Shortstop Situational and Positioning Depths

Learn the why, when and where of shortstop positioning, including double play depth, standard depth, infield in, and no doubles.

The depth at which you can play certain hitters depends on the inning, the score, how fast a runner is, and where runners are on the bases.

When in these depths, play 100% to these depths. If you are playing back don’t worry if the hitter bunts. If you are playing in, its ok if he gets a ground ball by you. Remember often times you are playing the percentages and sometimes they don’t work out. But don’t be in between, because that is when we make mistakes.

Summary: Basic Situational Positioning for Shortstop.

Diagram for Infield Positioning: Standard depth, infield in, double play depth, and half way

Situational Positioning for the Infield

  • Bases Empty:

    Standard Depth (Position 1)

  • Runner At 1st Base:

    Double Play Depth (position 2) if less than 2 outs. If there are two outs, then back to standard depth positioning.

  • Runners at 1st And 3rd Base:

    Double Play Depth (position 2) if less than 2 outs.

    We can also use depth position 3 if we have one out.  The reason is on a sharply hit ball we turn a double play.  On a slower hit ground ball we get the out at home.

    If there are two outs, then back to standard depth positioning.

  • Runner At 1st And 2nd Base:

    Double Play Depth (position 2) if less than 2 outs. If there are two outs, then back to standard depth positioning.

  • Bases Loaded:

    Positions 2 , 3 or 4, depending on the situation. Look to the manager for his call.

Normal Depth

The Goal.

You are playing the percentages. The further back you play, the more time you will have to react. Your range increases, making it more difficult for the hitter to hit a ground ball through the infield. The tradeoff is that the throw to first base will be longer, and the play will take more time. You might want to adjust slightly, playing more forward or more back, based on factors such as the speed of the runner, the strength of your arm, your comfort level on the field, and hitter’s tendencies.

The Situation.

Any time you are setting up for a play at 1st base, or the bases are empty.  Any time there are two outs you will be in your standard position.

The Setup.

I usually measure this with how far from the outfield grass. The further back you can move, the more range you have and the more balls you can get to.

This depth depends on how comfortable you are with your throw across the infield. The further back, the longer the throw to first base.
This can be 5 to 15 feet in front of the outfield grass, and can be adjusted on the speed of runners, and how strong your arm. See #1 on the diagram below.

Double play depth

The Goal.

Double Play.

The Situation.

Expect to play at double play depth any time there is less than two outs and first base is occupied. This includes if there are runners at 1st and 2nd, or bases loaded.

The Setup.

Double play depth is different for every shortstop and differs slightly on how fast or slow the runners are or how fast the field plays. I will typically move in about 3 steps closer to the hitter from my normal position and take 3 steps closer to the second base bag. I will tweak my positioning a little depending on if a righty or lefty is hitting and what their tendencies are.

The number one priority is that you can easily get to the second base bag on a ball hit to the pitcher or second baseman, with out them having to wait for you. You are giving up a little range to be able to get to the bag easier to complete double plays. Also most pitchers I have played with are trying to get the hitter to hit a ground ball up the middle into our positioning so they would like you to get to the balls up the middle more than the ones in the hole.

See #2 for double play depth on the diagram below.

Shortstop positioning for fast runners

The Goal.

Don’t let a fast runner beat the play.

The Situation.

You know the hitter or base runners are fast.

The Setup.

Shortstop positioning for fast runners is a slight adjustment. Moving one step closer to the hitter will allow you to field and throw the ball with the same timing as you would with a slightly slower runner at normal position.

The goal is to field and throw the same way you normally would with out speeding up. Once we speed up we tend to make more mistakes. Moving one step closer does cut down range, but if you have to move to far either way, he is probably going to beat out the ground ball anyway.

Infield In

The Goal.
  • To get an out at home plate
The Situation.
  • Runner at 3rd and less than 2 outs (If there are two outs, play at normal depth and try for the out 1st base.)
  • Anytime you absolutely cannot let the runner score from third base
The Setup.
  • In this position your starting point will be where the infield grass meets the infield dirt. (See #4 on the diagram below.)
  • You can vary this distance a little, usually depending on the speed of runners.

Ultimately, whether you play in or not is the manager/coach’s call, so look for the signal during these situations. Sometimes early in games, the manager may choose allow the runner to score, preferring take the guaranteed out. However, if it is middle to late in the game, and especially if the score is close, you can expect the coach to pull the infield in. See #4 on the diagram below.

A Variation to Infield In: Half-way Depth.

Under certain circumstances, you may want to keep more options open to yourself than playing far in allows. This setup differs because you will stand on the baseline, or in other words, a few step off the infield grass. If there is a slow runner at third, then you have more time and can back up. Also, if there are runners at 1st and 3rd and you want to keep your option for turning a double play open. If the ball is hit hard, you will try for the double play. If it is not hit hard enough, you will get the out at home. See #3 on the diagram below.

No Doubles.

The Goal.

The idea behind this positioning is if we are going to give up a hit they are only going to get a single and not be able to stretch it into a double.

The Situation.

This strategy is most likely to be used in the 8th or 9th inning, and if the score is tied, or if your team is leading by 1 or 2 runs.

The Setup.

The corner infielders play at standard depth and closer to the foul line – roughly 5 to 6 feet. Also, the outfield is playing farther back. This means that the shortstop and 2nd baseman have more territory to cover for fly balls.

Note: Sometimes Depths are classified by numbers:
  1. Standard Depth
  2. Double Play Depth
  3. Half-way Depth
  4. Infield in
Diagram for Infield Positioning: Standard depth, infield in, double play depth, and half way

Situational Positioning for the Infield

About Author

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. Where is he now? After batting .200 in 45 at-bats and fielding .950 during 2017 spring training with the Rangers, Doug was assigned to the Ranger's AAA team the Round Rock Express. You should click to watch this great defensive play by Bernier

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