The Ultimate Guide to Baseball Position Numbers

No idea what baseball position numbers are? You've come to the right place. We’ll help you learn it quickly.

This brief post will help you by bringing you up to speed on the numbers used to identify each position on the diamond.

List of Position Numbers in Baseball

Quite simply, baseball's position numbers are used to identify defensive players and to track plays for scorekeeping purposes. 

The numbers assigned to each defensive position are as follows:

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

 

baseball field with positions, abbreviations and numbers

A visual depiction of the position numbers and abbreviations used in baseball.

As mentioned, these numbers are important to know if you're responsible for keeping the scorebook at a baseball or softball game. Often you will see the term “POS” on a scorebook which stands for “Position” - this is where you list the position numbers. 

These fielding numbers are also important for players to know, and even for the casual fan. For example, I've lost count of the number of times I've watched an MLB game and heard the broadcaster mention something like a "4-6-3 double play". 

What does that mean?

It means a ground ball was hit to the Second Baseman, who fielded it and threw it to the Shortstop for the out then on to the First Baseman for the second out.

You would know exactly what the broadcaster meant if you understand this simple system of position numbers.

Basic Abbreviations for Defensive Positions

Another thing to be aware of is the basic symbols used for each position. It's very straightforward and easy to remember. 

It's as follows:

  • Pitcher is P
  • Catcher is C
  • First Baseman is 1B
  • Second Baseman is 2B
  • Shortstop is SS
  • Third Baseman is 3B
  • Left Fielder is LF
  • Center Fielder is CF
  • Right Fielder is RF

 

diamondbacks brewers scorecard

A scorecard from a game against the Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Shorthand for Other Roles

In addition to the positions mentioned above, a number of other roles can make an appearance in some baseball or softball games. It is important to understand these roles as well, especially if you're keeping the scorebook.

Examples include the following:

  • Pinch hitter is PH
  • Designated Hitter is DH
  • Pinch Runner is PR
  • Pinch Hitter is PH
  • Starting Pitcher is SP
  • Middle Relief Pitcher is MRP
  • Closer is CL

 

Outside of roles, there is additional shorthand used for the countless variety of plays that can happen in a game. 

For example, a K is for a strikeout, HBP is for hit by pitch, WP is for wild pitch, just to name a few. 

All of the details involved in keeping score are out of the scope of this article. If you’re interested in learning more, we’d recommend reading Little League Baseball’s article on the topic. 

Origin of The Numbering System

The roots of the system of position numbers in baseball can be traced back to the 19th century and the work of the English writer and statistician Henry Chadwick.  

Though born in England, Chadwick emigrated to the United States as a teenager and quickly became passionate about baseball. He first came to prominence as a sports writer in the New York City area, where he wrote detailed descriptions of games in his column in the mid 1800’s.

henry chadwick portrait

Early baseball pioneer Henry Chadwick.

Around this time, Chadwick developed, among other things, the box score, the batting average, the concept of earned and unearned runs, and the first official rule book for the game.

He is also credited with creating popular Baseball terms such as “base on balls”, “error”, “double play” and “cut off”. 

In addition, several sources point to Chadwick as the person responsible for creating the system of field position numbers that is in use today. 

Considering all the other innovations he brought to baseball, it makes sense that this numbering system would have also been developed by Chadwick.   

For his non-playing contributions to the game, Chadwick was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938, which was just the third year of the Hall’s existence.

FAQs about Position Numbers in Baseball

Now that we’ve covered baseball field position numbers and other shorthand for different positions, we thought it would be helpful to cover a few frequently asked questions (FAQ) about this topic. 

Read on to see our answers to these FAQs.

  • Question: Are the position numbers used in baseball the same as what are used in fastpitch softball?
  • Answer: Yes, the numbering system is the same for both sports.

 

  • Question: Why is the Shortstop listed as #6 instead of #5?
  • Answer: We need to look back to baseball’s early history to answer this one. In the early days, the person playing Shortstop covered the shallow outfield and was essentially considered another outfielder. So, the position was labeled 6, coming after the Third Baseman. When the Shortstop was officially moved to the infield, its original position number simply stayed the same.

 

  • Question: Why do some softball games have 10 defensive position numbers instead of 9?
  • Answer: Some softball leagues field four outfielders instead of three. In that case, position 10 would be the additional outfielder. It is also the number commonly used for what can be referred to in a scorebook as an “Extra Player”, or “EP”. 

 

  • Question: What are the key categories for defensive positions in baseball and softball?
  • Answer: The nine positions on the diamond are commonly grouped into three distinct categories. The first group is known as the battery, and it includes the pitcher and catcher. The second group is the infield, which is made up of the First Baseman, Second Baseman, Shortstop and Third Baseman. The third group is the outfield, which contains the Left Fielder, Center Fielder and Right Fielder.

 

  • Question: Why is the pitcher #1 in the position numbering system? 
  • Answer: We do not have a definitive answer, other than to say that each play starts with the pitcher and that they (along with the catcher) are most actively involved in every pitch on the defensive side of the field. Due to this significance in the play-by-play of each game, the pitcher is assigned as #1.

 

Thank You for Reading!

Hopefully this article was insightful and useful to you! If you are interested in getting in touch, then please go to the Contact Us page or simply send an email to scott (at) catchersome (dot) com. We’re always happy to hear from readers. 

Thanks for stopping at Catchers Home.