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In baseball, a double play (denoted on statistics sheets by DP) is the act of making two outs during the same continuous playing action. In baseball slang, making a double play is referred to as "turning two", or as Ernie Harwell has coined it, "two for the price of one".

Types of Double PlaysEdit

Common Double PlaysEdit

The most common type of double play occurs with a runner on first base and a ground ball hit towards the middle of the infield. The fielder (generally the shortstop or second baseman) with the ball steps on second base before the runner from first arrives to force that runner out, and then throws the ball to the first baseman to force out the batter for the second out. If the ball originated with the shortstop and was then thrown to the second baseman, the play is referred to as a "6-4-3 double play", after the numbers assigned to the players in order of field position; if it is hit to the second baseman and then thrown to the shortstop, it is known as a 4-6-3 double play (6-shortstop, 4-second base, 3-first base; see baseball scorekeeping). A slightly less common ground ball double play is the 5-4-3 double play, also called the "Around the Horn" double play which occurs on a ground ball hit to the third baseman (5), who throws to the second baseman (4) at second base, who then throws to the first baseman (3).

Double plays also occur on ground balls hit to the pitcher. Most of the time, these double plays will go 1-6-3 (pitcher to shortstop to first baseman), though sometimes these double plays will go pitcher 1-4-3 (pitcher to second baseman to first baseman). 6-3 and 4-3 double plays occur on ground balls to the shortstop or second baseman, respectively, which the fielder takes for an unnasisted putout at second before throwing to first. The 3-6-3 double play occurs on a ground ball to the first baseman, who fires to the shorstop at second base before stepping on first. Thus, the shortstop can throw back to the first baseman, who is still able to get the force out at first. Variants of this double play include the 3-6-1 double play (where the pitcher covers first) and the 3-6-4 double play (where the second baseman covers first). Also, the first baseman may choose to retire the batter at first before throwing to the shortstop at second, who then tags the runner coming from first (tag because the force has been removed).

On occasion, bad bunts can result in double plays. An attempted sacrifice bunt may be laid down so ineptly that a charging pitcher, first baseman or catcher (the typical initiators of such plays) fields the ball, throws to second base to force a runner, and the shortstop (usual fielder at second base on a bunt play) then throws to the fielder covering first base (usually the second baseman) to put out the batter. With a runner on first base, should the batter bunt a ball fair as an infield fly, the infield fly rule that protects baserunners is no longer applicable. At his discretion the fielder in position to catch the bunted fly ball may elect to 'trap' the fly ball (that is, put his glove on the ground but under the ball and catch it) or (a fielder is not allowed to drop a ball deliberately to force runners to advance) or catch it on a short bounce, in which case the runner at first must reach second base before a throw is made to second base, and if he hasn't made an effective run to second base, then he is easily put out and the fielder covering second base can throw to first base to complete the double play. But should the runner at first stray too far from first base and the infielder catches the pop fly, the infielder gets the out for catching an infield fly and throws to first base to complete the double play.

(Rule

Rare Double PlaysEdit

Other types of double plays occur when a fly ball is hit to the outfield or a line drive is hit to the infield, and caught, but a runner on the basepaths strays too far away from his base. If the ball is thrown back to that base before the runner returns or tags up to go to the next base, the runner is out along with the batter for a double play. In a strike-'em-out-throw-'em-out double play, immediately after the batter has swung and missed at the third strike or taken a called third strike, the catcher throws out a baserunner who is attempting to steal second (2-6, usually) or third base (2-5), or perhaps some complicated rundown play.

Two others involve outfield flies: more commonly a baserunner takes off from third base on an outfield fly, attempting to score before a throw from the outfielder (more rarely an infielder) can be thrown to the catcher. Should the catcher tag the runner before he can score, the play is considered a double play. Similar plays can be made at second base or third base, or in rundown plays on the infield. Most outfield assists are made on such plays, and even the best outfielders at making assists make about twenty such plays a year.

Far rarer is a play in which the runner takes off before the outfielder catches the fly ball and attempts to score. As a rule the double play is completed after the pitcher receives the ball and throws to the base that the runner has left too soon; on appeal the base-runner who took off too early is called out on an appeal play.

A rare double play that can only take place with the bases loaded is the "3-2-3 double play" - a sharp-hit ball down the first base line is fielded by the first baseman, who fires to home to force the runner coming in from third, the catcher then returns the ball to the first baseman to retire the batter. Such a double play ended the top half of the 8th inning during Game 7 of the 1991 World Series: With one out and the bases loaded, Atlanta's Sid Bream rocketed a ground ball at Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek, who fielded it and threw it to catcher Brian Harper to retire Lonnie Smith at home, Harper then threw back to Hrbek to retire the side. Another rare double play is the "1-2-3 double play" in which the pitcher initiates the play by fielding the ground ball and throws to the catcher, forcing a runner from third base, the catcher then completing the double play by throwing to first base to put out the batter. Such a play occurred in the no-hit shutout that Jack Morris pitched in 1984.

Another rare situation is the unassisted double play, which generally occurs when the second baseman or shortstop catches a soft, low line drive to retire the batter and steps on second base to put out the runner (by an obvious appeal) before he can tag up. In the bottom half of the aforementioned 8th inning, Atlanta Braves second baseman Mark Lemke executed such a play, retiring Hrbek with the catch and stepping on the bag to retire Chuck Knoblauch. An unassisted double play can occur on first or third base as well, but most often happens at second.

SummaryEdit

For every 100 double plays that go 6-4-3, there are:

  • 83 which go 4-6-3
  • 53 which go 5-4-3
  • 27 which go 6-3
  • 20 which go 1-6-3
  • 19 which go 4-3
  • 9 which go 3-6-3
  • 5 which go 3-6-1
  • 4 which go 1-4-3
  • 4 which go 3-6
  • 1 which goes 3-6-4

The ability to "make the pivot" on an infield double play, i.e. receive a throw from the third-base side, then turn and throw the ball to first in time to force-out the batsman, while avoiding being run into by the runner, is considered the key skill for a second baseman.

As of 2005 Cal Ripken, Jr. holds the major league record for most double plays grounded into in a career, with 350. He also holds the American League record for most double plays made by a shortstop. Both records are probably a consequence of his longevity as a player and the long grass at the Baltimore baseball stadium (Camden Yards).

A triple play involves three outs during the same continuous playing action, and is much rarer because, at the start of the play, there have to be no out and at least 2 runners on base.

ReferencesEdit

  • James, Bill (2002). The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. The Free Press.

(see Granny Hamner comment, SS # 76)

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