The Key to Right Handed 3-6 Double Play Feeds: Efficiency

The double play feed from right handed first baseman is a tough play. I don’t have statistics to back this up but, I’d venture to say that it’s the ground ball least likely to be turned into a double play. Right handed first baseman must field it, align their feet, create a throwing lane and make an accurate feed. A lot has to happen in order to get that first out. In order to turn two we need to have efficient movements, specifically efficient feet.

Within those efficient movements we can apply the rules discussed in last weeks post about left handed first baseman double play feeds. Those rules include (1) aligning and establishing direction toward 2B, (2) create a throwing lane, and (3) use an appropriate arm slot for a strong, accurate feed. You can read the entire post here.

Let’s break down the right handed first baseman feed based on our fielding lanes. Like I discussed last week, first base play is a reactionary position. The perfect fielding position is, at times, a luxury here on the corner. Instead of going into detail of the fielding position lets talk about common efficient actions in each of our fielding lanes in regards to double play feeds.

Backhand Lane

Let’s start with the backhand lane because the footwork used will actually help us in the Routine/2 Hand Lane a little later on. The backhand lane double play feed is in a lot of ways the easiest feed to make. We’re generally moving toward our target, and our feet are the closest, out of any of the fielding lanes, to being in a throwing position right from fielding the ball. With that said there are subtle footwork patterns to make this feed more efficient.

As we field the ball in the backhand lane, either in front of the baseline or deeper behind the baseline, we still field the ball in rhythm with our right, left, field pattern. The difference in the two positionings, in front or deeper to the baseline, is how we align our feet and create a throwing angle. When we’re playing deep our throwing lane is already established so all we need to be focused on is the right, left, field followed by right, left, feed foot rhythm, all of which can just about be a line with where our feed is going. This isn’t the case when we’re playing in front of the baseline. If we used the same footwork direction, all in line to where our feed is going, we don’t have a throwing lane due to our throw side potentially being in line with the base runner. Creating our throwing lane happens with efficient footwork in our gather phase. As you can see in GIF A & GIF B, we can still field the ball in rhythm with our right, left, field footwork. Notice how the left foot allows us to play thru the ball and gain ground toward the pitcher’s mound. This step with our left is the beginning of establishing our direction and throwing lane. On the gather, our right foot goes to our left which creates our throwing lane by creating distance from the base line. From here we finish aligning our feet with our left foot stride and feed.

GIF A: Backhand Lane; video courtesy of MLB
GIF B: Backhand Lane; video courtesy of MLB

Remember, our posture dictates our arm slot on the feed. If we field it low, stay relatively low and use a lower arm slot. If we field it high, stay high and use a higher arm slot. Creating the throwing lane allows us to be able to use a variety of arm slots and not worry about having to throw around the runner.

Routine/2 Hand Lane

Depending on the situation we’ll either be just in front of the base line, with a runner on 1st or 1st & 3rd, or we’ll be behind the baseline, when runners are on 1st & 2nd. Based on our positioning and the speed of ground ball our feeds will differ.

With a ground ball in the routine/2 hand lane we need to judge the speed to determine how we field it. If we can turn the ground ball into a backhand by getting our right side outside of the ball we should do that. Again like we talked about above, the backhand allows the transition and the throw to be more efficient than some of the other fielding lanes. If we can turn it into a backhand then we simply follow the footwork above. In front of the baseline, play thru the ball with the left toward the mound and have the right foot follow to create the throwing lane. Behind the baseline, play thru the ball but our footwork can be more in line with our target.

It gets a little trickier on a ball that gets on us faster that we can’t turn into backhand. Now we have a decision to make. Do we spin glove side or throw side to align our feet to feed? To answer that, I like use a clock analogy. Think of the center of the clock as the button on the top our hat and we spin around that pivot point. No matter where on the clock we field the ball we should choose to spin in the direction that has the shortest, most efficient, path around the clock to our target. When we’re in front of the baseline the glove side spin is generally the best play, but when we have some depth behind the baseline the arm side spin is generally the best play because each would be the shortest, most efficient, path around our clock.

GIF C: Inside Pivot; video courtesy of MLB

The arm side spin, or inside pivot, is not an easy feed to make. As we can see in GIF C, we still field the ball in rhythm, if possible, and on the gather we bring our right foot in under our body while driving the left side of our body to the target. If done efficiently, we should land our right foot first and then the left which will keep our arm action synced with our feet giving us the best chance to be successful. With the inside pivot, an over the top/natural arm slot is typically used which gives us our most power on the feed.

GIF D: Outside Pivot; video courtesy of cleveland.com

The glove side spin, or outside pivot, is similar to the backhand when we’re in front of the baseline. We need to be aware of creating a throwing lane and this needs to be done with efficient footwork in the gather phase of fielding. It’s best if we field the ball off of our left foot and play thru the ball with our right. If you notice in GIF D, the right foot plays thru the ball towards home plate which almost presets our body for the glove side spin. By stepping closer to home plate he’s creating distance from the baseline in turn creating his throwing lane. As we pivot we stride with the left foot in order to make the feed to second.

Again, remember our posture dictates our arm slot. Use the most efficient slot for the lane and feed.

Forehand Lane

The forehand lane almost exclusively uses an outside pivot, or glove side spin, to feed to second base. We’ll follow the same efficient footwork as in the routine/2 hand lane when using the outside pivot. As with the other lanes we still need to be mindful of our positioning depth and how that impacts our throwing lanes. Behind the baseline our throwing lane is clear and already established while in front of the baseline it needs be created using efficient footwork to eliminate extra steps.

The situation that comes into play with the forehand lane is when to step on the bag before we feed second base. This will depend on our proximity to the bag when we field it. We shouldn’t go out of our way to step on the bag first. If our momentum takes us to to the bag and we’re within a step of first base when we field it then it’s probably a good play. The thing to keep in mind is to try our best to step on it with our right foot so we can get the out, stride with the left foot and make the feed. Stepping on the bag with the left forces us to add extra steps in order to throw to second which makes for inefficient movement. What gets tricky on this play is the throw. We might not have time to set a clear throwing lane. On this play we need to hope our middle infielder covering the base creates the throwing lane by setting up on the inside of the base giving us a big target.

As you can see from the different fielding lane breakdowns, right handed first base feeds have a lot of moving parts. We have a lot of spins, footwork and aligning of the feet to create clear throwing lanes and we didn’t even get into the hardest part; getting back to the base under control (that’ll have to be another post). With all of these moving parts its imperative to be efficient, especially our footwork. Efficiency leads to ease of movements and quicker turns to get the out(s).


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