The shortstop position in baseball is different from every other position on the field. It’s one of the most important positions is it often sees the most baseballs in a regular game. Its name is also unique as it differs from the other positions on the field.
The shortstop in baseball got its name from the area of the field. It requires the player to stop the short side of the field, and act as a cutoff for the left and center fielders.
Also seen on box scores and graphics, the shortstop position is labeled SS. Where did the name shortstop come from and why is it a very important position on the field.
Why It’s Called a Shortstop In Baseball
In short, a player by the name of Doc Adams created the position. He played for the New York Knickerbockers in 1859. Traditionally, 8 players would play on the baseball field, one player at each base, three outfielders, and a pitcher/catcher.
Due to the high amount of right-handed hitters ( even in today’s game), the large gap between third base and second base was massive. Doc Adams decided to vacate his position in the outfield and move closer to what we know as the shortstop position.
Doc’s job as the shortstop was to be the short-side of the field, protecting the large gap between the 3rd and 2nd. It then evolved to shortstop, as he would no longer act as a cutoff man, but as a stop to the short side of the field.
At the time of Doc Adam’s playing days, the baseball weighed almost half of what it does now. Meaning players in the outfield could not reach a base or even getting the ball back to the pitcher. This is the main reason why the shortstop position became so valuable.
Doc remained with the Knickerbockers until 1860, where he helped invent and revolutionize one of the most prolific positions in baseball.
What Does A Shortstop In Baseball Do?
A shortstop is one of the most important positions on the field. As mentioned, most baseballs are hit to the shortstop position. This requires the shortstop to be the best glove on the field, as they’ll see the most action.
Shortstop requires a player with a talented glove, ability to turn double plays, and last act as the cutoff man between the center and left fielder.
Believe it or not, the scores of baseball games looked like American football scores. Often teams would score 20+ runs due to the massive gaps in the field. The addition of the shortstop eliminated the large gaps on the left side of the field and brought the score down dramatically.
This position now gave teams a chance at getting outs, which dropped the scoring rate.
In addition to fielding ground balls, the shortstop position must be able to catch fly balls as well as turn double plays both from the second baseman and other infielders.
Why Is The Shortstop Position 6 and Not 5?
When looking at a box score, or a graphic about baseball positions, you may see that shortstop is numbered 6. This doesn’t make sense to the normal counting eye, as each base position is numbered in order from right to left, but the 3rd base is numbered 5 and shortstop 6.
The shortstop position was not invented until after all the positions had already been created. Adding this extra position, essentially added a new number to the infield. Instead of renumbering all of the positions, it was easier to call the shortstop 6 and leave all of the base positions as their normal numbers.
Renumbering of the outfield took place once 9 players were added to the field to finalize all of the personnel on the field.
Why Shortstops Throw Sidearm
Shortstops are oftentimes the most athletic player on the field, along with the best glove for fielding ground balls. The high majority of hitters are right-handed, which means they’re more likely to pull the ball to the left side of the diamond, toward the shortstop.
The third baseman has to protect the foul line, meaning the shortstop has to range further to his left and to his right. Chasing balls in each direction forces the player to throw in awkward situations. Many times, the shortstop can be seen getting the ball on the run, having to flip his hips back around and throw the ball sidearm.
Shortstops are not doing this for fun, they’re doing it because it’s the only way they can generate enough velocity behind the baseball in order to throw the runner out.
The same kind of throwing style can be seen by shortstops who are fielding a backhand. We can often times see the shortstop backhand the baseball, jump in the air, and throw the baseball. It would take a half-second longer if the shortstop stopped, planted his foot, then threw the ball all the way across the diamond.
Here is a few off-handed and off-balanced throws from shortstops.
If you’re looking to play the shortstop position, we recommend working on ground balls from both the right and left sides. Practice throwing from awkward angles and fielding softly/hard-hit ground balls. The shortstop skill set requires quick lateral movement and precise accuracy when throwing to first.
Can A Lefty Play Shortstop?
Due to the fact, the shortstop is on the left side of the diamond, shortstops are typically right-handed throwers. As a right-handed thrower would be able to scoop the baseball and make an immediate throw, a left-handed shortstop would have to gather the baseball, turn their entire body, then throw the baseball.
Due to this long sequence, it makes more sense for lefties to play either first base or the outfield. Baseball ground ball outs can be determined by the matter of inches, every second count when fielding, gathering the feet, and throwing the ball across the diamond.
Shortstops have been added to the game of baseball to help fill the gap between the second and third baseman. The high volume of right-handed hitters often hit the ball between the 2nd and 3rd base hole. This is what led to the creation of the shortstop.
Before the shortstop, baseball scores looked like football scores and the innings dragged on. The shortstop allowed the second baseman to play in the gap between second and first, helping the defense be more efficient on the right side of the diamond as well.
The shortstop position has changed baseball for the better and will continue to provide the top 10 highlights throughout the entire baseball season.