Friday, April 30, 2010

The 3-1-6

Baseball's got tons of numbers. There are the stats - batting averages, ERAs, RBIs. Then each player is known by name and number (every stadium has a zillion tv screens, are those numbers really necessary anymore?). The bases are numbered. At Fenway Park, you find your seat by section, row, and... number.

And then there are the baseball positions. Yup. There are nine fielding positions in baseball,* and each has a number. You might think, if you were a pinkhat or just somewhat logical, that number 1 would be first base, number 2 would be second, and so on, but this is not the case. The numbers start with the pitcher (1), then go to the catcher (2), around the bases (3,4,5), to the shortstop (6) and then across the outfield from left to right (7,8,9).

This will shock you, but I actually knew about fielding position numbers before this commitment to watch every game and blog about what I learned. During a rainy extra-inning game at Fenway, my father entertained me with a quiz on the number assigned to each position. Of course, I had long since forgotten the numbers, and I'm not sure I ever knew their purpose.

Unfortunately Wikipedia doesn't explain why the positions are numbered, but after Wednesday's game against Toronto, I think I have an idea. Early in the game Jerry Remy or Don Orsillo announced a 1-3-6 put-out. Pitcher Jon Lester (1) threw to Kevin Youkilis at first (3) and had the runner picked off.** The runner knew he was out if he returned to first, so he tried to make it to second. The shortstop Marco Scutaro (6) was covering second base and tagged the runner out.

Why say all that when you can say 1-3-6 put-out?

With so many numbers in baseball, the Sox should just keep things simple. Like when the pitcher sends the ball to Pedroia and he hits a homerun as he did tonight in the 6th... wouldn't that just be a 1?***

*Plagiarism Alert!!! This sentence is exactly the same as a sentence I read on Wikipedia. If you can think of a different way to say this, let me know so I can plagiarize you instead.

**This doesn't sound like proper English to me, but Dave is reading over my shoulder, and every time I write this differently he says, "okay, but that's wrong."

***Nope, according to Dave it most certainly would not. The numbers are used for scoring and are often accompanied by letters. For example F9 would be a flyout to the leftfielder, and P6 would be a pop-up to the shortstop. And homeruns are annotated with HR- no number, but a diagram to shade on the scorecard.


  1. I knew none of that since I usually i just ignore the commentators. I might have the numbers down but the strategy is a different thing.

  2. I'm catching up. Plagiarism question: how different do you have to say something for it to not be plagiarized?? (And, I think since you did, in fact, cite your source you're not plagiarizing.) All that said, you could say, "Each of the nine fielding positions are numbered." No? :-)