What is a DP in Softball and Baseball?

- September 5, 2023

There are two meanings for DP. DP in softball typically stands for Designated Player. In baseball, DP stands for Double Play. We cover both meanings in detail below:

What is a DP in Softball?

The position is very similar to the Designated Hitter in baseball, but there is a distinct difference. In baseball, the designated hitter can only bat, whereas the designated player can bat and play on the field.

DP in the Field

A designated player (DP) in fastpitch softball is a player that can bat for another player as well as also play defense in the field. Later in the game, that player returns to the game in their original position. The player will be known as a pinch hitter or pinch-runner.

The basic DP Flex Rule Softball NCAA and USSSA state that the only person who can play pinch-runner is the person in defence (known as the Flex) that the pinch-runner replaces. This rule means that the designated player is not allowed to replace anyone else when removed. However, it is essential to note that the designated player is eligible to return to the lineup of the chosen flex person.

Important Softball Substitution Rules

  1. DP, Flex, and Substitutes must all be in the same spot in the batting order.
  2. DP can play any position in the field.
  3. Even when used, the DP and Flex titles never end.
  4. The number of times the members on a team can fluctuate from 9 to 10 during a game is unlimited.
  5. DP and Flex can play in the field concurrently.
  6. The Flex can only replace the DP on offense.
  7. If the DP replaces a player that isn’t a Flex, that player still bats.

What is a DP in Baseball?

In baseball, the DP generally refers to Double Play. A double play occurs when two players on offense are declared out in the same play. This often helps get a pitcher out of a big jam by getting at least one runner off the bases and two outs with a single pitch.

There are numerous ways that a double play can occur, but the most frequent way is on a ground ball to an infielder with a runner on first base. A fielder will throw the ball to second base for the forceout, then relay to first base to complete the double play. This play is often referred to in baseball slang as “twin killing’, “turned two”, “doubled up”, or the “pitcher’s best friend.”

Occasionally, a double play occurs when a baserunner is thrown out trying to advance a base on a flyout to the outfield. This rarely happens on attempts to tag from first base and advance to second base. Sometimes a line drive to an infielder will catch a runner straying too far off the base, doubling him up as the runner tries to return to the base. 

Sometimes with a runner on first base, a ground ball will be hit to first, who will tag the base and throw to second base for a tagout double play. Another form of a double play is when a baserunner is thrown out attempting to steal on a pitch where a strikeout was recorded.

Pitchers that throw balls low in the strike zone, particularly with a sinkerball, are more likely to induce ground balls. The more ground balls hit, the higher the chance of turning double plays.

Tinker to Evers to Chance

Although they didn’t set records, the most famous double play trio was Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Frank Chance. They played for the Chicago White Sox for a decade between 1902 and 1912.

What made them famous was a single double play against the New York Giants in 1910, which was the inspiration to the poem Baseball’s Sad Lexicon, better known as Tinker to Evers to Chance.

The three infielders were part of the 1907 and 1908 World Series champions. All told, the trio turned 491 doubles plays and were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.

Noteworthy Double Plays

A rare double play involved the second baseman, pitcher, and third baseman in a game between the Yankees and Giants on July 24, 2016. With Marc Williamson of the Giants at first base with one out in the top of the 8th inning, Ramiro Pena hit a ball fielded by Yankees’ second baseman Starlin Castro.

He threw to the pitcher covering first base, as first baseman Mark Teixeira was out of position to get back to the base. Williamson kept running past second and was thrown out at third, resulting in the rare, 4-1-5 double play.

Imagine a double play involving the right fielder, left fielder, and catcher. Sounds improbable? As impossible as it may seem, such a double play occurred on July 9, 1985, in a game with the Mariners and the Blue Jays. Will the Mariners’ Phil Bradley on second base, Gorman Thomas laced a single to right field.

Jesse Barfield charged the ball and fired to catcher Buck Martinez, who got plowed over by Bradley. Thomas was heading to third, and Martinez threw wildly to third base, which prompted Thomas to try to score.

Left fielder George Bell threw home on one-hop to Martinez, who tagged out Thomas to complete the double play. Martinez suffered a broken leg and dislocated ankle in the collision with Bradley. Martinez returned for one more Major League season before retiring.

How about a double play where a ball wasn’t put into play that did not result in a strikeout-caught stealing? Such a freakish double play occurred in a game between the Pirates and the Giants on July 30, 2014.

Chris Stewart walked to load the bases with Gaby Sanchez and Travis Snider of the Pirates on second and third base. Being alert, Machi noticed that Snider was far off second base and threw the ball to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who tagged out Snider.

Having strayed too far off third, Sanchez decided to try to score, but Crawford was alert and fired to Machi in the third-base line, who chased Sanchez back towards third base. Machi tossed to third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who tagged out Sanchez. Thus, the wacky 1-6-1-5 double play was completed.

All-Time Double Play Leaders by Position

Career Records

  • 1B: Mickey Vernon – 2044 in 20 seasons
  • 2B: Bill Mazeroski – 1706 in 17 seasons
  • SS: Omar Vizquel – 1734 in 24 seasons
  • 3B: Brooks Robinson – 618 in 23 seasons
  • LF: Booby Veach – 42 in 14 seasons
  • CF: Tris Speaker – 107 in 22 seasons
  • RF: Harry Hooper – 65 in 17 seasons
  • C: Ray Schalk – 222 in 18 seasons

Single Season Records

  • 1B: Ferris Fain – 194 in 1949
  • 2B: Bill Mazeroski – 161 in 1966
  • SS: Rick Burleson – 147 in 190
  • 3B: Graig Nettles – 54 in 1971
  • LF: Bibb Falk – 9 in 1927, Alfonso Soriano – 9 in 2006
  • CF: Happy Felsch – 14 in 1919
  • RF: Mel Ott – 12 in 1928, Chief Wilson – 12 in 1914 C: Steve O’Neill – 36 in 1916
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