Think the Game

A Pitcher Who Doesn’t Know the Signs

The Situation: Runners are on 2nd and 3rd during a tight ballgame with 1 out in the 5th. The trail runner is getting sloppy and careless with his lead, figuring that with a runner at 3rd, no one is paying attention to him.  As it turns out, the opposing team’s pitching coach is aware that he is an easy target for their timing pick-off play to second.  An easy way to get out of the sticky situation.  

The Play: The catcher peaks in to the dugout to get the sign from the pitching coach. The coach read his mind, calling a timing pick-off play to second to try to catch the trail runner snoozing. They have practiced this very play dozens of times throughout the year. The pitcher toes the rubber and peers in for the sign.  The catcher flashes down the sign for a pick-off attempt with the wiggle of his fingers, and flashes down a 2 afterwards, indicating the type of pickoff he wants. The pitcher is caught off-guard by the sign, that he doesn’t know. He hesitates while trying to remember what the sign is asking him to do and is forced to step off. 

The Outcome: The opposing coaches, including the third base coach notice the irregular rhythm of the pitcher taking the signs and sense that him stepping off was a sign that something was up. The brief time out allows the third base coach to regain is bearings and asses the situation on the field. Sensing the possible pick-off, he yells at the trail runner to be careful. The trail runner becoming aware of his risky lead shortens up. The easy out at 2nd lost because the pitcher didn’t do his homework and forgot the signs.  

What Went Wrong: During a game, you often have only one attempt to capitalize on a mistake by the opponent. The higher up you get, the more likely it is that mistakes like a failure to know the signs will come back to bite you. Coaches and players alike are much more in-tuned with the rhythm of the game and small adjustments are made all the time based on little pieces of information. In this scenario, the pitcher had one chance to get the careless runner at second. His lack of preparation spoiled the opportunity and instead of having a runner at 3rd and two outs, the pitcher must face the daunting task of avoiding damage with runners at 2nd and 3rd and one out. Don’t miss out on your one chance to take advantage of a mistake, know all the signs and plays before you step between the lines.