An Inside Look at SS Double Play Pivots

Last week’s post discussing deflecting vs catching & exchanging the ball was a precursor to this week’s post about SS double play pivots and next week post on 2B double play pivots. You can read last week’s post here. As we dive into the specific footwork for each position’s pivots it’s important to remember a few musts that apply to both the SS and 2B:

  • Arrive at the bag in a timely manner; prefer to be early over late
  • Establish your anchor location at the bag; what part of the bag you’ll touch to get the out
  • Square up to your teammate making the feed
  • Give a target to your teammate
  • Let the ball travel to receive (catch & exchange or deflect) as close to your body as possible; the ball travels faster than your hands

Within these musts we utilize specific footwork for each position in the pivot. When diving into the SS pivots, the feeds will come from one of three areas of the field; the pitcher/catcher, 1B in front of the baseline, and 1B/2B behind the baseline. Each area will have their own footwork patterns based on which lane we receive the ball; middle, forehand side, and backhand side.

Feeds from the pitcher/catcher

On balls thrown from the direction of home plate we should set up on the SS side of second base with our left foot. This squares our body up to whomever is throwing the ball to us. This set up will be the same across all lanes on balls traveling from this direction.

No matter which lane we receive the ball or where the feed comes from, all of our footwork needs to be quick, and short. The bigger the steps the longer the pivot will take.

Middle & Forehand Lanes

On balls received in the middle and forehand lane, without having to extend beyond a normal length, from the pitcher our initial step needs to be with our right foot. Our right foot needs to step, not out to the ball, but to in the ball in the lane it’s traveling in. In the middle and forehand lane, this step will be in towards the bag. It’s important to try to land our initial step with the right foot as we receive the ball. This will help sync up our arm action with the feet. As we transfer the ball into our throwing hand our second step takes place with the left foot. The left foot steps to the outfield side of the bag/baseline placing us in a good throwing position with our feet.

When the ball is in the forehand lane we obviously won’t step into the forehand lane to receive the ball. That initial step will still be to the middle lane. In this situation the catch & exchange should probably be used on the reception.

Backhand Lane

When the ball is received in the backhand lane our initial set up will still be the same. Our left foot is on the SS side of the bag so we’re squared to our feeder. As we recognize the lane of the throw, our initial step will be with the right foot into the backhand lane. Again, the initial step isn’t out too the ball but rather out into the feed lane. This step will be away from the bag. Landing this step should be at roughly the same time as we receive the ball so our arm action is synced with the feet. In this lane our second step with the left foot can either be on the infield side of the bag or onto the SS side of the bag, close to where our initial set up position was. The specific positioning really depends on the amount we have to extend for the throw. The further we need to extend the more it’s likely we’ll place our left foot on the SS side of the bag. The closer the ball is to us in the backhand lane the more in front of the bag/baseline our second step will be.

Extended Forehand

Any ball we really need to extend to the forehand lane for our footwork will be different. The initial set up will be the same with the left foot on the bag and squared to the feeder. As we read the throw, we’ll then have to shift our feet to the 2B side of the bag. We’ll then hold the bag with our right foot, stretch to receive the ball, then we’ll take our right to our left, left to target and throw. This becomes more like a pivot on a feed from the 2B.

Feeds from 2B and 1B behind the baseline

Feeds from the 2B and 1B behind the baseline are more of the traditional pivots. This set up will be more of what people think of when they think of SS pivots on double plays.

The initial set up is with our right foot on the CF corner of the bag and our body squared to the feeder. Feeds from this direction allow us to step out to the ball more so than the feeds from the pitcher/catcher. No matter the lane in which we receive the ball we’ll step out to the ball with the left foot. Each footwork pattern will be the same. We’ll step to the ball with the left foot and land the step as we receive the ball. As we transfer the ball to our throwing hand, our next step will be to bring our right foot to left and begin to establish direction toward 1B with the body. Next, we’ll take our left to the target and throw.

The footwork described above will be the footwork used across all lanes. The only exception is when the throw comes from the 1B. Due to the angle of the feed, the backhand lane almost is non existent because the backhand lane is right in the base path/slide lane of the runner. These throws are when we just need to be athletes and do what we can to get the out but also protect ourselves at the same time.

The initial set up position described is to illustrate which foot and where on the bag we’ll touch to get the out. Feeds in this direction will allow the SS to carry momentum through the bag. This carrying of momentum is possible because of how we anchor the bag with the right foot. The term anchor is a little misleading as we don’t want the right foot to be cemented to the bag. We want the feet to light and quick. To carry momentum through the bag the SS should get to the bag but remain on the backside of the base, the side opposite of the feed, but in line with our “anchor point.” As the feed approaches, we read which lane the ball will be in and we’ll step to the ball with the left foot while dragging our right foot across the anchor point. From here the feet will replace as described above and make the throw. The most important thing to remember is to time our action stepping to the ball while keeping our feet moving will waiting to take action. To do this use short, choppy steps in place to keep moving before you attack the ball.

Feeds from 1B inside the baseline

The initial set up on feeds from this direction is similar to the set up on feeds coming from the pitcher or catcher. We’ll set up with our left foot on the bag. Instead of having it anchored on the SS side of the bag, our foot will be anchored on the infield side edge of the bag so that we’re squared up to the 1B and also creating a throwing lane.

Middle and Backhand Lane

Feeds in the middle and backhand lane will use the same footwork pattern. On each feed our right foot will step to the ball in the lane it’s traveling. We’ll time up the reception and landing our step. As we transfer the ball to the throwing hand we’ll stride with the left foot to the target and throw. We’ll remain on the infield side of the bag with our footwork to make the throw.

Forehand and Extended Forehand Lane

Just like the backhand lane on feeds behind the baseline, the forehand lane feeds from the 1B disappears because of the runner. These feeds put us in the baseline and slide lane which can lead to an injury and make receiving the ball difficult. In the forehand lane we just need to do the best we can and be an athlete to get the out if it’s possible.

From this direction the extended forehand lane is a potential play. This isn’t an easy pivot to make. Many times in this lane, the ball will almost disappear for a split second as it crosses behind the runner. When the feed enters the extended forehand lane we need to adjust our feet. From the initial set up position we’ll need to shift our feet to hold the bag with the right foot and step to the ball with the left. This pivot now becomes similar to a feed from behind the baseline. We’ll step to the ball to receive and land our left foot on the reception. As we transfer the ball into our throwing hand we’ll take our right foot to the left while establishing our direction with the body toward 1B. We’ll stride with our left foot while beginning our arm action and throw to complete the double play.

The only thing to add to all of these pivots is our actions after we throw the ball. In today’s game, across all levels of the game, we have more strict sliding rules. The runner must slide into the base. This doesn’t mean they will and sometimes our feeds might take us into the sliding lane. So we must protect ourselves from injury. We need to throw and be able to get out of the way of the sliding runner. To do this we need to get our feet off of the ground to either jump over the sliding runner or to get out of the slide lane. As we release our throw, we need to allow our right side, back side, to follow through the throw. While riding the momentum of our follow through we should jump off our our left foot to elevate and getting our feet off the ground. Performing this little jump can prevent serious injury.

This wraps up our dive into each potential double play pivot a SS will experience at some point or another. Remember to allow the ball and feed direction to determine which pivot we make. Allow the ball to dictate. Sometimes it dictates that none of the above pivots are possible and we need to be athletes to get the job done. Most of these pivots described are from friendly, or close to friendly, feeds but the game isn’t always friendly to us. Be prepared for the challenging feed so that when the friendly feed comes it’s easier to handle while also being prepared for the hard one. Make sure to check out next week’s post as we dive into 2B pivots.

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