Double plays are often called a “Pitcher’s best friend.” And why wouldn’t they be? The ability to get two outs with one pitch and get your team out of a jam is the epitome of a best friend. One of the often overlooked aspects of double plays is the flip that starts the double play. In order to be the most efficient as we can when it comes to success on double play flips, it is important that the flipper limits the amount of spin on the ball.
The reason we want to limit the spin on a double play flip is that it allows the ball to stick in the turner’s glove. The turner is the player who is at the base receiving the flip. When we say stick, we don’t mean staying in the glove so that it makes it difficult to get out, we mean stick so when it hits the glove it does not roll up the glove once it hits the leather.
Think of it this way. When you throw a ball underhand at the wall you can do it two ways. With a lot of spin and with limited or not spin. What happens when you do that is the ball with a lot of spin hits the wall and comes off at an upward angle. When you flip a ball with no spin, the ball hits the wall and comes off straight and soft. The second effect is what we want when it comes to double play flips, as the turner is trying to deflect the ball to the throwing hand to maximize the speed they can get rid of the ball. If we liken the glove to the wall, a ball with a lot of spin will come of the glove at an upward angle and hard while a ball with limited or no spin will hit the glove, stop and come off softly.
In order to achieve this effect there are some things that flippers should practice on a regular basis. They should add this in to finish every round of catch they play. One key is that the flipper needs to keep a stiff wrist during the flip. A stiff wrist allows for the ball to come off of the hand like a knuckle ball. If the flipper uses a lot of wrist, that is what creates spin on the ball.
The main way for players to get power on the flip without using a lot of arm and or wrist is to use the lower body. The flipper must explode through their lower half to the target. I teach transferring the ball to the throwing hand as quick as possible and getting it outside the right thigh with a stiff wrist. From there, the player must stay low to the ground and explode to and through the target while using a straight arm / wrist flip. When the flipper releases the flip, they should be opening the hand at the same time as if showing the palm of their hand to their turner. If the turner can see the back of the flipper’s hand, that means the flip will have spin. If you are showing the palm to the turner, it is almost impossible for the ball to have a lot of spin.
It is extremely important that the flipper continues to the target after the flip. We call it the follow through. This ensures there is enough power on the flips.
Overall, double play flips are an aspect of the game that are usually under-practiced, but can have a huge impact on a teams outcome with regards to wins and losses.