Tipping Pitches: Is It A Big Deal

Every so often, tipping pitches becomes a big deal. Tipping pitches means the pitcher is inadvertently giving signals of his upcoming plans for what he is going to throw to the plate. An event happens in a game every so often that brings the idea back into the spotlight. This week, the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees were that event.

On one hand, Yankees star Aaron Judge blamed his dancing eyes on the rowdiness of his teammates in the dugout. Blue Jays reliever Jay Jackson admitted he was tipping his pitches. Why the different reactions? The responses from Judge and Jackson mirror differing opinions from the public on the topic. So really, is tipping pitches a big deal, or is it a strategic part of baseball?

Tipping Pitches In Baseball

Toronto and New York

Tipping pitches can happen because of a variety of reasons. A change in posture, fatigue can set in, or nervousness can alter the delivery. As well, simple things such as a set position and timing can be a distinguishing mark that players pick up on.

Blue Jays reliever Jackson got told he could have been tipping pitches, and where and how Yankees hitters were picking up on it. He said to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic “It was the time it was taking me from my set position, from my glove coming from my head to my hip.”

This potential mistake cost Jackson his stint in the big leagues. He was optioned to triple-A Buffalo the day after.

No Rules Against Tipping Pitches

According to MLB rules and regulations, “during a game, no club personnel may communicate in any manner the opposing team’s signs or pitch information to a batter, baserunner or coach on the field.” Regulation 1-1(B) states “The only exception to this rule is that a baserunner or coach on the field who identifies an opposing club’s signs or pitch information through his own unaided observation of the pitcher, catcher or opposing team’s dugout may communicate that information to the batter or another on-field coach.”

Essentially, baserunners or coaches can relay information about pitch tipping as long as it is observed themselves. No technology to help. If someone observes it with their eyes it is fair game.

The reality is, if a player or a coach notices something about the pitcher’s delivery that could indicate what pitch is coming, they are going to take advantage. Strategy in sports is finding methods to achieve a successful outcome. The pitcher tipping pitches are the method, and being able to take advantage of it is a successful outcome.

However, just because a pitcher tips his pitches and the opposing team picks up on it does not mean they are going to be successful. Willie Mays said about Sandy Koufax “I knew every pitch he was gonna throw, and I still couldn’t hit him.”

It can be a strategy that helps hitters, but at the end of the day, baseball is still an incredibly difficult sport. The strategy does not always turn into success.

Teams Win from Tipping Pitches

There is an old saying, “When your enemies are making mistakes, don’t interrupt them.” In game 6 of the 2001 World Series, the Arizona Diamondbacks were winning 15-0 by the end of the fourth inning against Andy Pettitte. The Diamondbacks figured out there was a delay in his delivery depending on what the southpaw was throwing. Arizona was able to force a game 7 and go on to win the World Series.

Part of the Game

Tipping pitches happens in baseball. It is a longstanding tradition in a game where teams are always trying to get ahead of their opponents. Whether someone believes it is right or wrong, it happens. This will be a highly contested argument as long as baseball exists. Tipping pitches is a strategy, whether baseball enthusiasts believe it or not. Unless there are rules made against it, tipping pitches will continue to be part of the game. 

Main photo credits:

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Players mentioned:

Aaron Judge, Jay Jackson, Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Andy Pettitte