has worked at Baseball Rebellion since 2013 and in that time has built a solid local reputation as a gifted hitting and catching instructor. Gabe Dimock’s first article was published on BaseballRebellion.com in 2014 and his contribution to lessons and technique has been invaluable since joining the staff. Gabe is the coordinator and head instructor of the I.T.S. Baseball Catching Class, helping develop catching technique behind the plate for kids of all ages. Gabe Dimock played catcher at Appalachian State University with a great story of work ethic and perseverance. Gabe originally started playing for the club baseball team, leading the team to 2 regional berths, the team’s first ever World Series, and earned team MVP his sophomore year. Gabe, then made the varsity team, and started his senior season and was named team MVP. He graduated from Appalachian State University with a B.S. in exercise science. Wish you could learn and train with Gabe Dimock? Now you can by signing up for Baseball Rebellion's Online Hitting Lessons!

6 Comments on "New Catching Program and Article: The Importance of the Stance"

  1. Derrick October 15, 2015 at 11:27 am · Reply

    Thanks Gabe. I’m really excited about seeing some articles on catching. What are your thoughts as to when a catcher should get into his stance? Should a catcher wait so as to avoid giving away the location of the pitch to early? Does it depend upon the age and skill level of the player? Or, is it even that big of a deal as long as a catcher is able to maintain a consistent stance as discussed in this article?

    • Gabe Dimock October 15, 2015 at 1:17 pm · Reply

      Derrick,

      Thanks for reading man! I think it actually depends on the pitcher’s preference. Some guys really like to see a target early and some like a later setup to avoid any chance of the hitter knowing location. I encourage most of my young kids to set up earlier because most young pitchers need to see the target for longer in order to have a shot at hitting their spot. I think maintaining a consistent stance is most important because while a pitcher may miss their spot, they rarely throw a different pitch. For a hitter, it is much more valuable to know pitch type (speed) vs. attempted location in my opinion. Great question and please continue reading!

      -Gabe Dimock

  2. Zach Hummel October 28, 2015 at 1:34 pm · Reply

    Great article, Gabe! Good insight and helpful tips!

    • Gabe Dimock October 29, 2015 at 2:02 pm · Reply

      Hummel,

      Thanks for reading man! I’m glad you liked the article. I’m hoping to come see you play in the Spring!

      -Gabe

  3. Jay W Bondesson November 6, 2015 at 9:22 pm · Reply

    Incredible analysis of high school catching in the show! That is insane. Now I know alot of guys don’t want to be tipped off at the plate, but when a guy is blowing 99 with a breaking ball 0-2, and he’s a top 10 run producer in the league, hard to believe that the Mets, (a world series team) would have catchers doing high school stuff.

    Good job. What did the Mets say?

    • Gabe Dimock November 10, 2015 at 3:09 pm · Reply

      Jay,

      Thanks for reading and watching! It surprised me that no one seemed to notice or care when really important pitches in the game were being easily given away. I would love to hear the Mats thoughts on this. Thanks for the comment.

      -Gabe Dimock

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