Cubs' second-to-first double plays

A previous post looked at double plays by the Cubs that consisted only of the shortstop fielding a ball and throwing to the first baseman, after making a forceout at second or catching a line drive.

Since 1914, first season which has searchable play-level data, there have been a surprising number of short to first DPs: 955, which amounts to 20.2 percent of all double plays begun by Cubs shortstops.

Shortstops have started 30.5 percent of all double plays made by the Cubs: 4,693 of 15,365.

That's an average of 140 DPs per year, 43 started by shortstops.


How does that compare to double plays started by second basemen, especially those pulled off by second and first basemen as a duo?

To answer that question, I once again used the Pivotal Play Finder at, to find all double plays started by second basemen, then extracted just the DPs that involved only the two infielders on the right side.


I expected that there would be significantly fewer.

After all, on a ground ball, a shortstop often is moving to his left, toward second base, before fielding a ball, stepping on the bag and firing to first.

A second baseman, on the other hand, typically is moving to his right, away from first, so after making a forceout he must pivot and throw back across his body to retire the batter.

And there were, indeed, fewer double plays started by second basemen than shortstops -- but far fewer than I had expected.



Second baseman initiated 3,860 double plays of all kinds, which is 25.1 percent of all DPs, compared to 30.5 percent by shortstops.

Only 755 of those went 4-3, almost 200 fewer than the 950 that went 6-3.

The 4-3 double plays are 20.3 percent fewer than the 6-3 double plays.

Alternatively, the 6-3 double plays are 25.5 percent more than the 4-3 double plays.

For every 4 double plays that went 4-3, there have been 5 that went 6-3.



The Cubs turned 137 double plays in the just-completed season, right around their 110-season average.

46 of them were started by the shortstop, including 10 in which he collaborated only with the first baseman -- 21.7 percent

Second basemen began 33, of which 7 were from second to first, which is 21.2 percent, virtually identical to the 6-3 percentage, but slightly higher than the 19.6 percent among all DPs started by second basemen since 1914.


Here are the dates and details of the 7 this year:

April 22, at home vs. Dodgers, 1st inning, bases loaded, nobody out, no score (Nico Hoerner-Eric Hosmer)

May 12, at Minnesota, 5th inning, runners on first and second, 1 out, Cubs behind 2-1 (Christopher Morel-Matt Mervis)

May 31, at home vs. Rays, 8th inning, runners on first and third, 1 out, Cubs behind 4-3 (Miles Mastrobuoni-Trey Mancini)

June 7, at Los Angeles vs. Angels, 2nd inning, runner on first, nobody out, no score (Hoerner-Mervis)

July 22, at home vs. Cardinals, 1st inning, runners on first and second, 1 out, Cubs behind 1-0 (Hoerner-Cody Bellinger)

Aug. 3, at home vs. Reds, 4th inning, runners on first and third, nobody out, Cubs ahead 4-1 (Hoerner-Jeimer Candelario)

Aug. 18, at home vs. Royals, 3rd inning, runner on first, 1 out, Cubs behind, 1-0 (Hoerner-Patrick Wisdom)


Note that no 2 of the 7 had the same combination of second and first basemen.

Hoerner started 5 of them; Morel and Mastrobuoni, 1 each.

6 different first baseman got the second out, with only Mervis doing in twice, while playing 27 total games at first. The number of games for each of the 5 who ended 1: Bellinger (59), Mancini (51), Candelario (21), Hosmer (15) and Wisdom (14).



The investigation into 6-3 double plays was prompted by one made by Dansby Swanson and Cody Bellinger on Friday, Sept. 29, at Milwaukee.

It turned out to be only the third of all 950 made in the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied.

The previous 2 had come in 1952, at Boston, and in 1990, also at Milwaukee.

Both against the Brewers were on groundouts; the one against the Braves, on a line drive.


114 of the 6-3 double plays have been on liners, which is 12.0 percent.

821 were on grounders (86.4), including all 10 this year.

9 of 6-3 DPs began with the shortstop catching what is described as a "fly ball" (0.9) and 6 on popups (0.6).


Of the 4-3 double plays, 489 came on grounders (64.8 percent), 243 on liners (32.2), 15 on fly balls (2.0) and 8 on popups (1.0).

That's quite a contrast in percentages between grounders and liners.

Nearly 9 of 10 by shortstops were on grounders vs. about 2 of 3 by second basemen.

Almost 1 of 3 by second basemen were on liners vs. about 1 of 8 by shortstops.


The 1 and only 4-3 double play in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied was a grounder.

It happened on Tuesday, July 1, 1975, at Shea Stadium in New York.



In the series opener the previous night, the Cubs had scored a run in the third inning and the Mets had tied the game in the sixth. The deadlock continued until the eighth, when the Mets turned 4 singles, 3 walks and a passed ball into 4 runs, good for a 5-1 victory.

The Cubs opened the scoring again in the rematch. Jose Cardenal singled with 1 out in the first, stole second and came home on a single by Jerry Morales.

Cardenal led off the third with a double. He was bunted to third and scored on another hit by Morales. Andre Thornton followed with a home run, putting the Cubs on top, 4-0.


After blanking the Mets for 4 innings, Cubs starter Ray Burris gave up a leadoff single in the fifth, then another with 1 out. He got a forceout but walked the next batter, loading the bases, and surrendered a 2-run single.

The score still was 4-2 when the Mets came up in the eighth. The first 2 batters singled off Burris. They advanced to second and third on a grounder to first.

A sacrifice fly brought home the runner from third. The other runners stayed at second, but sprinted home on a single by Dave Kingman to tie the game.



The Cubs went down in order in their half of the ninth.

The first man up for the Mets singled, prompting Manager Jim Marshall to replace Burris with Tom Dettore, another right hander.

Dettore, 27 years old, had come to the Cubs exactly 15 months earlier, on April 1, 1974, from the Pirates, in exchange for infielder Paul Popovich.

Dettore had appeared in 16 games that season for the Cubs, starting 9 and finishing 5. In 64.2 innings, he had compiled a 3-5 record and 4.18 ERA.

So far in 1975, he had pitched 11 times, going 1-1, 4.43. His last appearance, 2 days earlier at Pittsburgh, had been his first start. He had lasted 6 innings, in which he gave up 3 runs, 2 earned, on 5 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 5.



The first batter Dettore faced laid down a bunt toward the right side, which he fielded and threw to first for the out, with the runner reaching second.

Joe Torre was sent up to bat for the Mets' pitcher. Detorre walked him intentionally.

That brought up lefty-swinging Mike Phillips, a .246 hitter after going 0 for 3 plus a walk against Burris.

Detorre got Phillips to smack a hard grounder to the right of second base. Manny Trillo grabbed it, stepped on the base and fired the ball to Thornton at first for an inning-ending double play.



Don Kessinger started the Cubs' 10th by drawing a walk from new reliever Rick Baldwin.

He stole second and went to third on Cardenal's tap to the right side, fielded by Baldwin.

He stayed at third when Rick Monday bounced back to Baldwin.

Then Morales delivered his third RBI single of the night.

Detorre coaxed 3 straight groundouts in the bottom half to preserve the 5-4 victory.



The Cubs' victory over the Mets, highlighted by the one-of-a-kind, bottom-of-the-ninth DP, left both with 37 wins for the season, But the Cubs had 41 losses to the Mets' 35.

The Cubs occupied fifth place in the 6-team NL East Division, 10.5 games behind the pace-setting Pirates.

They had fallen to fifth after losing both games of a doubleheader at Pittsburgh on June 27.

They remained fifth after each of 97 subsequent games, until an 11-inning, 5-3 loss at home to the Expos on the next-to-last day of the season that dropped them to sixth.

A 9-6 victory in Game 162 lifted the Cubs back into a tie for fifth, with a final record of 75-87.



Tom Dettore pitched in 24 games after July 1.

He relieved in the first 5, throwing 14.1 innings, in which he had a 4.42 ERA, won 1 game, lost 2 and blew a save.

On July 27, at home, he held the Mets to 1 run in 6 innings on 6 hits, 2 walks and 3 strikeouts, but did not get a decision.

3 days later, he pitched a scoreless inning in relief.

Then he made 3 straight starts in early August:

8 innings, 3 runs, 6 hits, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts to earn a win vs. the Cardinals

6 innings, 1 run, 2 hits, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts in a loss at Atlanta

3.2 innings, 8 runs, 9 hits, 1 walk, 1 strikeout in a no-decision at Cincinnati.


Those were the last of his Dettore's 5 starts. He relieved 14 times and was far from effective: 29 earned runs in 26.2 innings, in which he surrendered 42 hits (4 homers) and 12 walks. He fanned 17.

His ERA in those 14 games was 9.79, raising his season mark to 5.38.

He fared even worse to start the next season: 10.29, in 4 games, on 8 runs in 7 innings, on 11 hits (3 homers), 2 walks and 4 strikeouts.

The Cubs released Dettore on April 22. He signed with the Padres a week later and went 11-15, 4.33 as a starter for their farm team in Hawaii.

In 1977, he was 3-4, 5.34, as a reliever for the Cardinals' affiliated in New Orleans.

Then Dettore retired, at age 29, with a big league record of 8-11, 5.21, in 68 games, 15 of them starts. He finished 23.

He will turn 76 on Nov. 17.



The Cubs have made 15 other second-to-first double plays in the bottom of the ninth while leading.

9 of the 15 DPs ended games, including the first one, a 3-2 victory at Philadelphia on July 14, 1917.

So did the second, in 1923, and fifth, in 1936.

Each of the next 3 came with nobody out, then 6 straight were game enders, all between 1970 and 1990. The pair in 1970, in wins by 10-5 at Pittsburgh and 12-5 at Cincinnati, came less than 3 weeks apart, on April 29 and May 18.


45 of the 4-3 double plays came in the top of the ninth: 22 when behind, 5 when tied and 18 when ahead.

The ties came in 1921, 1928, 1938, 1949 and 1991.

13 of the 18 when ahead ended games, including the most recent, a 2-1 triumph over the Phillies on Sept. 27, 2022.



2 more game enders took place in the 10th inning, both with the score 4-3, both on grounders.

The first was at San Diego, on Aug. 30, 1974, with runners on first and second; the second, just last year, on Aug. 26, at Milwaukee, with the bases loaded.

The Cubs led, 12-10, when they made a no-out 4-3 DP in the 10th at Los Angeles in 1966.

They were tied, 5-5, at Boston when they made a 1-out DP in 1929 with runners on first and second.

A 1-out DP with runners on the corners in the 12th kept a 2-2 tie intact at Cincinnati in 1965.

The Cubs made a 4-3 DP at Pittsburgh in the 11th with nobody out and the score 3-3 in 1976.


All 5 of the Cubs' 4-3 double plays at home in extra innings came with the score even: 0-0 in the 10th vs. the Phillies in 1985; 1-1 in the 10th vs. the Dodgers in 1967 and in the 11th vs. the Giants in 1961 and the Mets in 2018; and 3-3 in the 12th vs. the Pirates in 2007.

The 12th-inning DP came with the bases loaded; the others, with a runner on first.

Each came with 1 out except the one vs. the Giants.

8 games featured 4-3 DPs in extra innings (5 home, 3 road), less than half the 17 that had 6-3 DPs (9 home, 8 road).



In all, 24 of the 755 DPs that went 4-3 ended games, only 5 fewer than the 29 of 950 that went 6-3. The percentages are almost identical: 3.2 of the 4-3s; 3.1 of the 6-3s.

10 of the 4-3 game enders came with the Cubs ahead by 1 run, compared to 7 of the 6-3s with the same slim advantage.


The Cubs' biggest lead when they pulled off a 4-3 double play for the final outs was 7 runs, 12-5 at Cincinnati on May 18, 1970.

They led by 6 runs, 7-1, when they did it at home against the Braves on July 21, 1924. That DP began with a pop fly.

They were in front by 12-0, 10-0 and 9-0 when they made last-play 6-3 DPs.



42 of all 4-3 DPs came with the bases loaded, 6 more than the 36 by 6-3 with 3 aboard.

Those numbers amount to 5.6 percent of all 4-3s and 3.8 percent of all 6-3s.

3 of the 6-3s came with the bases loaded in the ninth inning or later -- all in the bottom of the ninth.

3 of the 4-3s also came in the ninth, but so did 1 in the bottom of the 10th and 1 in the top of the 12th.



Here is a breakdown of the runners on base for all 755 second baseman-first baseman double plays since 1914, with the number at home and on the road in parentheses after each total:

1--: 524 (293/231)

12-: 120 (67/53)

1-3: 69 (41/28)

123: 42 (21/21)

Total: 755 (422/333)


Here is the corresponding breakdown for all 950 shortstop-first baseman DPs:

1--: 677 (336/341)

12-: 164 (79/85)

1-3: 73 (41/32)

123: 36 (15/21)

Total: 950 (471/479)


Note that 89 more 4-3s were made at home than on the road, but 8 more 6-3s were made on the road than at home.

There were more 4-3s at home than on the road for each combination of runners. There were more 6-3s at home only with runners on first and third.

The difference between the 4-3s and 6-3s at home is 49; on the road, 146.


Here are the percentages of all 4-3, then 6-3 double plays made for each combination of runners:

1--: 69.4, 71.2

12-: 15.9, 17.3

1-3: 9.1, 7.7

123: 5.6, 3.8

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