Friday, January 13, 2012

4 Things to Know About Baseball Double Play

The importance of playing solid and consistent defense in baseball can't be overstated. Hitters with power often lead the nightly highlights and great pitching can dominate any game, but defense can be just as important. Managers and coaches want consistency from their defenders and that includes converting double-play opportunities.
Infield Grounder Double Play
When infielders turn a ground ball double play, it often has a ballet-like quality to it. On a typical double play, a ground ball will be hit to the shortstop or second baseman with a runner on first base. The infielder secures the ball, turns toward second base and throws the ball at shoulder height to his opposite number who catches it, steps on the bag and then fires the ball to first before the batter reaches the bag. On a grounder to third, it's more about making a hard throw to the second baseman because it has more distance to cover. On a ground ball to the first baseman, the throw to second base can be quite difficult because the runner might block the view of the shortstop, who is trying to catch the throw.
Strike Out, Throw Out
All double plays allow the defense to crush a rally, but the strike out, throw out double play often is shocking because it's so sudden. With a runner on first or second base, the batter swings and misses or takes a pitch for strike three. On the pitch, the runner takes off to steal. The catcher unleashes a powerful and accurate throw, the infielder catches the ball and tags the runner before he arrives on the base and two outs are quickly recorded.
Outfield Catch and Advancing Runner
When a batter hits a long fly ball, the runner might wait to see that the ball is caught and then try to advance. This is a frequent occurrence when there's a runner on third base, but it happens with runners on first and second base as well. After the ball is caught, the runner takes off for the next base. An outfielder with a strong arm and quick release can negate the strategy by getting the ball to the base ahead of the runner. The catcher or infielder makes the catch, tags the runner and two outs are recorded.
Unforced Double Play
On a typical infield double play, a runner is out at second or third on a force play and then the ball is thrown to first base. However, if a ground ball is hit to the first baseman and he steps on first, the force play is removed. That means if he throws to second, third or home, the oncoming runner must be tagged in order to complete the double play. This play requires the player receiving the ball to be alert enough to follow the play and realize that a tag has to be made.

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