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The Art of Deception: Pitch-Tipping in Baseball

Pitch-Tipping: The Art of Deception in Baseball

Baseball, the game of strategy, requires a combination of physical and mental skills. Every pitcher on the mound spends hours and hours every week trying to perfect their throws, practicing their delivery, mastering their pitches.

However, in the game of baseball, it isn’t just the talents that make one player stand out but also their ability to deceive their opponents. This art of deception can be achieved through a variety of means, one of which is pitch-tipping.

What is Pitch-Tipping? Pitch-tipping is when a pitcher unintentionally provides a visual cue to the hitter regarding the upcoming pitch.

These tips can be a mannerism, a subconscious habit, a slight hand placement or a grip change that a pitcher typically does before throwing a specific pitch. For instance, a pitcher may hold his glove lower before throwing a curveball and hold his glove higher before throwing a fastball.

The batter can observe this difference and anticipate the type of pitch that is coming. Pitch-tipping is an inherent danger for pitchers as it enables batters to predict and prepare for the pitch, thereby reducing the pitcher’s effectiveness.

Observant opposition teams often look for pitch-tipping tendencies in pitchers to gain an advantage by reading the clues and anticipate the pitch. In some cases, pitch-tipping is intentional, part of the strategic approach by the pitcher to deceive hitters.

However, in most cases, pitchers are unaware of their pitch-tipping habits. Pitchers’ Pitch-Tipping Actions

Pitch-tipping habits may vary from pitcher to pitcher depending on the pitcher’s hand placement, glove position, arm slot, and head position, among other factors.

Some of the most common pitch-tipping actions include:

Hand Placement

Hand placement can also tip off the pitch type. During a windup or stretch, the grip of the ball is different for different pitches.

If a pitcher alters his glove or hand position to align with the grip as he comes set, hitters can easily predict the pitch type. For instance, holding a change-up with a grip that lies deeper in the hand, a pitcher may hide the ball in his glove to outwit the batter and give an advantage.

Glove Position

The angle and position of the pitcher’s glove can also provide a clue to the batter. The variety of pitches usually requires a different glove position, and if the pitcher holds his glove arm at different levels for different pitches, the batter can prepare accordingly.

The pitcher may adjust the angle of his glove or the location of his hands to match the intended pitch type, thereby tipping the delivery of the pitch.

Arm Slot

Another critical factor that can make pitchers susceptible to tipping is the arm angle. Pitchers who alter their delivery when throwing different pitches can tip off the pitch.

Once the arm angle changes, the hitter can anticipate the type of pitch coming and adequately adjust his swing. The alteration in arm slot can also come with a reduction in velocity, causing the pitch to be less effective.

Head Position

A separate but important tipping method consists of head movement by the pitcher. Pitchers may position their heads or bodies differently before throwing various pitches.

They may tilt their head down while throwing a curveball or tilt it up while throwing a fastball. Hitters can pick up on these movements, recognize the pitch type and adjust their response.


Pitchers may also tip their pitches through variations in their delivery. Some pitchers delay the kick to alert batters to the upcoming pitch, while others speed it up.

Additionally, the pace of the delivery or any changes in the stride length, a differing arm action can also give the hitter an indication of pitch type.

Examples of Pitch-Tipping

Despite pitchers’ efforts to disguise their pitch-tipping habits, some of these habits are noticeable to the batter, coaches, or opposing scouts. These are some examples of pitch-tipping tendencies exhibited by pitchers:

1) Jon Lester, a former Cubs pitcher, would pause for a very long moment before his delivery of his best pitch, the cutter.

2) Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees’ closer, has a tendency to place his glove on his hip during breaking ball delivery, making it easier for the batter to predict it.

3) Jose Contreras used to position his body differently depending on whether or not he planned to throw a fastball or breaking ball.


Pitch-tipping has a significant impact on the outcome of a pitch and is an important factor for hitters to be aware and capitalise upon. Many pitching coaches are keenly aware of the dangers of pitch-tipping and work diligently to eliminate any pitcher’s habits that tip off a batter about pitch type.

As a result, many modern coaches utilise technology to detect faults in the delivery, which could lead to detection by opposing teams. Pitchers must work on their techniques and avoid any actions which can give the advantage to the opposition.

Therefore, coaches and pitchers should work together to identify pitch-tipping actions and work on eliminating them. As the ancient proverb goes, “to see yourself, you need a mirror.” In the same way, pitchers need coaches to help them see pitch-tipping tendencies to refine and perfect their craft.

3) Frequency of Pitch-Tipping: How Often Does It Happen? Pitch-tipping is relatively common in baseball and occurs more frequently among some pitchers than others.

While any pitcher can develop pitch-tipping habits, research shows that some pitchers, particularly left-handed ones, are more prone to tipping their pitches than others. A study conducted by SABR’s (Society for American Baseball Research) The Hardball Times examined the extent of pitch-tipping threats faced by left-handed pitchers in 2013 and found that lefties had a higher tendency to give away signs than right-handed pitchers.

The study’s authors determined that roughly one in four left-handed starting pitchers (25.4%) was tipping pitches in 2013, compared to one in seven right-handers (15.5%). Furthermore, the same study found that more than half of left-handed pitchers tipped their pitches at least once during the 2013 season.

Recent MLB history has highlighted the consequences of pitch-tipping on game outcomes. During the 2017 playoffs, Houston Astros’ catcher Brian McCann noticed that Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches and was able to alert his teammates and help them capitalize on the tip-offs.

As a result, the Astros ended up winning the game.

To counteract pitch-tipping, MLB teams now rely on advanced technological means to track and analyse pitcher’s habits.

Evidence of pitchers tipping their pitches can be accessed on social media through footage of a pitcher’s action in the game.

4) Impact of Pitch-Tipping on Performance

The negative impact of pitch-tipping on pitchers’ performance is quite evident. Once a pitcher is known to tip pitches, opponents prepare accordingly, and the difficulty of hitting their pitches increases dramatically.

The batter has the opportunity to watch the pitcher’s movements and anticipate every pitch, and when successful, they can disrupt the pitcher’s game plan. Pitchers often work tirelessly to perfect the craft of their pitches; the act of tipping pitches can cast doubt on their entire repertoire of pitches.

If a pitcher is known to tip his pitches, hitters have the opportunity to adjust their timing and improve their chances of hitting the ball more frequently and harder than they usually would.

An instance of pitch-tipping affecting performance had been noted in the case of the New York Yankees’ pitcher Phil Hughes.

The pitcher’s performance drastically declined after opponents noticed and exploited his pitch-tipping habits. In 2008, Hughes was considered a top prospect for the franchise, with an impressive record of six wins and no losses.

The following year, opponents noted that Hughes appeared to hold the ball differently when he was preparing to throw a fastball and a sneaking suspicion that he was tipping his pitches was proved right in game footage. The discovery led to multiple home runs, and his form suffered due to the difficulty of evading a batter whose guess of which pitch was coming was as good as a randomised chance.

The Yankees eventually addressed the issue and worked with Hughes to fix his delivery.

In summary, the habit of pitch-tipping is a significant risk for a pitcher’s performance.

It creates a situation where opponents can study an otherwise aspiring pitcher, creating a difficult task for that pitcher to keep hitters guessing. However, once the pitcher rectifies and addresses the pitch-tipping habit, their form can immediately improve back to elite levels.

5) Tipping Pitches vs Stealing Signs – The Difference Explained

There is a difference between pitch-tipping and sign-stealing, and it’s essential to understand the distinction. Pitch-tipping refers to the unintentional revealing of a tell-tale sign by the pitcher, such as a change in grip or movement, which the batter then notices.

Whereas, sign-stealing is a more calculated and deliberate act of deception by a team, which violates the rules of Major League Baseball. Sign-stealing entails decoding the catcher’s hand signals and stealing the signs to gain an advantage.

Decoding vs Using Objects

The key difference between pitching-tipping and sign-stealing lies in how information is obtained. Pitch-tipping involves a batter picking up on the pitcher’s signals based on visual clues that he or she observes throughout the game, while sign-stealing involves a team or individual gathering information on how signals correspond to pitches.

Tipping pitches is generally considered legal in baseball, although the pitcher has an obligation not to intentionally tip off the opposing team about upcoming pitches. On the other hand, sign-stealing is strictly forbidden by Major League Baseball, and the punishment can be severe.

MLB Rules and Punishments

According to the rules of Major League Baseball, sign-stealing is illegal and can result in penalties of varying degrees. If a player or coach is caught stealing signs with the naked eye, this is generally considered legal.

However, using electronic devices is strictly prohibited, and players who use them to gain an advantage may be subjected to fines, suspensions or even termination from their teams. For instance, in 2017, Technology-aided sign-stealing by the Houston Astros rocked the baseball world and was subsequently found to be in breach of both the MLB’s rules and ethos.

The investigation led to former Astros manager A.J. Hinch and former general manager Jeff Luhnow suspension from baseball for the 2020 season for allowing sign-stealing during the team’s championship runs in 2017 and 2019. The team was also fined $5 million, and the loss of several draft picks was among the punishments.

Frequency and Impact

While tipping pitches can occur naturally and is more of an incidental occurrence, sign-stealing involves a more orchestrated approach. As Major League Baseball technology develops over time, the frequency of stealing signs has also increased over the years.

Coaches, players, and teams have tried to gain advantages by any means necessary. The impact of the illegal method of stealing signs can hurt the credibility of the game, which may hinder the overall level of player performance.

In contrast, tipping pitches can affect a specific pitcher’s performance, which can result in personal consequences. For example, a pitcher’s ERA (Earned Run Average) can rise if their pitching is continually being read by the batter.


Pitch-tipping and sign-stealing are two completely different phenomena within the game of baseball. Pitch-tipping is usually a subtle, unintentional mannerism, whilst sign-stealing is a more calculated, deceitful approach that contravenes the rules.

As Major League Baseball continues to develop, the urgency for teams to find new ways of gaining an edge has grown. This makes it even more important to develop protective mechanisms and rules that help to preserve the authenticity of the sport.

Ultimately, the difference between pitch-tipping and sign-stealing is that one is an observable action, while the other is a deliberate and intentional undercutting of the integrity of the game. In conclusion, the art of pitch-tipping and sign-stealing in baseball are two different phenomena that have major impacts on the game’s results and performance.

Pitch-tipping can be accidental and negatively affect a pitcher’s effectiveness, while sign-stealing is a calculated act that violates rules and could harm the game’s authenticity and players’ credibility. Therefore, coaches and players must work together to identify pitch-tipping actions and eliminate them, while sign-stealing needs severe penalties.

The takeaway is that recognizing these distinctions and working to prevent these actions can help protect the integrity and fairness of the game for all players and fans. FAQ:

Q: Is pitch-tipping legal or illegal in baseball?

A: Pitch-tipping is generally considered legal in baseball, but pitchers must avoid intentionally tipping off the opposing team about upcoming pitches. Q: What is sign-stealing, and is it allowed in baseball?

A: Sign-stealing constitutes a violation of rules in baseball, in which players or coaches acquire signs by decoding signals from the catcher’s signals to gain an advantage. Q: Can sign-stealing lead to disciplinary action?

A: Yes, using electronic devices and committing sign-stealing can result in suspension of players or coaches and fines, as well as impact team credibility. Q: How does pitch-tipping impact a pitcher’s performance?

A: Tipping a pitch can give the opposition a clue to know what type of pitch is coming, making it difficult for the pitcher to convey deception and negatively impacting performance. Q: How should pitchers prevent pitch-tipping?

A: Pitchers should work on their techniques and avoid any actions that give away pitching tactics, working with coaches to fix delivery and eliminate pitch-tipping habits.

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