Baseball Positions – The 9 Position Numbers Explained

- March 1, 2021
Baseball position numbers

There are nine baseball positions on the field. These are:

  1. Pitcher
  2. Catcher
  3. First Baseman
  4. Second Baseman
  5. Third Baseman
  6. Shortstop
  7. Left Fielder
  8. Center Fielder
  9. Right Fielder

Each position requires a particular skill set to effectively get outs and keep the offensive team from scoring runs. Baseball rosters typically have 25 players so that the 9 players on the field are occasionally rotated through the season. 

If attending a game and keeping score, it’s essential to know the number used for each position when recording a play on the scoreboard. 

Let’s take a look at all nine baseball positions on the field in more detail.

Pitcher

The pitcher is #1 on the scorecard and is in control of the game. After all, he is the one on the mound, and nothing happens before he delivers a pitch. Pitchers typically have a repertoire of pitches, e.g. fastballs, curveballs, sliders etc., to get the batter to miss the ball.

A pitcher’s ability to command his pitches in and around the strike zone will help determine the amount of solid contact the batters make.

Also, the pitcher must keep runners close to the base to try to prevent stealing. He must back up home plate on balls thrown from the outfield into home. The pitcher must also field bunts and react quickly to balls hit back through the middle.

Catcher

While the pitcher executes the pitches, the catcher is in control of calling the game. He is located behind the home plate. His role is to catch the baseball when the batter misses the ball or fails to swing at it. 

Catchers signal the pitcher on where to pitch the ball and which type of pitch to make. A good catcher must know the situation at hand and call the pitches best suited for the situation.

A catcher must block pitches thrown in the dirt and have the quickness and arm strength to throw out potential base stealers. The catcher is also responsible for bunts out in front of the plate and pop-ups in the vicinity. 

The catcher’s position number is 2 when keeping score.

Infield Players

The infield is made up of 4 players, namely the first baseman, second baseman, shortstop and third baseman. Infield baseball positions require quick reaction times and good hand-eye coordination.

Infield positions – other than first base – are best suited for right-handed players since right-handed players do not need to turn as far to throw the ball to first.

First Baseman

The first baseman is position number 3 on the scorecard and has numerous responsibilities. They must be able to field hard ground balls, and line drives down the line and to their right, as well as pop-ups in the area and in foul ground.

They must be able to make quick tags on pick-off attempts and charge bunts in their direction. Left-handed first basemen as commonplace and can make quicker tags on pick-off plays.

Fielding throws in the dirt from other infielders is an important skill to avoid the advancement of base runners.

Second Baseman

A second baseman is position number 4 on the scorecard. The second baseman must be quick to cover ground to the left and towards the middle of the infield.

In addition to fielding ground balls, line drives and pop-ups, the second baseman is a crucial component of the double-play combination with the shortstop. He is also a relay man on balls hit to the outfield to plays at third base or home plate.

Shortstop

The shortstop is position number 6 and has much of the same responsibilities as the second baseman, just from the other side of the infield.

He will have a stronger arm than a second baseman due to the longer throw to first base. He will be a relay man on deep balls hit to the outfield and may need to make strong, accurate throws to home plate.

Third Baseman

The third baseman (denoted by a number 5) is known as the “hot corner” due to the many hard line-drives in that direction.

A great third baseman must have quick reflexes, but not much range is needed to play the position compared to shortstop and second base.

The third baseman is a cutoff man on balls hit down the left-field line and must have the strongest arm in the infield due to the longest throw to first base.

Also, the third baseman is responsible for charging bunts down the third-base line.

Outfielders

The outfield comprises three positions: the right fielder, center fielder, and left fielder. In the outfield, all three outfield baseball positions have similar responsibilities, such as tracking fly balls and making accurate throws to the bases.

Players in these positions need to be fast since they need to run down hits that make it through the infield. Fielding line drives and ground balls is essential for all three outfield positions to keep the ball from going to the fence.

In the scorebook, the left fielder is 7, the center fielder is 8, and the right fielder is 9.

Left Fielder

The left fielder covers the outfield’s left-third and back-up third on pick-off attempts from the catcher or pitcher.

This position is typically played by the bigger hitters on the team. Left fielders can have an okay throwing arm – they don’t require a cannon for an arm since they don’t throw the ball as far. That said, they still need to be fast and have excellent fielding and catching skills.

Since the majority of batters are right-handed, more hits invariably make it to left field, and so left fielders are responsible for catching more outfield hits because the majority of batters in baseball are right-handed hitters. 

Center Fielder

The centerfielder takes command of as much ground as possible. He’s the fastest and best fielder of the group and has catching priority should multiple players come together. Center fielders need a strong throwing arm and can either be left or right-handed.

Right Fielder

The right fielder typically has the strongest arm due to the longest possible throw into third base. Dexterity isn’t a significant factor. Of the three outfielders, right fielders encounter the least number of balls but still need to cover lots of ground. 

The Designated Hitter / Extra Hitter vs Pinch Hitter vs Pinch Runners

The Designated Hitter is allowed in most youth, high school, collegiate leagues, minor leagues and the American League (one of Major League Baseball’s two conferences). A designated hitter doesn’t have a position on the field. Instead, Designated Hitters bat in place of the pitcher since, under American League rules, pitcher’s don’t have to bat.

In amateur leagues, the DH rule increases players’ opportunities to be part of the game, which is why in amateur baseball, the DH is abbreviated as “extra hitter” (EH). 

Designated hitters aren’t allowed in the National League (Major League Baseball’s other conferences), which is where pinch hitters come in. 

A pinch hitter, back-up infielder or outfielder, is substituted to hit in place of a hitter in the lineup. The batter can be substituted when the ball is dead, often in the later innings of the game in place of a pitcher, because pitchers are usually some of the worst hitters on the team.

Conclusion

When choosing, ensure that young players are suited to the requirements of the position they want to play in.

For instance, young players who want to play shortstop need to be agile and possess the strength to throw hard across the diamond. Explore various baseball positions to find the best one without being too rigid about your ideal position.

While exploring, however, be careful about playing too many positions. Young players are better off mastering 2 baseball positions than being average at several different ones.

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