What Does Tipping Pitches Mean in Baseball?

What Does Tipping Pitches Mean in Baseball

Tipping pitches in baseball are when pitchers unintentionally display what pitch they are about to throw to a hitter. Usually, hitters at the plate and dugout will notice discrepancies between certain pitches, like if the pitcher’s arm angle is different for a breaking pitch vs. a fastball. Tipping your pitches can lead to the hitters knowing what pitch is coming and either laying off a particular pitch or swinging. Pitchers should not be tipping their pitches during a game, but sometimes unintentionally, they do just that, and the hitter has an advantage at the plate.


So, why do hitters want to know what pitch is coming? What are some examples of tipping your pitches in a baseball game? How do players legally communicate to each other someone is tipping their pitches? Is picking up on tipping pitches illegal in MLB? What should the pitcher, catcher, and coach do to limit tipping pitches during a game? How are tipping pitches different from what the Houston Astros did in 2017?


Here is the complete guide about what is tipping pitches in baseball.


Why Do Hitters Want to Know What Pitch is Coming?

Why Do Hitters Want to Know What Pitch is Coming

Batters want to know what pitch is coming to them because that makes it easier to hit the ball. For example, you (the hitter) don’t know what pitch is coming your way if a pitcher has four different types of pitches. It could be a fastball at around 95 MPH or a curveball at 80 MPH. That 15 miles per hour difference plus the break in trajectory to the plate causes hitters to either be late on a pitch or way out in front via their swing. Throw in other pitches, like a changeup or another type of off-speed pitch, and you can see how difficult it is to hit in baseball.


However, if a hitter can better guess what pitch is coming their way, they can better prepare mentally at the plate and increase their chances of a hit. For example, if a pitcher constantly touches the brim of their hat before throwing an offspeed pitch (and doesn’t do that when throwing a fastball), a hitter can anticipate that slower pitch to the plate. Therefore, they can wait that extra millisecond at the plate before swinging since they know the pitch might be coming their way.


In the video game MVP Baseball 2005, a feature called Hitter’s Eye would display the pitch type coming to the batter during games. As the hitter, if you saw red during the pitcher’s windup, you would know that a breaking ball was coming from the pitcher. Therefore, you only need to judge if the pitch will be a strike or a ball; otherwise, you will be on time on the pitch since you know it is slower than a fastball.


What are Some Examples of Tipping Pitches?

What are Some Examples of Tipping Pitches

A pitcher’s slightest change in delivery might be all a team needs to pick up the pitch they will throw. Some examples of tipping pitches are below.


  • Touching the brim or back of the hat to wipe off moisture from their hand when they throw a breaking ball. They (the pitcher) might do this because they are looking for a better grip when throwing this pitch to a hitter.
  • They (the pitcher) are noticeably exhaling before they throw a pitch. For example, they could do that before they get ready to throw a fastball.
  • Their arm angle might look different when throwing a fastball or a curveball. For example, the curveball might have the arm delivered at an angle while the fastball is more overhead.
  • They were fiddling with the ball in their glove. Usually, a pitcher will do this when throwing a breaking ball since they need to get a better grip.
  • Tapping the ball in their glove before throwing it to the hitter
  • They are not changing the sign sequence during the game. For example, if a catcher and pitching keep using two fingers during the sign sequence to showcase a breaking ball, the other team can pick this up, especially when they are on second base. Since the runner at second base can sometimes get a peak into the signs a catcher is putting down, they can relay that message to the hitter that a specific type of pitch is coming their way.


How Do Baseball Players Legally Communicate with Each Other About Tipping Pitches?

How Do Baseball Players Legally Communicate with Each Other About Tipping Pitches

Baseball players communicate with each other when they are in the dugout constantly. For example, let’s say that a hitter at the plate has a long at-bat that sees over ten pitches., but eventually strikes out. They might go into the dugout and share what they saw with their teammates to be on the lookout. For example, they might say they (the pitcher) kept throwing breaking balls when they touched their arm before throwing. In that case, they will tell the other players to be on the lookout for that and share if they noticed it or anything else to help each other pick up pitch selection.


Another legal example of communicating pitch selection is when one of their players is on second base as a runner. For example, let’s pretend that the game is between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. The Yankees have a runner on at the second base, and they can see that the catcher puts down two fingers when they want the pitcher to throw a breaking pitch. If the baserunner at second base can see that and feels confident that they know what pitch is about to be thrown to their teammate, they might put their hand on their leg or touch their helmet to alert the hitter that a breaking ball is coming their way.


Is Tipping Pitches Illegal in MLB?

Is Tipping Pitches Illegal in MLB

Tipping pitches is not illegal in Minor League or Major League Baseball. Baseball players are constantly looking for ways to pick up an advantage during a baseball game, and picking up pitch selection naturally is one of them.


If you (or your team) notice a pattern that a pitcher is doing, and you can communicate that to them in the dugout to be on the lookout for these signals, it is fair game. It is up to the pitcher, catcher, and their teammates to hide these tell signs of tipping pitches.


What Should the Pitcher and Their Team Do to Limit Tipping Pitches?

What Should the Pitcher and Their Team Do to Limit Tipping Pitches

There are numerous things a team can do to help limit tipping pitches. First, during practice and warm-ups, the pitching coach will watch a pitcher as they get ready before their start to see if they are doing anything obvious before a pitch. Suppose they notice that the pitcher’s arm angle differs dramatically between a fastball and a curveball. In that case, they will try to self-correct before a game starts by showing the pitcher what is happening in the video room or in person before the game begins.


As the game continues, it is up to the catcher, the pitcher’s teammates, and the coaches to watch the pitcher during the game to see if they are tipping pitches. If, for example, a team hits back-to-back homers against a pitcher, the pitching coach might come out to the mound for a visit to let them know that the other team might know what pitch is coming. Therefore, they might remind the pitcher that their arm angles are noticeably different between different pitches and help them self-correct that on the mound.


Finally, the pitcher and catcher should change their signs often during a game to stop teams from picking up pitch selection. For example, if the number two originally meant a breaking ball, but the opposing team’s baserunner is now on second base, consider using three as a breaking ball now. You want to keep changing the number sequence to confuse the other team on what pitch you are looking to throw.


What Did the Houston Astros Do in 2017 that Was Different from Traditional Tip Pitching?

What Did the Houston Astros Do in 2017 that Was Different from Traditional Tip Pitching

The Houston Astros, during the 2017 season, postseason, and World Series, was found to take tipping pitches to a whole new level. They had a camera out in the center field at their stadium, Minute Maid Park, that would then relay the game’s video feed to a monitor next to their dugout. From there, one of the team’s players would bang a trashcan to alert the hitter on what was coming in real-time right before the pitch. This act is illegal and is not part of the legal way of picking up pitch selection.


Since the Houston Astros were using technology to get an unfair advantage over their opponents in their home ballpark, the other teams had no idea why they knew what pitch was coming their way since they were so good at hitting there. Nothing was more apparent than during the World Series when the Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers threw 51 breaking pitches, and the Astros never swung at any of them. That means the Astros knew every time that Kershaw was throwing a breaking ball and would wait to swing on his fastball instead, which some argue is his second-best pitch.


What made the sign steal scandal even more apparent was that the Houston Astros only had a .208 batting average when they were on the road during nine postseason games. Meanwhile, they had a .273 batting average while playing at home. They eventually won the World Series, but many fans feel that their World Series victory in 2017 was tainted.


What is the PitchCom System?

What is the PitchCom System

The PitchCom system in baseball is a wireless communication system between the catcher and the pitcher at the mound. This communication system began during the 2022 season to help quicken the pace of play so teams didn’t have to keep changing their signs to limit sign stealing. While the PitchCom system makes it harder for teams to know what pitch is coming, tipping pitches is still something pitchers need to ensure they are not doing during a game.


Conclusion: What are Tipping Pitches in Baseball?

In summary, tipping pitches is when a pitcher accidentally displays what pitch they will throw a hitter during a game. Sometimes a pitcher won’t even notice this, like touching the brim of their hat before throwing a breaking ball, but if the opposing team notices this pattern during a game, they can get ready for this pitch when batting. Knowing what type of pitch is coming your way can increase your chances of a hit during an at-bat, which we saw during the 2017 postseason when the Houston Astros saw a noticeably higher batting average at home with their trash can system than when they were on the road.


While teams now have the PitchCom system to quicken up the pace of play and limit sign stealing, tipping pitches is still part of the game. Therefore, it is up to the pitcher, catcher, teammates, and coaches during a game to limit any obvious signals that a pitcher is doing when pitching. If there is anything that a teammate or coach might observe during a game, they should let the pitcher know since they probably need to be made aware they are even doing it.


Similar Posts

What is the Infield Fly Rule?

What is a RBI in Baseball?

AA vs. AAA Baseball

What is a Slump in Baseball?

What is a Hold in Baseball?


What is a Knuckleball?

Baseball Bench Coach

What is the Triple Crown in Baseball?

How Many Innings in College Baseball?

How Much Do Bat Boys Make?

What is the Rule 5 Draft?

What is a Screwball?

Baseball OPS

How to Become an MLB Umpire?

What is a Baseball Ace?

What is a Walk-Off Home Run?