“Use two hands!” is a saying you often hear being yelled at the defense around the diamond. Just like you hear, “get on top of the ball!” when it comes to player’s swing. But just because old baseball advice has now become a saying, doesn't mean that there is any truth behind it.
We have found out that “getting on top of the ball” in a player's swing is counterintuitive. Guiding a hitter’s swing down doesn’t create more line drive base hits; it creates a long swing with the end result being a weak ground ball to the second basemen. Same goes for using two hands on defense.
Now, this rule doesn’t always apply. Infielders need to use two hands when fielding a ground ball and funnel it to their chest. This creates an easy transfer from fielding to throwing. But when it comes to catching a throw, turning a double play or even catching a pop up, that “extra” hand more times than not is just getting in the way. Ever see a first basemen catch a throw to first with two hands? No. Ever see an MLB catcher throw down to second using two hands on the transfer? No.
Player’s are using two hands too often, especially shortstops and second basemen when turning a routine double play. Trying to make a quick turn around the bag using two hands is like adding another cook in the kitchen.
Now, some of you might bring up the argument that it is quicker. Really? How so? In my experience, the guys with the quickest exchange from catch to throw (not catch to getting out of the glove!) are the guys who after catching it and then get it to their chest the quickest. Notice how every position on the field brings the ball to their chest before they throw no matter how they field it? That action must happen first and how quickly they accomplish that has nothing to do with the throwing hand.
What about pop ups? Ever notice how a player catches a pop up? Their hand never covers the opening of the glove to secure it; the hand just rests on the backside of the webbing as they close their glove. In fact, using two hands can get you in trouble, especially a pop up to the infield. If the baseball is moving too much as it's coming down and the catch must be done outside the body (meaning you are catching the ball outside the width of your shoulders) you are doing more harm than good trying to reach over with your throwing hand to secure the ball when you can just use one.
Some of you readers might start Googling images of players using two hands. I encourage you to do so, but please understand what you are seeing. Having your throwing hand next to your glove when receiving a throw is not using two hands to catch the ball; that is allowing for a quicker transfer because your throwing hand has less room to travel to your glove than say having it down by your side.
Chris McConnell is our fielding expert and spent nine years with the Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals organization. He's been recognized by Baseball America and other publications for his defensive work. Book a lesson with Chris here.