Baseball players are often known as much for their great metaphors as their playing ability. Today we’re looking at some of the most colorful terms the bench uses in relation to pitchers and the pitches they throw.
The pitcher, also called a hurler, can be defined a few ways; by the arm they use to make the delivery, the way they throw or the pitches they most often use.
Defining the Pitcher by Arm
North Paw: A right-handed pitcher.
Portsider: A left-handed pitcher. An old shipping reference as ‘port’ refers to the left side of a ship.
South Paw: A left-handed pitcher.
Defining the Pitcher by Delivery
Fireballer: pitcher who throws hard.
Headhunter: A pitcher who throws bean balls.
Junkballer: A pitcher who primarily uses breaking ball pitches.
Sidearm: A pitching motion where the delivery comes from a low, approximately horizontal axis rather than overhand.
Submarine Pitcher: A very low sidearm motion where the arm is below the pitcher’s waist.
Stuff: A pitcher's stuff is an overall evaluation of how effective his pitches are; it is good stuff when the pitches are difficult to hit, and usually just stuff or sometimes even lousy stuff when the pitches are poor.
Defining the Pitcher by Skill
Ace: The team’s best starting pitcher.
Glass arm: A sore arm.
Live Arm: A pitcher who throws with a great deal of velocity.
Mop up: A long reliever known to be an ineffective former starter. They are the person brought in early in a game when a starter has a bad outing.
Rubber Arm: A pitcher is said to have a rubber arm if he can throw many pitches without tiring.
Defining the Delivery
Lollipop: A soft pitch
The Letters: When a pitch comes across the plate at chest level.
There are a variety of pitches that can be thrown in a game. Each comes with it’s own set of nicknames. Here are some of the more common pitches you’ll see and an assortment of alternative names you may here them called.
Types of Pitches
Fastballs: four-seam, two-seam, cutter, splitter, sinker and forkball.
Relying purely on speed to prevent the ball from being hit the fastball is the most common pitch thrown. A cut fastball generally uses a four-seam grip and is a pitch that breaks slightly toward the pitcher’s glove side as it reaches the plate. The forkball is held between the first two fingers and thrown hard, snapping the wrist. A sinker is a fastball with a significant downward or horizontal movement know for inducing groundballs.
• Aspirin/Aspirin Tablet: A fastball that is especially hard to hit, making it seem as if the ball is the size of an aspirin.
• Cheddar: When a pitcher is throwing hard.
• Cheese: A fastball.
• High Cheese: A high thrown fastball.
• Gas: A high-velocity fastball.
• Heat/Heater: bring the heat = use the fastball.
• High Heat: A high fastball.
Breaking Balls: Curveball, Slider, Slurve and Screwball.
A pitch that does not travel straight as it approaches the plate. It will have sideways or downward motion, sometimes both. The slurve is a slider thrown as if it is a curveball. A slider is a breaking ball that tails laterally through the hitting zone at a speed slower than a fastball and faster than a curveball.
• Bender: curveball
• Deuce: curveball is called a deuce because it is usually signaled from a catcher to a pitcher by holding down two fingers.
• Hook: curveball (also what the coach does when replacing a pitcher -"He has the hook with him").
• Uncle Charlie/Charlie: curveball
• Yakker: curvball
Changeup: palm ball, circle changeup
The changeup is the staple off-speed pitch, usually thrown to look like a fastball but arriving much more slowly to the plate. A circle changeup is a grip that includes a circle formation.
• Eephus pitch: Also called a Ephus, it is a very low speed pitch, somewhere in the range of a softball pitching speed (50mph) rather than baseball (90mph)
• Vulcan/Trekkie: The ball is gripped between the middle and ring fingers to make a v-shape when released.
Types of Delivery
Bottom Dropped Out: This refers to a sinking pitch that dives down as it comes to the hitter.
Down the pipe: A pitch down the middle.
Hanger: If a breaking ball fails to break, it is called a hanging breaking ball, or specifically, a hanging curve. It becomes a high, slow pitch that is easy for the batter to see, often resulting in an extra-base hit.
High And Tight: A pitch thrown up in the zone and close to the hitter.
Junk: Pitches that are tricky and have a lot of movement, but not much velocity. 'He throws a lot of junk', would refer to a pitcher who throws a bunch of non-fastball pitchers. Examples may be a screwball, forkball, circle change, sinker, etc.
Knuckler: A pitch thrown to minimize the spin a ball has in flight causing erratic, unpredictable motion.
Meatball: A pitch down the heart of the plate.
Take Something off the Pitch: This refers to a pitch that is thrown slower than a pitcher's normal velocity. The purpose is to keep the hitter off balance not knowing what to expect.
Upstairs: A high pitch.
Dark One: A pitch that is difficult to see, much less hit. 'Throw him the dark one', is encouragement to the pitcher, typically given with two strikes, to throw his strikeout pitch.
When pitches are thrown to back a batter off the plate
• Brushback: A high-and-tight pitch designed to keep the batter from crowding the plate.
• Purpose Pitch: Meant to knock the batter back from the plate.
• Chin Music: A high and tight, up and in pitch thrown at a batter’s head that passes close to the batter's jaw.
• Duster: A pitch thrown so far inside the batter drops to the ground, 'hits the dust’ to avoid it.
• Airmailed: 'He airmailed it’ refers to a high throw over another player's head.
• Handcuffed: When a pitcher throws an inside pitch to a hitter and it causes a short, bunched-up swing.
Sometimes the pitcher’s aim isn’t perfect and the result is a Bean Ball, which means the pitcher hit a batter with the pitch.
Slang related to the battery (pitcher/catcher combine to form the battery)
In the Dirt: Refers to a pitch that bounced before it got to the catcher.
Payoff Pitch: When a pitcher has 3 balls and 2 strikes on a hitter.
Sawed Off: When a pitcher gets a batter to hit the ball on the handle, weakening the swing.
Gopher ball: A pitch likely to be hit for a home run; one that will 'go for' a run.
Serve It Up: When a pitcher hangs one there for the hitter, as if setting it on a tee.
Touched Up: When a pitcher gets hit hard and gives up a bunch of runs.
Waste a Pitch: When a pitcher is up in the count he may "waste" a pitch on the hitter. This means throwing something unhittable with hopes that the batter will swing and strike out.
Merry-Go-Round: When a pitcher keeps walking batters and walks in runs.
Mow Them Down: A pitcher who dominates the opposing hitters, allowing few if any to get on base, is ’mowing them down’ as if batters are grass he’s mowing.
Outing: When a pitcher makes an appearance in a game.
Slab: Refers to the rubber on the mound.
• Toe the slab: To take the mound. When a pitcher toes the slab; he is pitching. Sometimes expressed as 'toe the rubber'. It literally means to put the toe of the shoe on the rubber.
There you have it, a few fun expressions you’ve likely heard from the bench. Now that you know the lingo, holler one or two at your home team pitcher as they work toward the win this weekend!