Glossary of baseball (B)
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backdoor breaking ball
- A breaking pitch, usually a slider, curveball, or cut fastball that, due to its lateral motion, passes through a small part of the strike zone on the outside edge of the plate after seeming as if it would miss the plate entirely. It may not cross the front of the plate but only the back and thus have come in through the "back door". A slider is the most common version, because a slider has more lateral motion than other breaking pitches.
- The fence behind homeplate, designed to protect spectators from wild pitches or foul balls.
- Catcher, sometimes "backstopper".
- Consecutive. When two consecutive batters hit home runs, they are said to hit back-to-back homers. Or a pitcher may issue back-to-back walks, and so forth.
- A batter who excels at hitting pitches that are outside the strike zone. Notable bad ball hitters include Yogi Berra and Vladimir Guerrero.
- 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.
- While the first two examples are analogues to bailing out of a plane via parachute, the last one is akin to bailing out a boat on the verge of being swamped, or perhaps bailing somebody out of jail.
- 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. In professional baseball, a balk does not instantly result in a dead ball. If a pitch is thrown and all runners advance one base due to a hit, play continues and the balk is ignored. This rarely occurs because when the balk is called the pitcher normally stops his delivery and the umpire declares the ball dead and awards the bases. In non-professional baseball (high school and college), a balk instantly results in a dead ball and the runners are awarded their bases. The rules specify which pitching movements are illegal. Commonly called balks are failure for the pitcher to come to a set position (or coming set multiple times) or failure to step in the direction of the base he is throwing toward. The spirit of a balk is that certain movements mean the pitcher has begun the pitch, so the runner cannot then be picked off. Some balks result from errant or unsuccessful motions, such as when the ball slips out of the pitcher's hand. Far more rare is a catcher's balk, when the catcher moves from behind the area of the plate before the pitcher starts his delivery (applicable only during an intentional walk).
- A pitch that misses the strike zone and is not swung at by the batter. (For the physical object used in the game, see baseball (ball).)
ball in play
- In sabermetrics, "ball in play" and "batting average on balls in play" (BABIP) have specific technical definitions that are used to determine pitchers' ability independently of the fielding defense of a team. In this definition, a home run is not a ball in play. See Defense Independent Pitching Statistics. Also see in play.
- A ball hit forcefully into the ground near home plate, producing a bounce high above the head of a fielder. This gives the batter time to reach first base safely before the ball can be fielded. An important element of Baltimore Orioles coach John McGraw's "inside baseball" strategy, the technique was popularized during Major League Baseball's dead-ball era, during which baseball teams could not rely on the home run.
- To give the maximum bounce to a Baltimore chop, Orioles groundskeeper Tom Murphy packed the dirt tightly around home plate, mixed it with hard clay and left the infield unwatered. Speedy Orioles players like John McGraw, Joe Kelley, Steve Brodie, and Willie Keeler most often practiced and perfected it.
- In modern baseball, the Baltimore chop is much less common, usually resulting when a batter accidentally swings over the ball. The result is sometimes more pronounced on those diamonds with artificial turf. The technique still sees use in softball.
- A ballpark with small dimensions that encourages offense, especially home runs. A crackerbox. (see: Baker Bowl and Citizens Bank Ballpark)
- Cancelling a game because of bad weather: "I thought we were gonna get banged but we got in five innings."
- To hit the ball hard, especially to hit a homer. "Utley banged the game-tying home run."
- Players who are banged up are injured, though may continue to play. Example: "Banged up Braves ready for playoff rematch with Astros."
- A bang-up game is an exciting or close game. Example from a sports headline: "A Real Bang-Up Finish."
- A bang bang play is one in which the runner is barely thrown out, a very close call, typically at first base. Perhaps reflecting the "bang" of the ball in the first-baseman's glove followed immediately by the "bang" of the baserunner's foot hitting the bag.
- bang it inside is when a pitcher throws on the inside of the plate, and the batter cannot get his arms extended enough to hit the ball, which goes "bang" into the catcher's mitt. "It was an unbelievable feeling and a feeling I'll never forget," Giavotella said. "Scherzer was trying to come in on me all day. He was banging me inside and I couldn't get my hands extended. I guess he missed over the plate that time and I got my hands inside and barreled it up and it flew out of the park."
- A batter who lacks power. A banjo hitter usually hits bloop singles, often just past the infield dirt, and would have a low slugging percentage. The name is said to come from the twanging sound of the bat at contact, like that of a banjo. See also Punch and Judy hitter.
- Refers to when a fielder catches a ball with the hand not covered by his glove.
An advanced metric that measures the times a batter hits the ball at certain launch angles with certain exit velocities. Barrels are more likely to produce hits, particularly extra-base hits, than non-barrels.
- In modern baseball, refers to hitting a pitch hard with the sweet spot of the baseball bat.
- See sweet spot.
- See hit.
- Female "groupie" known to "be easy" for baseball players. Susan Sarandon played such a role as the character Annie Savoy in the 1988 American film "Bull Durham".
- Infamous Ruth Ann Steinhagen was the first "Baseball Annie". She became obsessed with Cubs and then Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus. She shot him through the chest, nearly killing him in 1949. This story inspired the 1952 novel The Natural.
- Runners on first, second, and third bases. Also known as "bases full", "bases packed", "bases jammed", "bases juiced", "bases chucked", "bases polluted", or "bases drunk". This presents a great scoring opportunity for the batting team, but it also presents an easy double play opportunity for the defense. Causing the bases to become loaded is called loading the bases. A batter is often intentionally walked when there are runners on 2nd and 3rd base to make it easier for the defense to record more than one out.
- Since there is no additional room to place the batter, should he be awarded first base from a base on balls or hit by pitch, one run will score due to the third-base player's being forced home. Chronologically, only big leaguers Abner Dalrymple, Nap Lajoie, Mel Ott, Bill Nicholson, Barry Bonds and Josh Hamilton hold the distinction of being intentionally walked with the bases loaded.
- When a home run is hit with the bases loaded, it is called a grand slam. It scores four runs, which is the most runs that can be scored on a single play.
- Last place, bottom of the standings. Also cellar.
- A baserunner (shortened as "runner") is a player on the offensive team (i.e., the team at bat) who has safely reached base.
- Catching a fly ball with the glove situated about the waistline, as opposed to the hands being situated above the shoulders.
- A baseball bat is 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 or the meat end of the bat.
- The player who uses it to strike the ball — a batter, hitter, or batsman — can be said to bat the ball.
- A player known as a good hitter might be said to have a good bat. Headline: "Shortstop mixes golden glove with solid bat." A player who is adept at both hitting and fielding might be said to have a good bat and good glove. The headline "Wesleyan shortstop Winn has bat and glove" does not mean Winn owns a bat and a glove, it means he is very skilled at both hitting and fielding.
- A team with many good hitters might be said to have a lot of "bats" (referring to the players not the instrument). "It's an awesome thing when we all get going like that," Murphy said. "We've got so many bats in our lineup that we're hard to beat if we keep hitting."
- According to The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, a team has "batted around" when each of the nine batters in the team's lineup has made a plate appearance, and the first batter is coming up again during a single inning. Dictionary.com, however, defines "bat around" as "to have every player in the lineup take a turn at bat during a single inning". It is not an official statistic. Opinions differ as to whether nine batters must get an at-bat, or if the opening batter must bat again for "batting around" to have occurred.
- A physical property of a bat, expressed as a (usually) negative number equal to the bat's weight in ounces minus its length in inches. For example, a bat that is 34 inches (86 cm) long and weighs 31 ounces (880 g) has a bat drop of –3. In general, bats with a larger bat drop (i.e., lighter) are easier to swing, and bats with a smaller bat drop (i.e., heavier) can produce faster ball velocity, though these results depend on the batter's ability.
bat the ball
- The player who is at bat and tries to hit the ball with the bat. Also referred to as the "hitter" or "batsman".
- A solid-colored, usually dark area beyond the center field wall that is the visual backdrop for the batter looking out at the pitcher. It allows the batter to see the pitched ball against a dark and uncluttered background, as much for the batter's safety as anything. The use of a batter's background has been standard in baseball (as well as cricket where they are called "sight screens") since at least the late 1800s.
- One example of a batter's background is the black area in center field of the first Yankee Stadium. At one time there were seats in that section, but because of distractions the seats were removed and the area was painted black.
- A rectangle on either side of home plate in which the batter must be standing for fair play to resume. A foot and a hand out of the box are not sufficient to stop play (although pitchers will usually respect a batter's wish to step out of the box). The umpire must grant the batter a timeout before play is stopped.
- The pitcher and catcher considered as a single unit, who may also be called batterymen or batterymates of one another. The use of this word was first coined by Henry Chadwick in the 1860s in reference to the firepower of a team's pitching staff and inspired by the artillery batteries then in use in the American Civil War. Later, the term evolved to indicate the combined effectiveness of pitcher and catcher.
- 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 the best hitters fail to get a hit in 70% of their at-bats. Even the level of .400, which is outstanding and rare (last achieved at the major league level in 1941), suggests "failure" 60% of the time. Bases on balls are not counted in calculating batting average. This is part of the reason OBP is now regarded by "figger filberts" as a truer measure of a hitter's worth at the plate. In 1887, there was an experiment with including bases-on-balls as hits (and as at-bats) in computing the batting average. It was effectively an early attempt at an OBP, but it was regarded as a "marketing gimmick" and was dropped after the one year. It eventually put Cap Anson in limbo regarding his career hits status; dropping the bases on balls from his 1887 stats, as some encyclopedias do, put his career number of hits below the benchmark 3,000 total.
- The period, often before a game, when players warm up or practice their hitting technique. Sometimes refers to a period within a game when one team's hitters have so totally dominated a given pitcher that the game resembles a batting practice session. Referred to colloquially as well as abbreviated as BP.
- When a hitter works the count, by being patient, perhaps by deliberately fouling off pitches that he can't get good wood on, he's said to be "battling".
- An initialism for Batted-Ball Coefficient of Restitution, a standard that all non-wooden bats (both metal and composite) must meet in order to be approved for use in most amateur baseball leagues, such as U.S. college baseball.
- A pitch intentionally thrown to hit the batter if he does not move out of the way, especially when directed at the head (or the "bean" in old-fashioned slang). The word bean can also be used as a verb, as in the following headline: "Piazza says Clemens Purposely Beaned Him."
- When a runner gets to first base before the throw, he beats the throw or beats it out. Akin to leg out. "Greene's throw to first base pulls Gonzalez off the bag and Norris Hopper is fast enough to beat it out before Gonzalez can get his foot back on the bag."
beat the rap
- Occurs when a batter hits the ball on the ground with a runner on first and fewer than two outs. If the play has the potential of being a double play, the batter can beat the rap if he reaches first base before the throw from the fielder who recorded the putout at second base. The result of the play becomes a fielder's choice.
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.
- If the pitcher is behind in the count, he is in increasing danger of walking the batter. If the batter is behind, he is in increasing danger of striking out. "While he allowed only three hits, he walked five and pitched from behind in the count."
- To hit a ball hard to the outfield or out of the park, fair or foul. "Jones belts that one deep to left ... but just foul."
- The actual belt worn by a player as part of the uniform, usually mentioned in reference to the location of a pitch or a ball in play. "Benard takes a fastball, outside corner at the belt, called a strike", or "Grounded sharply into the hole at short--ranging to his right, Aurilia fields the belt-high hop and fires on to first; two away."
- "The bench" is where the players sit in the dugout when they are not at bat, in the on-deck circle, or in the field.
- "The bench" may also refer to the players who are not in the line-up but are still eligible to enter the game. "LaRussa's bench is depleted because of all the pinch hitting and pinch running duties it's been called on to perform tonight."
- A player, coach or manager with the talent of annoying and distracting opposition players and umpires from his team's dugout with verbal repartee. Especially useful against those with rabbit ears. The verbal jousting is frequently called "riding" - hence the "rider" from the dugout becomes a "bench jockey". The art of riding opposition players enough to unnerve them (but not enough to enrage them and provoke a fight) is believed to be fast-fading in the 21st century game. Major League Baseball players on the disabled list, while permitted on the bench, are not permitted to engage in bench jockeying.
- A curveball.
big as a grapefruit
- When a hitter sees the pitch so well that it appears to be larger than its actual size, he may describe the ball as being "as big as a grapefruit". "After hitting a 565-foot home run, Mickey Mantle once said, 'I just saw the ball as big as a grapefruit'. During a slump, Joe 'Ducky' Medwick of the St. Louis Cardinals said he was 'swinging at aspirins'."
- A home run.
- The opposite mentality of small ball, if a team is thinking "big inning" they are focusing on scoring runs strictly through base hits and home runs, as opposed to bunts or other sacrifices. More generically, a "big inning" is an inning in which the offense scores a large number of runs, usually four or more.
- A nickname for Major League Baseball
- A swing of the bat that produces a home run. "Pinch runner Hernán Pérez came in for Martinez and Perez walked Dirks, setting the stage for Avila's big swing."
- The Big Leagues, Major Leagues, "the Show". If you're in the bigs you're a big leaguer, a major leaguer.
- A single. A base hit that ends up with the hitter on first base. "Brown tried to stretch the bingle into a double, and was out, Monte Irvin to Frank Austin." (A rare usage nowadays.)
- A home run, normally one that is well hit.
- Bleacher seats (in short, bleachers) are uncovered seats that are typically tiered benches or other inexpensive seats located in the outfield or in any area past the main grandstand. The term comes from the assumption that the benches are sun-bleached. "Bleachers" is short for the term originally used, "bleaching boards". Fans in the bleacher seats are sometimes called bleacher bums or bleacher creatures.
- A weakly hit ground ball that goes for a base hit. A scratch hit. "Dunn walked to bring up Morra, who jumped on the first pitch he saw and hit a bleeder that didn't leave the infield, driving in Gradwohl."
- A ball that is hit so hard that it seems to generate its own heat may be said to have been blistered. "Chapman then blistered a ball toward left-center, and Knoblauch raced back, moving smoothly, and made the catch with his arm outstretched."
block the plate
- A catcher who puts a foot, leg, or whole body between home plate and a runner attempting to score, is said to "block the plate". Blocking the plate is a dangerous tactic, and may be considered obstruction (Official Rules of Baseball, Rule 2.00 (Obstruction)).
- An Eephus pitch (q.v.); a trick pitch thrown like a slow-pitch softball pitch, with a high arcing trajectory and very little velocity (ca. 40-55 mph or less). Specifically, such a pitch thrown ostensibly as a curveball.
- A blooper or bloop is a weakly hit fly ball that drops in for a single between an infielder and an outfielder. Also known as a bloop single, a dying quail, or a duck snort.
- A fielding error. Headline: "Red Sox roll White Sox after Contreras blooper".
- An odd or funny play, such as when a pitcher throws the ball to the catcher after the batter has stepped out of the batter's box and timeout has been called -- perhaps hitting the catcher in the head with the pitch.
- To blow a game is to lose it after having the lead. "We had the game in hand and we blew it."
- To blow a pitch ("by" a batter) is to throw one so fast the batter is unable to keep up (with it).
- To blow a save is to lose a lead or the game after coming into the game in a "save situation". This has a technical meaning in baseball statistics.
- A hit, typically a home run: "Ortiz's Blow Seals Win."
- To gain a commanding lead in a game, perhaps after the game has been very competitive or the score has remained tied or close. "Pirates Score Late To Blow Open Close Game Against Stony Brook."
- A blown save (BS) is charged to a relief pitcher who enters a game in a save situation but allows the tying run to score. If the pitcher further allows the winning run to score, he is charged with both a loss and a blown save. If, after blowing the save, the pitcher's team regains the lead, the pitcher may also be credited with the win. The blown save is not an officially recognized statistic by Major League Baseball, but is recognised by the Rolaids Relief Man Award, which charges two points against a reliever's record for a blown save opportunity. It is often used on broadcasts to characterize the "record" of closers analogous to win-loss records of starters. "Jones has made 31 out of 34 saves" or "Jones has 31 saves and three blown saves."
- An umpire, referring to the typical dark blue color of the umpire's uniform. Sometimes used derisively in professional baseball, such as when complaining about a ruling, e.g.: "Oh, come on, Blue!"
- A home run.
- A boner is a mental mistake that changes the course of a game dramatically.
- A young player who received a signing bonus.
- Extra innings. Most famously used by San Diego Padres (and former Boston Red Sox) announcer Don Orsillo. Also called "bonus cantos" by Yankees announcer Michael Kay.
- Made an error, kicked it – typically referring to a misplay on a ground ball. "Miguel Cabrera hit a ground ball to Alex S. Gonzalez, who booted the ball. Had Gonzalez fielded the ball properly, the Cubs could have ended the half-inning with a double play."
- The second half or "last half" of an inning, during which the home team bats, derived from its position in the line score.
- Sometimes said of a sinker or drop ball, implying that a pitch suddenly moved downward as if through a trap door. Ideally, the pitcher throws with the same familiar arm speed and release point only to have the "bottom drop out" at the last instant, leaving the batter wondering what happened.
- The vicinity of the pitcher's mound. Baseball announcers will sometimes refer to a batted ball going back through the pitcher's mound area as having gone through the box, or a pitcher being removed from the game will be said to have been knocked out of the box. In the early days of the game, there was no mound; the pitcher was required to release the ball while inside a box drawn on the ground. Even though the mound has replaced the box, this terminology still exists.
- Also, the batter's box, the area within which the batter stands when hitting. The batter must be in the box for the pitcher to pitch.
- Statistical summary of a game. The line score is an abbreviated version of the box score, duplicated from the field scoreboard. Invention of the box score is credited to Henry Chadwick.
- Bats right; used in describing a player's statistics, for example: John Doe (TR, BR, 6', 172 lbs.)
brand new ball game
- When a team scores run(s) that bring the score up to a tie, it is said to be "a brand new ball game". The phrase was popularized by Hall of Fame Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully.
- 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.
break one off
- To throw a curveball.
break open the game
- When a team gains a multiple-run lead, perhaps in a single rally that expands their lead, the game may be said to be "broken open". "The Padres broke the game open with five runs in the fifth, thanks to three errors by the Cubs, who have dropped 12 of 14."
- An adjective referring to a play that originates with a batter's breaking his bat upon making contact with the ball.
- A nickname given to the New York Yankees due to their ability to playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark.
- A sarcastic cheer from the crowd; "raspberries".
- A batter who strikes out looking, especially if the batter did not move his bat at all. This term is mainly used by sports commentators.
- A pitch intentionally thrown close to a batter to intimidate him, i.e., to "brush him back" from the plate. Also a purpose pitch or chin music. Archaic usage: "a blowdown".
buck and change
- A player batting between .100 and .199 is said to be batting "a buck and change" or, more specifically, the equivalent average in dollars (bucks) and cents (change). Example: A batter batting .190 is said to be batting "a buck ninety". Major league position players with a batting average this low will very likely be demoted down to AAA for seasoning or even released outright. See also Mendoza line.
bug on the rug
- Phrase coined by Pittsburgh Pirates announcer Bob Prince in the 1970s. A basehit that skittered through the gap, particularly on artificial turf.
Bugs Bunny change-up
- A change-up pitch that appears to arrive at homeplate so slowly that a batter can make three swings and misses on a single pitch. Whiff-whiff-whiff, three strikes and the batter is out. The reference is to Bugs Bunny, the animated cartoon character, who is depicted employing such a pitch in the cartoon Baseball Bugs. As Hoffman's changeup evolved into an all-world weapon, his pitching teammates were in awe of it, much like many hitters were. They liked it so much, they gave it a nickname. They called it the Bugs Bunny Pitch. 'You could swing at it three times and it still wouldn't be in the mitt', Ashby said, bringing up the image of the famous cartoon. 'I swear, he could tell them it's coming and they still couldn't hit it.'
- 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 fence. It is almost never in fair territory, presumably due to the risk of interference with live action. A rare exception was at New York's Polo Grounds where the bullpens were in the deep left and right center field quarter-circles of the outfield wall.
- A team's relief pitching corps (so named because the relievers are in the bullpen during games).
- There are varying theories of the origin of the term, discussed in more detail in the main article.
bullpen by committee
- A strategy by which a club does not assign relief pitchers to specific roles such as "closer", "set-up", or "long relief", and instead may use any reliever at any given time. At the major league level, this strategy is commonly used when the club's closer is unavailable.
- A regular activity for starting pitchers during a season.
- An infrequently used strategy that involves using a string of relief pitchers (some of whom, in this strategy, may be pitchers more often used as starters) in stints of no more than two innings instead of relying on one pitcher to work most of the innings.
- The pitchers mound. "Who's on the bump today?"
- To deliberately bat the ball weakly to a particular spot on the infield by holding the bat nearly still, with one hand behind the sweet spot (q.v. under bat) and letting the ball hit it. Typically, a bunt is used to advance other runners and is then referred to as a sacrifice or a sacrifice hit or a sacrifice bunt. When done correctly, fielders have no play except, at best, to throw the batter-runner out at first base.
- Speedy runners also bunt for base hits when infielders are playing back. In such a situation, left-handed hitters may use a drag bunt, in which they start stepping towards first base while completing the bunt swing. Even the great slugger Mickey Mantle would drag bunt once in a while, taking advantage of his 3.1 second speed from home to first base. Currently, Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals is notable in that he is a right-handed hitter who uses drag bunts successfully.
- A slang term for play that is of minor league or unprofessional quality. The "bushes" or the "sticks" are small towns where minor league teams may operate. A "busher" refers to someone from the "bush leagues": see subtitle of Ring Lardner's first book, "You Know Me Al: A Busher's Letters".
- A day game on a weekday.
bust him in
- A very poor fielder.
- A strategy where the hitter first shows he intends to bunt, pulls back the bat when the pitcher begins the delivery, and takes a quick swing at the pitch. Generally used by weaker hitters such as pitchers. Greg Maddux was known for employing this tactic effectively in the early part of his career with the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves.
buzz the tower
- To throw a high fastball up-and-in to a hitter, typically with intent to back the hitter off the plate or make a statement. Also see brushback and purpose pitch.
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