Shortstop Explained

Shortstop, abbreviated SS, is the baseball fielding position between second and third base. Shortstop is often regarded as the most dynamic defensive position in baseball, because there are more right-handed hitters in baseball than left-handed hitters, and most hitters have a tendency to pull the ball slightly, so more balls go to the shortstop than any other position. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the shortstop is assigned the number 6.

History

Doc Adams of the Knickerbockers created the concept of the shortstop position, according to Thorn and Baseball Hall of Fame researcher Freddy Berowski.[1] [2] In the first five years the Knickerbockers played, the team fielded anywhere from eight to eleven players. The only infielders were the players covering each of the bases; if there were more than eight players, extra outfielders were sometimes used. The outfielders had difficulty throwing baseballs into the infield, because of the balls' light weight. Adams' shortstop position, which he started playing at some time from 1849 to 1850, was used to field throws from the outfielders and throw to the three infielders.[1] [3] With the advent of higher-quality baseballs, Adams moved to the infield, since the distance the balls could travel increased.[1] Adams had a long playing career with the Knickerbockers: he remained a player with the team until 1859.[4]

Positioning

In practice the shortstop ordinarily positions himself to the third-base side of second base, but ordinarily much closer to second base than toward third base. Against an extreme pull hitter the shortstop may tend to a position about halfway between second base and third base for a right-hand hitter, and even on the first-base side of second base for a left-hand hitter. Because the shortstop typically fields some of the ground balls that have traveled farthest in the infield and has a longer throw to first base from the point at which he fields the ball than any infielder other than a third baseman and less time in which to make a throw, a shortstop must have one of the strongest throwing arms on the field. Because balls hit to or near the shortstop position are usually hit harder than to almost any other base, a shortstop must be extremely agile. On some bunt plays, the shortstop often must make a run to third base so that the third baseman can field the bunt and throw to third base in a fielder's choice play in which the shortstop makes the play at third base. Such makes the position unusually difficult to fill. Shortstops have included some of the weakest hitters in baseball, including Mario Mendoza, for whom George Brett coined the eponymous Mendoza Line to describe a batting average below .200.

In practice, a marginal fielder as a shortstop who hits well can be moved to almost any other position, especially second base or third base, whether early in their careers (examples: George Brett and Mike Schmidt were both tried early in their careers as shortstops)[5] [6] or later due to diminished fielding range, slower reflexes, weaker throwing arms, increased risk of injury, or co-existence with another dominant shortstop, as with Ernie Banks, Cal Ripken, Jr., Alex Rodríguez, Michael Young, or Miguel Tejada.

Shortstops are required to cover second base in double play situations when the ball is hit to the second baseman, first baseman, pitcher, or catcher. They cover second when a runner is attempting a stolen base, but only when a left-handed hitter is batting. This is because the chances of a ball being hit to the left side of the infield are almost cut in half. They also must cover third at various times, including the rotation play; that is, when there are runners on first and second and a sacrifice bunt is attempted. Shortstops generally are given precedence on catching pop-ups in the infield as well, so they end up calling off other players many times, although on deep pop-ups they fall back when called off by an outfielder. They often become the cutoff man on balls to any part of the outfield that are being directed towards third base and all balls to left and right field that are destined to second base. Depending on the system the shortstop may cut balls from left field heading home however, this is usually the role of a third basemen.

Significant shortstops

Shortstops inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame

The year in which the player was inducted is given in brackets after his name.

Notes

  1. John Henry Lloyd and Willie Wells were elected for their play in the Negro Leagues.
  2. George Wright was elected as a pioneer, but also starred as a shortstop in the 1860s & 70s.
  3. Robin Yount started his career as a shortstop, and moved to the outfield for his last nine seasons.
  4. Ernie Banks played shortstop for the first half of his career and first base for the remainder.

Multiple Gold Glove Award winners

See also: List of Gold Glove Award winners at shortstop.

13

11

9

8

5

5

4

4

3

3

3

3

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

All-time single season assist leaders among shortstops

  1. Ozzie Smith

621 (San Diego Padres, 1980)

  1. Glenn Wright

601 (Pittsburgh Pirates, 1924)

  1. Dave Bancroft

598 (Philadelphia Phillies/New York Giants, 1920)

  1. Tommy Thevenow

597 (St. Louis Cardinals, 1926)

  1. Iván DeJesús

595 (Chicago Cubs, 1977)

  1. Cal Ripken, Jr.

583 (Baltimore Orioles, 1984)

  1. Whitey Wietelmann

581 (Boston Braves, 1943)

  1. Dave Bancroft

579 (New York Giants, 1922)

  1. Rabbit Maranville

574 (Boston Braves, 1914)

  1. Don Kessinger

573 (Chicago Cubs, 1968)

All-time single season putout leaders among shortstops

  1. Donie Bush: 425 (Detroit Tigers, 1914)
  2. Hughie Jennings: 425 (Baltimore Orioles [National League], 1895)
  3. Joe Cassidy: 408 (Washington Senators, 1905)
  4. Rabbit Maranville: 407 (Boston Braves, 1914)
  5. Dave Bancroft: 405 (New York Giants, 1922)
  6. Eddie Miller: 405 (Boston Braves, 1940)
  7. Monte Cross: 404 (Philadelphia Phillies, 1898)
  8. Dave Bancroft: 396 (New York Giants, 1921)
  9. Mickey Doolan: 395 (Philadelphia Phillies, 1906)
  10. Buck Weaver: 392 (Chicago White Sox, 1913)

See also

Notes and References

  1. Web site: Thorn. John. Doc Adams. Society for American Baseball Research. November 28, 2011.
  2. News: Miller. Robert. The Ridgefield man who helped invent baseball. The News-Times. September 26, 2009. November 30, 2011.
  3. News: Miller. Robert. 'Doc' Adams legacy; The position of shortstop. The News-Times. September 26, 2009. December 2, 2011.
  4. Book: Thorn, John. Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game. Simon & Schuster. 2011. 106. 978-0-7432-9403-4.
  5. Web site: George Brett Statistics and History. Baseball-Reference.com. February 13, 2011.
  6. Web site: Mike Schmidt Statistics and History. Baseball-Reference.com. February 13, 2011.