Judging the Royals

Even when it seems like nothing, a lot happens in between pitches

After a quick fist bump, there’s work to do between pitches.
After a quick fist bump, there’s work to do between pitches. John Sleezer

When I was asked to start using Twitter, I complained that it distracted me from watching the game (and it still does). But an editor told me I needed to do it and then suggested I post when nothing was happening.

I said there was always something happening.

And to prove my point, today I’m going to give you a partial list of what happens in between two pitches.

And away we go.

The catcher

Everybody knows the catcher gives signs to the pitcher. But the catcher can also give signs to the infielders. If there’s more than one runner on base, the catcher will step in front of home plate and go through a series of signs that tells the infielders where he’s going to throw the ball if one or both of the runners take off.

The catcher also has to check the dugout for signs on the running game — pickoff, pitchout or slide step — and relay those signs to the pitcher.

The pitcher

If the pitcher doesn’t like the pitch the catcher called, the pitcher can add or subtract.

Let’s say the catcher called for a curve; the sign for that is two fingers. If the pitcher uses his glove to swipe his pant leg once and that’s the sign for subtracting, the pitch is now a fastball. Two fingers minus one finger leaves one finger and that’s the sign for a fastball.

If the pitcher swipes his chest once and that’s the sign for adding, two fingers plus one finger is three fingers and that’s the sign for a slider. If the pitcher swipes his chest twice two fingers becomes four fingers and that’s the sign for a changeup.

Middle infielders

If there’s a runner on first base, the middle infielders need to decide who’s covering second base if the runner on first tries to steal.

They’ll cover their mouths with their gloves, look at each other and signal “me” (closed mouth) or “you” (open mouth).

The middle infielders can see the catcher’s signs and they’ll pass those signs along to the corner infielders as the pitch is being delivered. A hissing sound lets a corner infielder know an off-speed pitch is on the way and the ball is likely to be pulled, but the middle infielders have to make that hissing sound just before the pitch is delivered; do it too soon and a base coach might pass the information along to the hitter.

And if an infielder finds out a curve is coming and wants to take a step or two to the pull side of the field, he might disguise the fact that he’s moving by using his feet to smooth out the dirt; by the time he’s done smoothing the dirt he’ll be standing in a new spot.

Corner infielders

If there’s a runner on first, the first baseman needs to know if he should hold the runner. The sign for playing behind the runner is crossed wrists. The third baseman also needs to know if he’s playing in or back. He’ll check with the infield coach who usually stands in the dugout opening closest to home plate.

Outfielders

They have to keep an eye on the outfield coach and he usually stands in the dugout opening closest to the outfield. The coach might want the outfielders shifting as the count changes; if a hitter is ahead in the count he’s more likely to pull, if he’s behind in the count he’s more likely to go the other way.

And if the middle infielders pass the catcher’s signs along to the outfielders by making a sign behind their backs, the outfielders need to check the second baseman and shortstop before every pitch.

The hitter

The guy at the plate has to get the signs from the third base coach, but the hitter might also check the dugout for his hitting coach. Some hitting coaches have signs to let the hitter know what the most likely pitch is in each count.

The runners

They’ve also got to get the third base coach’s signs and some runners have cooked up signs to give to the hitter. If a runner knows he’s breaking for second base, he might want to let the hitter know that he’s going.

If there’s a runner on second base and he’s figured out the catcher’s signs, he’ll pass that information along to the hitter.

The coaches

The first base coach has to get the signs from the third base coach and make sure a runner on first base knows what’s going on. The third base coach has to check the dugout for signs from the manager, but the manager may not be the one giving the signs.

Sometimes the manager is a decoy and the real signs are being given by a trainer or coach.

I’m sure you get the idea

I could go on, but I assume you get the point: even when it seems like nothing’s going on things are happening all over the field.

There is always something happening … even in between two pitches.

  Comments