Which ball is the pitcher going to throw next? Usually, this is a mystery. But sometimes, pitchers can unintentionally give clues to opposing batters about their impending pitch. This is called “tipping pitches.”
If a pitcher is tipping their throws, they are doing the hitter a great service. So, needless to say, tipping is something hitters should take advantage of and something that pitchers need to combat.
In this article, I’ll let you know what pitching is and how pitchers usually give away their pitches. This should help batters become more attentive to what the pitcher is doing, and it should likewise help pitchers identify and treat tipping issues early.
What Does “Tipping Pitches” Mean In Baseball
“Tipping pitches” is when a pitcher – often unintentionally – gives the hitter a hint as to what kind of pitch they are going to perform. “Tipping” also sometimes refers to the signs pitchers and catchers exchange to be on the same page, but mostly, the term’s used in the context of the first definition.
Tipping is present at all levels of baseball; though less experienced, younger players typically suffer from it the most. It takes a considerable amount of effort to beat recognizable pitching clues out of a pitcher, but in the long term, this just has to be done for reasons I’ll talk about below.
Ways pitchers could be giving away their next shot
If you’ve just discovered the concept of “tipping pitches,” then you’ll be surprised to find out that there are many ways in which you could be giving away your next shot. Here are some possible visual signals that you should be aware of:
- The way you angle your hand before releasing the ball.
- Breathing patterns, e.g., an extra deep breath, may be a sign that you are going to throw your best fastball.
- Head tilt and facial tension.
- Whether or not your tongue sticks out before you throw a slider (seriously, this ridiculous gesture could cost you a game).
- Fiddling with the ball before throwing it.
In 2019, Baseball America shared the tips of several hitting and pitching coaches on what to keep an eye out for in opposing pitchers. Their list of “giveaways” of upcoming pitchers included:
- Rubber posture.
- Eye drops.
- Glove height and angles on break.
- Arm slot.
- Wrist curl.
- Elbow pinch.
- Shoulder levels.
Anything that can be tied to your pitches and turned into a pattern can and will be used against you. You should be aware of your behavior on the field and suppress any signals characteristic of your pitches.
The consequences of tipping pitches can be bitter for pitchers, especially in more elite leagues. Tipping your pitches could cost you not only the game but also your place in the team.
If you aren’t sure if you have a “tipping” problem, you should ask your teammates and your coach. No matter how aware you are of the huge issues of tipping, you may not be actually aware that you are yourself disseminating clues right and left before throwing the ball. So some third-party insight could be super-useful.
Hitters should carefully study pitchers
Pitchers can have about a dozen of pitches in their arsenal, with each pitch requiring rather distinct grips and distinct arm actions. Furthermore, pitchers could have unique mannerisms – often at a subconscious level – to help them throw the baseball effectively.
If you, as a hitter, can make a pattern out of a pitcher’s movements, you may be able to gain a decisive advantage.
Pitchers do not always disperse clues as to whether they will throw a fastball or a cutter, but when they do, hitters should be able to identify signs of what’s coming at them. Therefore, know that one of the most important things you could do to improve your chance of winning is studying pitchers – extremely meticulously.
You won’t necessarily find anything interesting, but every tiny hint, any bit of information you can gather from the pitcher’s behavior could prove to be invaluable and bring you closer to victory.
With that said, you should also be aware that some pitchers may deliberately give false clues. Pitchers are aware that hitters are looking for info to base their swing’s force and direction on. So though tipping can be helpful, hitters should approach everything they see with a bucket of salt.
Famous Examples Of Tipping Pitches
Pitch tipping is more common among inexperienced players, but it happens at MLB levels as well. And considering how high the stakes are in MLB, post-game public uproar can be earth-shattering.
Yu Darvish - 2017 World Series
Perhaps the most controversial case of tipping pitches is that of Yu Darvish. At the 2017 World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers – where Darvish was playing at the time – had the chance to win its first MLB title since 1988.
However, Darvish apparently tipped his pitches in Games 3 and 7, putting an end to the team’s dream of the MLB title. But bizarrely, after the games, the Dodgers investigated Darvish’s play but couldn’t find evidence of tipping, even though Astros players told Darvish that he was “tipping 100%”.
Later after the series, it became apparent that the Astros were stealing signs. And to this day, Darvish himself isn’t sure if the fiasco at the 2017 World Series came from tipping pitches or stealing signs.
Craig Kimbrel - 2018 postseason
In the 2018 MLB postseason, Craig Kimbrel of the Boston Red Sox allowed runs in four consecutive games for the first time in his career. According to Red Sox manager Alex Cora, Kimbrel was tipping his pitches during those games.
It turned out that Kimbrel would pull his glove tighter to his beard when throwing a breaking ball. Additionally, when throwing a fastball, he would turn his head toward the home plate and pick up the catcher’s target earlier.
Andy Pettitte - 2001 World Series
After a few strong victories at the 2001 World Series, Andy Pettitte of the New York Yankees also became a victim of tipping. During Game 6 vs. Diamondbacks, the Diamondbacks realized that Pettitte was tipping his pitches with the way he held the glove before throwing.
The Diamondbacks had a 1-0 lead within two batters. In the second inning, they scored three runs on four hits. After Pettitte faced two batters in the third inning (a walk and a double), Yankees manager Joe Torre removed him from the game.
Now you know how disastrous tipping pitches can be in baseball. Hopefully, my short article will encourage pitchers to work on themselves to prevent any recognizable patterns from showing up in their pitching technique. Likewise, although tipping is fairly rare, hitters should always be on the lookout for repeating signals in opposing pitchers.