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“Tipping Pitches”: Baseball Vocabulary Decoded

“Tipping Pitches”: Baseball Vocabulary Decoded

The US has always had to do things differently than the rest of the world.

For starters, there must have been a point in time when everybody decided that the metric system is the way to go, but then Americans said, “Nah, we’re sticking to imperial units even though it makes no sense and is a much more inefficient system.”

If you fast forward a few years, you will find that almost every advanced country today has decided that healthcare should be subsidized in some form or another, but then the Americans said, “Nah, everyone should pay for themselves.

We might help a bit, but let’s leave the insurance industry to ruin it completely.”

Anyway, even when it comes to sports, Americans have to be different. The entire world agreed to take up a sport where grown men kick a ball with their feet and call it football, but then the Americans said, “Nah, that’s not football. That’s soccer.

Football is a sport where grown men wear hockey pads, hit each other like they’re owed money, and throw around an egg-shaped abomination with their hands.”

Now, another uniquely American sport is baseball. Its rules are strange, and if you don’t quite understand them, it becomes nearly impossible to follow a game.

That said, if you’ve ever attended a baseball game in person, you’ll have to admit one thing. The energy there is infectious.

When the fans start cheering and chanting, something just comes over you, and you are compelled to join in.

And, when that jumbotron comes on, you start to understand what all the fuss is about.

Anyway, not so long ago, I was listening to someone analyze a baseball game, and in the middle of the conversation, they mentioned something about “tipping pitches.”

In fact, they made such a big deal about it that the rest of their conversation was devoted to whether that was the factor that decided who won the game.

So, my interest was piqued, and being the linguaholic that I am, I decided that I needed to know what it meant.

 

What is the meaning of “tipping pitches”?

“Tipping pitches” is when the pitcher displays certain mannerisms or behaviors that notify the batter of the type of pitch he is about to throw. As a result, if a batter learns to read these mannerisms, this gives them an advantage as they are able to swing according to a specific pitch.

 

Baseball for newbies

If you don’t know the rules of baseball or how the game is played, then the above definition might as well have been gibberish to you.

So, let’s clarify a few things.

 

The basics you need to know

Baseball is played by two teams, each consisting of 9 players on the field.

The objective is to score more runs than your opponent.

Wait, what’s a run?

Alright, so both teams take turns. One team has a pitcher who throws the ball to the catcher who is on the same team. Between the two, you have the batter of the opposing team who is trying to take a swing at the ball.

If the batter manages to hit the ball, then he can try to run around the field, touching bases along the way. If the batter makes a full circle around the field, then that is counted as a run.

The pitcher wants to throw the ball to the catcher without having the batter touch the ball, which is called a strike.

All it takes is three strikes for the batter to get tossed out, and if the pitcher manages to toss out three batters, then the teams switch roles, and the one that was pitching starts batting.

This is the basic breakdown of what you need to know.

Obviously, there is so much more to this game, but for the sake of understanding “tipping pitches,” it won’t be necessary to delve further.

 

Back to “tipping pitches”

So, now that we understand that the pitcher wants to throw the ball past the batter to the catcher, the question becomes how can he best do that?

At the professional level, every pitcher has several different types of pitches in their arsenal, and one of the things that makes a batter’s life more difficult is that they don’t know the type of pitch that’ll be coming at them.

For instance, the pitcher might throw a fastball followed by a curveball.

And, each type of pitch requires a different type of swing.

With that in mind, you can see the benefit a batter could have if they could predict the pitch about to be thrown, and this is where tipping pitches comes into play.

You see, once the pitcher decides which pitch they are going to throw, they may start to subconsciously signal this.

For example, they may change their posture or may take a long breath.

This makes all the more sense when you consider that different pitches force the pitcher to change their grip on the ball and to change their arm actions.

Hence, a batter who is shrewd enough to pick up on these mannerisms can get rid of the guesswork and know which pitch is coming their way.

 

And, does pitch tipping really make that big of a difference to the game?

Yes and no.

First off, let’s talk about how often pitchers tend to tip their pitches.

According to Eduardo Perez, a former MLB player and coach and a current ESPN baseball analyst, at least half of all pitchers tip their pitches in one way or another. What’s more, nine out of ten left-handed pitchers tend to tip their pitches.

That is a huge number, one that presents batters with an opportunity to exploit a weak pitcher’s game.

So, with such a huge number, it should become a no-brainer. Tipping pitches does affect the game in a huge way, right?

Well, hold your horses.

You see, knowing is only half the battle. Batters also need to hit the ball that’s coming their way.

And, this is where individual differences between pitchers come into play.

For some pitchers, tipping pitches can be devastating. For others, it makes no difference whatsoever.

Some pitchers are so good that even when the batter knows exactly the type of pitch coming at them, there’s still nothing they can do to stop it.

For example, Randy Johnson, a Hall of Famer, was famous for letting batters know that he was about to throw a slider.

Nevertheless, this knowledge made no difference to the batters as they kept striking out.

 

The Yu Darvish story

Probably, the most famous tipping pitches story happened in the 2017 World Series when the Los Angeles Dodgers were up against the Houston Astros.

This was the Dodgers’ first opportunity to win a Major League Baseball title in 29 years.

Unfortunately, they were never able to cross that finish line because one of their best players Yu Darvish couldn’t go the distance and imploded in Games 3 and 7.

When asked how they were able to beat Davish, the players on the Houston Astros responded that they knew the pitches he was going to throw their way every time.

They explained that Davish would change how he re-gripped the ball into his mitt depending on the type of pitch he was about to throw.

So, it became easy to predict whether he was going to throw a slider/cutter or a fastball.

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