5-4-3=2 Simple Rules for 3B Double Play Feeds

Over the next few weeks we’ll dive into the components of the double play. This week lets look at double play feeds from the third baseman.

Obviously the worst case scenario in any double play situation is not recording any outs on that play. Often we feel the need to be in a hurry to turn the double play. Keep in mind that we can’t get record the 2nd out without recording the 1st. To that end we need to be quick but not hurry. There needs to be a sense of urgency but not panic or recklessness. In order to begin a double play from 3B we have 2 simple rules that need to be utilized in the most efficient way:

  1. Establish direction or momentum toward 2B with our feet.
  2. Make a strong, accurate feed from the appropriate arm slot.

Third base is a reactionary position so a lot of times having a perfect fielding position is a luxury. With that in mind, the rules listed above focus on commonalities among all double play balls after we field it.

In order for these rules to be applied, as with all plays on the infield, we need to have a great internal clock. You can read more on the internal clock here. The ball speed, ball direction, speed of 1B runner, and the speed of the batter all play parts in the internal clock of the 5-4-3 double play. All of these factors will determine how you apply the two 3B double play feed rules.

Lets dive into the rules and break down how they are applied:

Establish direction or momentum toward 2B with our feet.

As with everything in athletics, it all begins with our footwork. This rule is applied in a couple of ways, both of which depend on the ball and the runner.


The first application of rule #1 is to perform a modified gather or a replacing of the feet, as demonstrated in the top two levels in GIF A. During a typical gather phase in the fielding process the feet will replace to the target by using a right to left, left to target, and throw. Due to the need for quickness during a double play a modified gather is used to simply create momentum and establish a rhythm with the feet leading into the throw. Instead of a full out replacing of the feet, which could cover a few feet, a modified gather will only cover a foot at most. This application of the first rule typically occurs on those double play balls fielded in the routine/2 hand lane or in the forehand lane where the shoulders, hips, and feet are still at least somewhat squared to home plate. With these types of groundballs the feet are already aligned to 2B so we’re able to play through the ball, generate momentum and, more importantly, rhythm with the modified gather.

The second application of rule #1 occurs on the balls that are fielded where our feet aren’t aligned with 2B. These are the drop steps, 1 handed come get it-like plays, and backhands. On these particular plays we don’t have the luxury of aligning our feet and also generating momentum toward 2B. These plays call for aligning the feet and making the throw to 2B. During the aligning of the feet we need to also establish rhythm at the same time. Aligning the feet on these groundballs needs to begin with the right foot getting down first. The right foot will help break the momentum of our body going away from our target. It also will allow us to create rhythm between our feet and arm action when the left foot lands. This application is demonstrated in the bottom level of GIF A.

The type of groundballs that rule #1 doesn’t apply to are the extended forehand plays and any charge play that we might be able to use. On these we don’t have the luxury of aligning the feet before a throw needs to be made. The good thing is that on the extended forehand plays our direction to 2B and momentum is already established. Here’s where we need to be athletes and make a play.

Make a strong, accurate feed from the appropriate arm slot

A strong, accurate feed is the final piece for the 3B in a double play situation. The feed we make at 3B can be the difference between getting 2 outs, 1 out or even 0 outs out of the situation. With that said it’s important to understand how our arm slot works in relation with our posture. You can read more in depth about infield arm slots here.

It’s impossible to speak in absolutes for this rule. If we say on this ball then we must use this arm slot or on that ball we must use that arm slot we put ourselves in a corner. It takes away our individual athleticism and style for the position. The following breakdowns will be generalizations for fielding lanes or balls. These are not meant to be absolutes or the gospel. I’m going to try my best to leave a little room for individualization and personal style.

Let’s look at the routine/2 hand lane, squared forehand, and 1 handed come get it-type balls. When we field these balls our shoulders, hips, and/or feet are somewhat squared to home we’ll have a forward leaning posture most of the time. From this posture our thought should be to feed up hill to the 2B. This means using a lower arm slot by remaining close to the forward leaning posture and staying within our legs. I like the air plane taking off analogy. We want a graceful ascent like an air plane and not a take off like a rocket ship. These feeds are demonstrated in Routine Lane GIF and Squared Forehand Lane GIF below.

Routine Lane GIF: video courtesy of MLB
Squared Forehand Lane GIF: video courtesy of MLB
Backhand GIF: video courtesy of MLB

As for the backhands and drop step groundballs there is a need to break momentum not heading toward our target as discussed in rule #1. Watching professionals like Nolan Arenado, for example, field these balls and turn a double play you’ll notice a low or very low arm slot used. There is a time and place for that but we have to remember that these professionals are who they are because they’re capable of making throws like that. Now for the infielders I coach, and for the vast majority of the infielders that will associate with this blog, performing this type of throw probably isn’t the most successful throw. In that case a more over the top or natural arm slot tends to be more successful as demonstrated in Backhand GIF. This arm slot tends to be the most accurate as well as the strongest arm slot we possess. It also helps compensate for some of the momentum we don’t have the luxury of creating with our feet in these fielding scenarios. The lower arm slot plays in this situation, but we have to understand our own game and have the self awareness as to whether we’re able to pull that kind of throw off. I encourage you to practice both throws because having more tools in the toolbox makes you more adaptable to the situation.

Extended Forehand Lane GIF: video courtesy of MLB

The extended forehand and charge-like plays are the last two types of groundballs we’ll dive into. The extended forehand play is demonstrated in the Extended Forehand GIF. I hesitate to break these down due to all of the determining factors that play into choosing an arm slot. On these balls our athleticism needs to take over. We’ll be fielding these balls on the run so the angle in which we’re running in relation to the target as well as the level we field the ball will all play factors in our arm slot. The best advice I can give is to get comfortable using a wide variety of arm slots and make sure to throw off of our right foot.

Up until now everything discussed has been how we organize our body to make the feed. It’s important to note the need to understand where our second baseman prefers to receive our feeds. Discuss this with them and try to set him up with an ideal feed for him so he’ll be as comfortable as possible making the pivot.

Remember, when turning a 5-4-3 double play efficiency in our movements is most important. Efficiency in our footwork and feeds can be the difference in getting the 2 outs or not. Establish a direction and rhythm with our feet toward 2B and choose the best arm slot for your posture to make a strong, accurate feed. Within those rules don’t loose sight of your athleticism and natural abilities. Apply the rules to your game’s framework to turn two.

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