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Dec, 2023

Understanding Baseball Terminology 101

1-2-3 inning - An inning in which a pitcher faces only three batters and none of those batters successfully reaches base.

- When there are runners safely on base, there are runners aboard– as if they had boarded a train or some other vehicle.

– The best pitcher on the team.

Advance the runner
 - To move a runner ahead safely to another base.

Ahead in the count
 - Whether the batter or pitcher possesses the advantage in an at-bat. If a pitcher has thrown more strikes than balls to a batter in an at-bat, the pitcher is ahead in the count; conversely, if the pitcher has thrown more balls than strikes, the batter is ahead in the count.

Around the horn
 - The infielders’ practice of throwing the ball to each other after recording an out (provided that there are no runners on base). The purpose is as much traditional as anything else, but it serves to keep the infielders' throwing arms active.

At the letters
 - A pitch that crosses the plate at the height of the letters of the team's name on the shirt of the batter's uniform is said to be"at the letters" or "letter-high" or"chest-high."

Ate him up
 - Slang expression of the action of a batted ball that is difficult for a fielder to handle.

- The fence behind home plate, designed to protect spectators from wild pitches or foul balls.

Bad hop
 - A ball that bounces in front of an infielder in an unexpected way, often as a result of imperfections in the field or the spin on the ball.

- A base. Also, a two-bagger is a double or two-base hit; a three-bagger is a triple or three-base hit; a four-bagger is a home run.

 - The baseball itself, and also a pitch outside the strike zone that the batter does not swing at.  If a batter gets four balls, they get a base on balls (a walk) and get to take first base.

 - A ruling made by an umpire against a pitching motion that violates rules intended to prevent the pitcher from unfairly deceiving a baserunner. When a balk is called, each runner can freely advance one base.

Barehand it - Refers to when a fielder catches a ball with the hand not covered by his glove.

Base hit
 - The act of safely reaching first base after batting the ball into fair territory. 

Bases loaded
 - When there are base runners on first, second, and third base.

Basket catch
 - Catching a fly to the outfield with open glove near belt level. 

Baseball bat 
- A smooth contoured round wooden or metal rod used to hit the ball thrown by the pitcher. A bat's diameter is larger at one end (the barrel-end) than at the other (the handle). The bottom end of the handle is the knob. A batter generally tries to strike the ball in the sweet spot near the middle of the barrel-end of the bat, sometimes referred to as the fat part of the bat.

Batter’s box
 - A rectangle on either side of home plate in which the batter must be standing for fair play to resume.

Batting average - Batting average (BA) is the average number of hits per at-bat (BA=H/AB). A perfect batting average would be 1.000 (read: "one thousand"). A batting average of .300 ("three hundred") is considered to be excellent, which means that the best hitters fail to get a hit in 70% of their at-bats. Note: walks and being hit by a pitch do not count as at bats (or hits), and errors count as an at bat but not a hit.

 - Batting practice. The period, often before a game, when players warm up or practice their hitting technique. 

- "BB" is scorer's shorthand for a walk, otherwise known as a "base on balls". Walks are recorded under the "BB" column of a box score.

Behind in the count - Opposite of ahead in the count. For the batter:when the count contains more strikes than balls. For the pitcher: vice versa. 

Blooper - A weakly hit fly ball that drops in for a single between an infielder and an outfielder. Also known as a bloop single.

Bottom of the inning
 - The second half or "last half" of an inning, during which the home team bats, derived from its position in the line score.

Breaking ball
 - Any pitch that markedly deviates from a"straight" or expected path due to a spin used by the pitcher to achieve the desired effect. Some examples are the curveball, the slider and the screwball.

Bullpen - The area used by pitchers and catchers to warm up before taking the mound when play has already begun. This area is usually off to the side along either the left or right base line, or behind an outfield.

- To deliberately bat the ball weakly to a particular spot on the infield by holding the bat nearly still and letting the ball hit it. Typically,a bunt is used to advance other runners and is then referred to as a sacrifice.  If the batter bunts the ball into foul territory with two strikes, the batter is automatically out.

Can of corn - A high, easy-to-catch, fly ball hit to the outfield. 

Changeup - A changeup or a change is a pitch meant to look like a fastball - but with less velocity - short for change of pace.

Checked swing - A batter checks a swing by stopping it before the bat crosses the front of home plate. If he fails to stop it in time, the umpire will call a strike because he swung at the pitch.

Cleanup hitter - The fourth batter in the lineup, usually a power hitter.

Count - The number of balls and strikes a batsman has in his current at bat.

Diamond - The layout of the four bases in the infield.

Double - A hit where the batter makes it safely to second base before the ball can be returned to the infield.

Double play - A play by the defense where two offensive players are put out as a result of continuous action resulting in two outs

Doubleheader - When two games are played by the same two teams on the same day.

Down the line - On the field near the foul lines

Dropped third strike – In the Little League Majors Division and above, if the catcher does not cleanly catch strike three, the batter may run to first base and the catcher must throw to first base to force out the batter.  If the batter beats the throw to first base, then he is safe and first and no out is recorded (but the pitcher still gets credit for a strikeout).

Ducks on the pond - When there are base runners in scoring positions. The term is used most often when runners are on first, second and third. 

Dugout - The dugout is where a team's bench is located. The name is derived from a past practice of having the team benches“dug out” below the level of the playing field.

Eephus - A blooper pitch thrown in high arc very slowly,sometimes as high as 15-20 feet off the ground, that comes down sharply towards the batter and is difficult to hit squarely. However, it is also very difficult to throw accurately.  It was used effectively in the major leagues by only one pitcher, Rip Sewell, who used it while with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1940s.  Sewell named it because “eephus means nothing, and that’s what this pitch is.”

 - When a player makes a fielding mistake that allows a runner to get on base or advance a base.

Fair ball - A ball that is hit and lands inside the foul lines and is a "live" ball.  

Fielder's choice - When a fielder chooses to get a baserunner other than batter out on a batted ball. This counts as an out for the batter's average even though they reached base safely.

Force play - When a runner must advance to another base because the batter becomes a runner and, as such, must advance to first base.In this situation, the base the runner is being forced to needs to be touched by the fielder with the ball and is considered a "force out." 

Foul ball - A ball that is hit and lands outside the foul lines.  The batter can not reach first base safely, but a fielder can get the batter out by catching a fly or popup in the air.  A foul ball counts as a strike against the batter, unless the batter already has two strikes.  In that case, the batter continues to bat with two strikes (a batter could foul of 10 or more pitches and continue to bat).  Runners can only advance if the ball is caught in the air and they successfully "tag up."

Full count - A count of 3 balls and 2 strikes; another strike will result in a strikeout, while another ball will result in a walk.

Gopher ball - A pitch that leads to a home run, one that the batter will "go for".

Grand slam - Home run hit with the bases loaded.

Home team - The host team (for teams from the same league, home and visiting teams are usually alternated).  The home team plays the field in the top half of each inning and bats in the bottom half. The home team usually occupies the first base dugout.

Hot corner - The area around third base and the third baseman, named because hard hit balls reach that area very quickly.

Infield fly rule - The umpire calls the batter out when (a) there are less than two outs in the inning, and (b) the batter hits a fly ball that can be caught with ordinary effort by an infielder in fair territory, and (c) there are runners on first and second or the bases are loaded. The batter is automatically called out in this situation whether or not a fielder attempts to catch the fly ball, but assuming that the ball stays in fair territory. The rule states that the umpire is supposed to announce, "Infield fly, if fair". If the ball will be almost certainly fair, the umpire will likely yell, "Infield fly, batter's out!" or just "Batter's out!" This rule applies in the Little League Majors Division.

Infielders - First baseman, second baseman, third baseman, and shortstop, so called because they are positioned on the infield dirt. The pitcher and catcher are typically not considered infielders, but instead as the battery.

Inning - An inning consists of two halves. In each half, one team bats until three outs are made. A full inning consists of six outs, three for each team; and a regulation game consists of nine innings (professional) and six innings in Little League.

 - The traditional abbreviation for a strikeout. A backwards K is often used to denote a called strikeout.

Line drive - A line drive or liner is a batted ball that is hit hard in the air and has a low arc. See also rope.  A line drive may also be said to be "hit on a line."

Lineup - The batting order, which also lists each player's defensive position.

Mendoza line - A batting average of .200.Named for Mario Mendoza, a notoriously poor hitter but decent shortstop who managed to have a 9-year major league career from 1974 to 1982 with a lifetime batting average of .215

 - The pitcher's mound is a raised section in the middle of the diamond where the pitcher stands when throwing the pitch.

On-deck - The next batter due to bat after the current batter.The area designated for the on-deck batter is a circle 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter.  The ond-deck batter stands in the circle behind the hitter for safety.

Opposite field - Intentionally hitting an outside pitch to the opposite side of the field (to right field for aright-handed batter).  Also called “going with the pitch”, it is an advanced skill for young players.

Outfielder - An outfielder is a player whose position is either left field, center field, or right field.

Passed ball - A catcher is charged with a passed ball (abbreviated PB) when he fails to hold or control a legally pitched ball which, in the opinion of the official scorer, should have been held or controlled with ordinary effort, and which permits a runner or runners to advance at least one base; and/or permits the batter to advance to first base.

Payoff pitch - A pitch thrown with a full count.

Pickoff - A quick throw from the pitcher (or sometimes the catcher) to a fielder covering a base when the ball has not been hit into play.Normally done to catch a runner off-base.

Pinch hitter - A substitute batter. Often brought in during a critical situation (a "pinch") to replace a weak batter.

Pitchout  - A defensive tactic used to pick off a baserunner,typically employed when the defense thinks that a stolen base play is planned.

Pitch count - Coaches track the number of pitches to protect young players arms from overuse and injury.  Little League restricts players in different age groups to a set number of pitches per game and week.

Power hitter - A batter who can hit the ball further than most players in their age group.

Pull hitter (pulling the ball) - A batter who consistently swings early and hits the ball to the near side of the field (for a right-handed hitter, they would often hit the ball to third base and left field).

Ribbie, ribeye - Slang for a run batted in (RBI).

Rubber - The pitching plate is a white rubber strip the front of which is 46 feet from the rear point of home plate in Little League play.  The pitcher’s foot must be in contact with the rubber when delivering a pitch.

Sacrifice bunt (sac bunt) - A sacrifice bunt (also called a sacrifice hit or simply a "sacrifice") is the act of deliberately bunting the ball in a manner that allows a runner on base to advance to another base, while the batter is himself put out.

Sacrifice fly (sac fly) - When a batter hits a fly ball to the outfield which is caught for an out, but a runner scores from 3rd base after tagging up or touching the bag following the catch. The batter is credited with an RBI and is not charged with an at bat (so it doesn’t lower their batting average). 

Shave - A pitch thrown inside just under a player’s chin, either accidentally or with the intent to intimidate.  Sal Maglie, a major league pitcher in the 1940s and 50s primarily for the New York Giants,did this so often that he was called “Sal the Barber.”

Short hop
 - A ball that bounces immediately in front of an infielder.  This is one of the more difficult plays for young players to master.

- Left-hander, especially a pitcher

Spray hitter
 - A batter who hits line drives to all fields. Not a pull hitter.

Squeeze play
 - A tactic used to attempt to score a runner from third on a bunt. There are two types of squeeze plays: suicide squeeze and safety squeeze. In a suicide squeeze, the runner takes off towards home plate as soon as the pitcher begins his throw toward home plate. In a safety squeeze,the runner waits until the batter makes contact with the ball before committing himself to try to reach home.  Under Little League rules, the runner can’t leave the base until the ball crosses home plate or the batter bunts it.

Stolen base
 - Occurs when a baserunner successfully advances to the next base while the pitcher is delivering the ball to home plate.  Under Little League rules, a runner can’t leave their base until the ball crosses home plate.

 - When a batter swings at a pitch, but fails to hit it, when a batter does not swing at a pitch that is thrown within the strike zone, when the ball is hit foul and the strike count is less than 2 (a batter cannot strike out, however he can fly out), when a ball is bunted foul, regardless of the strike count.

Strike zone
 - An imaginary box used to call strikes subject to a great deal of judgement by the home plate umpire. The Rule Book definition is that the strike zone "is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap. The strike zone shall be determined from the batter's stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball." When, in the plate umpire's judgment, the ball passes through the strike zone and the batter does not swing, one strike is called (a called strike as opposed to a swinging strike).The formal definition of the upper limit of the strike zone is sometimes reduced to "the letters",i.e., the area of the uniform shirt where the team's name usually appears.

Switch hitter
 - A player who can hit from both sides of the plate,i.e., he bats both left-handed and right-handed

Tag up
 - When a batter hits a ball that is caught before touching the ground, he is out and all base runners must retreat back to their original base. The act of touching their original base is called "tagging up" after which, they may legally advance to the next base.  On fly ball to the outfield with less than two outs, a runner on third base will usually tag up by waiting on the base until the ball is caught (or not) and then immediately run home to try to score.  Runners can tag up and advance on any caught fly ball, even a foul pop up.

Top of the inning - The first half of an inning, when the visiting team bats and the home team plays the field.

Umpire - Member of an umpiring crew,responsible for refereeing or officiating a baseball game.

Visiting team
 - The guest team (for teams from the same league, home and visiting teams are usually alternated).  The visiting team bats in the top half of each inning and plays the field in the bottom half.  The visiting team usually occupies the third base dugout.

Wild pitch - A wild pitch (abbreviated WP)is charged to a pitcher when, in the opinion of the official scorer, a pitch istoo high, too low, or too wide of home plate for the catcher to catch the ball with ordinary effort, and which allows one or more runners to advance.

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