A widely-used double play in baseball is the 3-6-1 double play. This involves three defensive players to force out two offensive players.
What is a 3-6-1 Double Play?
The play occurs when the first baseman is known as the 3 fields the batted ball and throws it to the shortstop or the 6 to throw out the runner at the second base. Since the first baseman has caught the ball but without stepping on the first base bag, the shortstop throws back the ball to the first base, where the pitcher or the 1 catches the ball while stepping on the first base to force out the batter.
Essentially, the double play is from the first baseman (the 3) to the shortstop (the 6) and the pitcher (the 1), calling the gameplan as a 3-6-1 double play. It is a double since it can retire two offensive players: a base runner and the batter in a single continuous play.
Roles of the 3, 6, and 1 Players
In this play, the 3 who normally covers the first base sees it more advantageous for the situation to leave off guarding the bag to catch the ball. He then throws it to the shortstop positioned to out an opponent running for the next base. The shortstop should keep his foot on the bag as he catches the ball to retire the runner.
In this play, the pitcher automatically assumes the responsibility of covering the first base in place of the first baseman to out the batter who is running for the first base. The play is indeed a showcase of a team’s coordination and teamwork.
Why Did the Pitcher Cover for the 3?
With the 3-6-1 double play, the main concern of the first baseman is to field the ball, while the role of the shortstop and the pitcher (after making the pitch) is to catch the ball and to cover the bag to out the offensive players.
It is the pitcher that covers for the first baseman since the pitcher’s mound has a shorter distance to the first base (60 ft. and 6 inches) compared to the home plate to the first base (90 ft.), giving the pitcher the advantage to reach the base before the batter makes it to the first base.