1 batter. 9 defenders. This has been, is, and will likely continue to be the standard in baseball. Like many sports, baseball is a game where possession of the ball is critical, and on a field so large, maximum coverage and careful coordination is instrumental to the success of the defending team. What are the specific team positions in baseball, what recognition do they hold, and how do they play into the bigger picture of the game? Here is a raw breakdown of each position that exists on a modern, standard baseball team.
The Pitcher & Catcher
The pitcher and catcher are the backbone of the defending team in baseball and, together, they make up the “battery.” Play is initiated by the pitcher, who throws the baseball to the catcher from the mound. The catcher’s job is to receive the pitch, which may be a ball or a strike, but other aspects of the player role include the defense of home plate (from runners in scoring position) and, traditionally, team captain. In a laid-back, surgical game, the pitcher and catcher will do the most work out of anyone on the defensive team. The catcher’s job throughout a game is, in many ways, the most demanding, as he is involved as heavily in progressing play as the pitcher during defense, but is also required to bat in offense, as well.
Every baseball team features 3 basemen – one for each exterior point in the infield diamond. These are the primary infield defenders, tasked with retrieving the ball from the inner range of the field itself, receiving the ball from an outfielder, or getting an opponent player out at the base. While the idle position of the respective basemen is referenced by their position, they will often find themselves tasked with covering other bases and angles when the ball is in play. Interestingly enough, the 2nd baseman’s idle position actually mirrors that of the shortstop instead of being confined specifically to the North base. This is to ensure more balanced coverage in the effect of a decent bat.
A rather unique position on the baseball team’s defense, shortstop is among the most physically demanding placements in the infield. Specifically designed to pad coverage in the infield, the shortstop must be a spry, defensive champion. Statistically speaking, more hits are within the shortstop’s coverage and, as a result, the position attracts much more action. The position began as a “medium” between the outfielders and basemen to help ball transfer, but was moved to the infield when design improvements made baseballs more aerodynamic.
The 3 outfielders (covering Left, Middle, and Right, respectively) have to provide the most hit coverage of any player on the team, as the outfield is much more expansive than the infield. Most base hits will occur in the outfield because 3 fielders can only cover so much space and account for a finite array of angles. However, a “pop fly” (colloquially, an ‘easy out’) is not uncommon in baseball, nor is an out-of-the-park homerun.
The D.H., or designated hitter, is not actually fielded by the defense during play. As the name implies, the D.H. has the responsibility of spearheading the baseball team’s offense. In American League baseball, the pitcher is generally not required to bat, allowing the designated hitter to take the spot in the offensive batting line-up. Perhaps the most renowned modern D.H. in baseball is David “Big Papi” Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox.