A 4-6-3 double play means that the second baseman threw the ball to the shortstop covering second base, who then threw it to the first baseman to record both outs. A 4-6-3 (and 6-4-3) tends to be the most common double play since the defense plays closer to the second base on the diamond to set up this opportunity. Usually, the play begins with a ground ball to the second baseman, and from there, they will either shovel the pass to the shortstop covering the second base or make a quick and accurate throw to them if they need to work fast to record both outs.
So, what does the 4-6-3 double play represent on a baseball diamond? How often do double plays occur in baseball? Why is the 4-6-3 (and 6-4-3) double play so common in baseball games? How rare is a triple play compared to a double play in baseball?
Here is the complete breakdown of a 4-6-3 double play in baseball.
What Does the 4-6-3 Represent on a Baseball or Softball Diamond?
There are nine defensive players on the baseball and softball fields, so the 4-6-3 portrays which baseball players were part of the double play. The second baseman is the 4, the shortstop is the 6, and the 3 is the first baseman. Here is the complete list of the infield and outfield, so you have the complete breakdown of every defensive position in the game.
- First Baseman
- Second Baseman
- Third Baseman
- Left Field (Outfield)
- Center Field (Outfield)
- Right Field (Outfield)
How Often Do Double Plays Occur in Baseball?
During the 2022 Major League Baseball season, there were 3,928 double plays, with an average of 131 double plays turned by all teams. The St. Louis Cardinals led the league with 181 double plays, followed by the Colorado Rockies with 154. The team with the least double plays during the regular season was the New York Yankees, with 102.
One of the most common types of double plays in baseball and softball is the 4-6-3 double play. Along with that, the 6-4-3 is another common type of double play that occurs in games. Both tend to start from a fast grounder to either the second baseman or shortstop in a double play combination, which means a quick toss to second and a throw to first tends to record both outs.
Why is the 4-6-3 Double Play So Common in MLB Games?
The 4-6-3 double play (and 6-4-3) is so common because of the defensive alignment on the diamond. The shortstop and second baseman are playing close to second base, so getting to the base to start a double play only takes a few strides. With the defense in this alignment, the pitcher will attempt to throw breaking balls (or any pitcher low or below the strike zone) to get the hitter to hit on top of the ball. Usually, the hit from the hitter turns into a grounder since it is a low pitch that they could not get under, and then they tend to hit it toward the defenders already playing that position.
However, it is worth noting that there is a gap in the infield during the double-play formation. That means that where the second baseman and shortstop usually play is unoccupied, a grounder there will result in a hit. It is worth the risk to set your defense up for the double play to record two outs, then keep your defense in the regular position and only record one.
What Are Other Types of Double Play Combinations?
While the 4-6-3 and 6-4-3 double play is the most common types of double play combinations, others occur during games. Here is a quick recap of each DP format and how it happens in games.
- 1-2-3 double play: Usually, this occurs when the bases are loaded. There is a grounder to the pitcher, who throws it to the catcher to get the first out via a force out at home. From there, the catcher throws the ball to first base to get that hitter out.
- 3-2-3 double play: This format is rare as it occurs when the bases are loaded. It starts with a grounder to the first baseman, who throws the ball to home plate to get the first out. From there, the catcher throws the ball to first base to get that runner out.
- 3-6-4 double play: This play tends to occur from a bunt attempt that is hit too hard toward the pitcher’s mound. The bunt tends to go right to the pitcher on one bounce, who then throws the ball to the shortstop covering second base and then throws the ball to first base to get the out.
- 4-3-6 double play: This play is rare as it goes from the second baseman throwing it to the first baseman to get one out. Then, the first baseman throws the ball to second base and it requires a tag by the shortstop to get the runner out.
- 5-4-3 double play: Either the bases are loaded, or there is a baserunner on first and second. The play begins with a grounder to the third baseman, who throws the ball to the second base to get the first out, and then the second baseman throws the ball to the first base to get the second out. The 5-4-3 double play is also known as “around the horn” since it covers the entire baseball diamond.
- 5-3 double play: This play occurs when the third baseman touches the third base as a force-out, usually from a grounder, and then throws the ball to first base to get that runner out.
What is an Unassisted Double Play?
An unassisted double play occurs when the same position number records both outs. For example, a line drive caught by the shortstop, who tags the runner trying to get back to second base, will receive credit for an unassisted double play.
How Rare is a Triple Play Compared to a Double Play?
Only six triple plays occurred during the 2022 Major League Baseball season. In contrast, there were a total of 3,928 double plays that took place over the 2022 season. That means one triple play occurs for every 655 double plays in a baseball game.
Conclusion: What is a 4-6-3 Double Play in Baseball?
In summary, the 4-6-3 double plays signify that the double play began with the second baseman, who threw it to the shortstop at second base and then threw it to first base to get that runner out. If you flip the 4-6-3 to a 6-4-3 double play, the play begins with the shortstop instead of the second baseman. These two types of double-play formations are the most common to see in baseball.