I posted this to rsd the other day in response to someone’s claim that pancaking is the only way to catch:
[quotes from Zaz’s book deleted]
If I had to give a single rule of thumb, I'd say that you'd catch more passes using the pancake if all you're doing is standing and catching with someone, but you'd catch more passes in a game using the rim catch. I'll cite an example from yesterday. In the first point of the Fools semis yesterday, I cut back to the disc with Jay Dono close behind. The pass was about head height. If I was by myself, I could have taken a little hop and pancaked it at chest level, but if I tried that in this situation, Jay would have had the time to get there first. Instead, I ran through it and clawed it, and even then I think he touched it enough that it almost spun out of my hand. Pancake = block (but not a drop), rim catch = chance for a catch. Had I not caught it, someone could have cited this as an example of why the pancake was preferable, but they would have been wrong for this situation.
I liken the pancake catch to a two-handed catch in baseball. It’s how beginners are taught, it’s more secure on your basic catches, but there are plenty of circumstances where it’s not the right catch: a first baseman stretching for a throw, an outfielder diving for a catch, a shortstop going into the hole. And for an experienced, athletic player on a routine catch, it’s just as secure and might help the player get in position to throw.
I know that some good players (even a great one like Paul Greff) swear by the pancake and I’m not going to try to convince them to switch, but the rim catch is a more natural catching motion. We have opposable thumbs for a reason. A rim catch is just two one-handed catches happening at the same time.
The real benefit, though, is that it can be easier to catch in a game. You don’t have to slow down to catch the disc (and you can avoid getting run over by a flailing diver), you can reach a few inches further, and you have better feel (once you get used to it). Additionally, since the disc is already in your fingers, you can quickly take your grip for the next pass (and if the pass is at head height, you don’t have to hop as with a pancake).
If the disc is at chest height, I’ll usually pancake it, especially if it’s windy or if there is no pressure from the defense. But for higher passes or ones where a block is possible, try running through the disc and catching it with your fingers. And take a look at the book for more info.