What is Tipping Pitches in Baseball? The Definitive Guide

Tipping pitches mean when a pitcher accidentally telegraphs the pitch they’re about to throw. Telegraphing in baseball is when batters can see the positions of the pitcher’s fingers before they throw the pitch. Baseball tipping pitches refer to the subtle cues or body language a pitcher may exhibit that inadvertently gives away what type of pitch is about to be thrown. 

Seasoned players are bound to guess the kind of pitch they will get based on the position of the pitcher’s fingers. They can use this information to their advantage by anticipating the pitch before it is released from the pitcher’s hand. 

Let’s read more about tipping pitches, the legality of this move, methods to avoid tipping pitches, and more. 

Why May a Pitcher Tip Their Pitch? 

A pitcher may give away the position of their fingers for several reasons. Firstly, the pitcher may not have been paying enough attention. When a pitcher isn’t paying attention, they may do something different in their delivery, which may give them away. 

Pitchers may also reveal their hand (pun intended) when gripping a changeup. Hands often flare out because they have to wrap around the ball in a way they don’t when gripping a baseball or curveball, which can make the pocket of the hand look bigger. It could also mean setting your elbows wide for one pitch type and against your body for another.

For pitchers who tip their pitches, they often do something they only do before throwing a certain pitch, which lets the batter know what pitch they’re about to throw. It is very helpful for batters to know what pitch is coming next so they can prepare ahead. 

In baseball, a lot goes on in the periphery, meaning many actions are so subtle that many casual observers (and even many hardcore fans) may not see. Pitch-tipping might slip under the radar for the average viewer, but in the pro leagues, a keen player or coach will often catch wind of it. It’s one of those sneaky details that can easily go unnoticed by the casual fan.

Are Sign Stealing and Pitch Tipping Illegal?

No, it’s not illegal. Teams analyze the posture and body language of the pitcher from the dugout and via technology to figure out a pitcher’s style and give their team an advantage. At least as long as teams aren’t using illegal tech during the game like the 2017 Astros did when they were caught using a live feed from a camera in center field to watch the other team’s catchers.

However, there are some grey areas.

For example, the Yankees are accused of getting their coaches to observe the pitcher’s stance up close by moving out of the small boxes on the field where first and third-base coaches should stand. Their coaches are said to have moved out of the box to watch opposing team pitchers grip the ball. With such moves, ethics come into play and throw the practice into question. 

Top 4 Facts About Tipping Pitches in Baseball

When batters know these cues, they can better predict and prepare for an upcoming pitch than their opponents, giving them an unfair edge. Here are four vital facts about tipping pitches in baseball that you need to know:

Pitch Tipping Often Occurs Accidentally

Despite what most people think, pitchers may tip their pitches without even realizing it. A change in their mannerism, their body posture, their grip, and even the way they move their arm can alert the batter. 

The Catcher May Give It Away Accidentally 

Tipping pitches does not solely rest with pitchers; catchers also play a crucial role in preventing them from accidentally giving away any information to opposing teams. Catchers use strategic hand signals to communicate with pitchers without drawing attention from anyone else on the opposing side.

Various Kinds of Pitch Tippers Exist

When it comes to tipping off in the world of pitching, there are two players: mechanical and non-mechanical. The mechanical tippers can’t help but give away their next move, often unintentionally. You can catch them in the act, adjusting their grip in a certain way for a curveball or a slider, almost like they’re letting you in on their little secret.

Then you’ve got the non-mechanical tippers. These are the craftier ones, who might not blatantly telegraph their next move with their hands, but they’re not off the hook either. You’ll need a keener eye to catch the subtle signals they’re sending—maybe a flicker of a smirk or a twitch in the shoulders that reveals the pitch that’s about to come your way. It’s like a silent game of charades, but with baseballs.

Using Advanced Analysis to Detect Pitch Tipping

In recent years, technology has helped baseball grow. Analysts can now look through huge amounts of data using machine learning algorithms to find even the tiniest differences in pitching movements. These algorithms are programmed into analysis tools like Statcast technology and can help find differences in pitching movements. This lets teams hide their pitches better, leading to more wins on the field.  

How Often Do Pitchers Tip Pitches?

There are many ways pitchers tip their pitches, which we discussed above. Still, it often involves a noticeable difference in the placement of his hands, glove, or arm before throwing different pitches.

On TV, Washington Nationals shortstop Trea Turner showed his teammates on the bench how Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Pedro Baez held his throwing hand lower in his glove before throwing a baseball than when he threw a slider. This happened in 2019, Game 2 of the NLCS.

In 2001, in Game 6 of the World Series, the Arizona Diamondbacks took advantage of the fact that Andy Pettitte came set differently before throwing certain pitches. This is another well-known case. 

No one in baseball has a problem with old-school, real-time sleuthing to decode what a pitcher might be throwing. In 2001 Game 6 of the World Series, for instance, the Diamondbacks knew every pitch Yankees starter Andy Pettitte was throwing from the stretch because they noticed he would bow his hands out before coming set at the waist for a breaking ball and hold them closer to his body for a baseball.

How Do Pitchers Tip Their Pitches to Opposing Hitters?

The pitcher may intentionally hit the batter, disguising it as a pitch that accidentally slipped his control. The pitcher could dig harder into his glove and with his hand when throwing a breaking ball. He may stand on a certain part of the pitching rubber when delivering a baseball. Maybe he held his hand outside of his glove before. 

Methods to Avoid Tipping Pitches 

Baseball is a game of athleticism, training methods, strategy, and precision. It’s no secret that pitchers are the backbone of any successful team. However, to maintain an upper hand against the batting team, they need to be able to hide their pitching tells.

Confuse the Batter

Pitchers who use multiple pitches have an advantage if they can mix it up without their opponent receiving any indication. Even if you have to throw some ‘dummy’ pitches to disguise your prime stuff, never fail to confuse the batter.

Master Your Mechanics

Fluid mechanics are essential for throwing strikes consistently without giving away your pitch type. Working with a pitching coach can help identify quirks or idiosyncrasies that may alert batters to your upcoming pitches.

Back the Batter Off

One tell-tale sign that pitchers exhibit when they are about to throw a curveball or slider is crowding their release point near home plate. The solution is simple- a pitcher needs to set up further back at his starting position on the rubber to not reveal signals from his fingertips upon releasing the ball.

Change Your Delivery Time

Some pitchers offer more predictable throws than others because hitters can calculate how long it takes to release each pitch style based on their hesitance before delivery. Watch Max Scherzer closely sometimes. If you ever get this opportunity – you’ll see what I mean – he’s famous amongst catcher circles for using differing times between lifts/deliveries/pitches, which makes advanced baserunning very challenging.

Technology Is Taking Over Pitch Tipping

As new multi-camera systems make it easier for teams to identify opposing pitchers ‘tells,’ several big leaguers are modifying their play to guard against it. Pitch tipping happens more often because of the growth of multi-camera video systems in ballparks that run machine-learning algorithms. Finding “tells” is so prevalent it has changed pitching mechanics. 

To avoid those unwanted “tells” that tip a hitter which pitch is coming, more pitchers work exclusively from a set position (no windup) and keep their hands tight against their bodies while gripping the baseball with as little movement as possible. They hide the baseball from the hitter, and eight cameras are scattered around the ballpark trained on the mound.

Another Notable Instance of Pitch Tipping

Andy Pettitte was caught tipping pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series. This is one of the most well-known cases. Yu Darvish is said to have pitch-tipped in 2017 Games 3 and 7 of the World Series against the Houston Astros. Later, though, the Dodgers couldn’t find proof that Darvish had tipped the ball during the games. Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora accused Craig Kimbrel of tipping pitches during the 2018 postseason. This is another case.

Conclusion for What is Tipping Pitches in Baseball?

When a pitcher’s posture and wind up while standing on the mound somehow inadvertently signals or telegraphs which type of pitch he intends to throw. Pitchers and catchers send signals to one another to ensure they are on the same page.

You should not tip the pitch if you want to keep the competition between teams strong. It also makes it less likely that there will be problems during the games.

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