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MLB Baseball Terms: Baseball Terminology Explained
Are you a fan of baseball and looking to learn more? Maybe you have just become a fan of the game and you would like to increase your understanding of baseball and the common terminology used.
Baseball is a great game full of colorful new phrases and words that just don't make sense to the casual sports fan. If you have heard some new baseball lingo or maybe you would like to understand some of the statistical abbreviations. We have compiled a great list of phrases and terms for you to view. Unfortunately there are just so many new terms used that it is almost impossible to keep up with the lingo but we have to try!
If you would like to add any to the list, or if you would like to know more about a MLB baseball term, feel free to contact us!
Glossary of MLB Baseball Batting Terms
Year - Year in which the season occurred
Tm - Team they played for
Lg - League they played in
G - Games played
AB - At Bats
R - Runs Scored
H - Hits
2B - Doubles
3B - Triples
HR - Home Runs
RBI - Runs Batted in
SB - Stolen Bases
CS - Caught Stealing
BB - Base on Balls or Walks
SO - Strikeouts
BA - Batting Average
OBP - On-Base Percentage
SLG - Slugging Percentage
TB - Total Bases
SH - Sacrifice Hits or Bunts
SF - Sacrifice Flies
HBP - Hit by Pitch
IBB - Intentional Base on Balls
GIDP - Grounded into Double Plays
Glossary of MLB Baseball Fielding Terms
Year - Year in which the season occurred
Tm - Team they played for
Lg - League they played in
PO - Putouts
A - Assists
E - Errors
DP - Double Plays
FP - Fielding Percentage
lgFP - Major League Average Fielding Percentage at that position that year.
RFg - Range Factor by games played
lgRFg - Major League Average Range Factor at that position that year by games.
RF9 - Range Factor per nine innings
lgRF9 - Major League Average Range Factor at that position that year per nine innings.
GS - Games Started
Inn - Innings Played
PB - For catchers, Passed Balls
LF, CF, RF - Number of games played at each outfield position
for years in which individual outfield stats are not available.
Glossary of MLB Baseball Pitching Terms
Year - Year in which the season occurred
Ag - Age the player
Tm - Team they played for
Lg - League they played in
W - Wins
L - Losses
G - Games pitched in
GS - Games started
GF - Games finished in relief
CG - Complete Games
SHO - Shutouts
SV - Saves
IP - Innings Pitched
H - Hits
R - Runs Allowed
ER - Earned Runs Allowed
HR - Home Runs
BB - Base on Balls or Walks
SO - Strikeouts
ERA - Earned Run Average
lgERA - Earned Run Average for a league average pitcher
ERA+ - the ratio of the league's ERA
BFP - Batters Faced Pitching
GDP or GIDP - Grounded into Double Plays
MLB Baseball Common Terminology
0-1 (i.e., "oh and one"), also, 1-0, 0-2, 1-1, 2-0, 1-2, 2-1, 3-0, 2-2, 3-1, 3-2
The possible instances of the "count", the number of balls and strikes, in that order, currently totaled for the batter. Japanese baseball reverses this. So 1-2 is 1 strike and 2 balls instead of 1 ball and 2 strikes.
A curve ball, the motion of which evokes the hands of clock. The ball starts high (at "12-o'clock") and drops sharply as it reaches the strike zone ("6-o'clock"). Also known as "12-to-6 Downers" or a "12-to-6 Drop". Barry Zito is perhaps baseball's best current practitioner of the 12-to-6 curve.
3-2-3 double play
A relatively rare combination resulting in a double play: With the bases loaded, the batter hits the ball to the first baseman, who relays it to home for the force out, who fires it back to the first baseman to retire the batter. Occurred very notably during Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, when catcher Brian Harper and first baseman Kent Hrbek of the Minnesota Twins turned a 3-2-3 against the Atlanta Braves; Lonnie Smith was prevented from scoring while Sid Bream was retired at first.
In this instance 4 refers not to the second baseman (the 4 position), but to home plate, in essence the fourth base. This is typically used to signal that a runner is heading home and that the ball needs to be thrown to home plate.
6-4-3 double play
A common combination resulting in a double play: A runner is on first base and a ground ball is batted to the shortstop (numbered 6 in scorekeeping). He throws to the second baseman (4) who steps on second base to force out the runner from first, then throws to the first baseman (3) standing on first base to force out the batter. A famous infield trio for the Chicago Cubs is remembered by this sequence: "Tinker to Evers to Chance." A similar combination is the 4-6-3 double play.
Baseball Terms Starting with A
AA or A.A.
Abbreviation for American Association, the name of a major league of the 1880s and of a minor league for much of the 20th century. Also the abbreviation of the modern organization Alcoholics Anonymous, a possibly amusing coincidence in that the Association's critics (notably the rival National League) referred to the AA as "The Beer and Whiskey League".
AL or A.L.
Abbreviation for American League, the newer of the two existing major leagues.
around the horn
a 5-4-3 double play, in which the ball goes from the third baseman, to the second baseman, who tags second, to the first baseman, who tags first. Like many baseball terms, this originates from sailing. Until the Panama Canal was built, the quickest way from the North Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean was to sail around Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America. By extension, "going around the horn" refers to covering all or several angles of something in baseball. More commonly, this phrase refers to the tradition of tossing the ball around the infield after an out is recorded such that no runners are left on base. For example, after an out recorded at first base, if there are no runners on, the first baseman will toss to the second baseman, and the ball will subsequently be thrown to the shortstop and then the third baseman, and finally back to the pitcher. The order in which the ball is thrown "around the horn," can vary from team to team and from situation to situation, but many teams see this as the "way" to do it and it may even be considered bad luck to deviate from this standard pattern. Also, some teams use this only when a strikeout is recorded. This version starts with the pitch being thrown and the last strike recorded then is quickly thrown from the catcher to the first baseman who proceeds with the regular order. Now it is used more as a method to show off, than to ensure that no runner is left on.
When a batter is at the plate and in active play, attempting to hit the ball.
Baseball Terms Starting with B
a ball that bounces in front of an infielder in an unexpected way, usually because it hit some irregularity on the ground
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. There are specific guidelines in the rules about what pitching movements are illegal. The spirit of a balk is that certain movements effectively "declare" the pitcher's intent to pitch to the batter, freeing the baserunner from any fear that he will be picked off. Some balks result from errant or unsuccessful motions, in the case of the ball accidentally slipping out of the pitcher's hand; this usage is likely linked to its use outside of baseball, to mean any process that has been prematurely blocked.
A short downward swing intended to make the ball rebound off the home plate or the packed dirt immediately in front of the plate. The goal is to produce a bounce high enough so that, even if it can be fielded by an infielder the batter will have time to reach first for a base hit. This was a tactic of the Baltimore Orioles of the National League in the 1890s, who frequently attempted this kind of hit purposely. John McGraw is supposed to have had the earth in front of home plate intentionally compacted for this purpose. When it happens in the modern game, and so named, it is more often simply a result of poor contact that just happens to aid the batter-runner.
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 has said to come from the twanging sound of the batter's swing like that of a banjo.
batter's background or batter's eye
a solid-colored, usually dark area beyond the centerfield wall that is the visual backdrop for the batter looking out at the pitcher. To allow 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) since at least the late 1800s.
A square on either side of the plate which the batter must be standing in for fair play to resume. Only a foot and a hand out of the box are required to stop fair play.
The pitcher and catcher.
A pitcher and catcher from the same team.
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).
a long home run.
bonehead play or just "boner"
A mental mistake that changes the course of a game dramatically. See "Merkle boner".
See "extra innings".
bottom of the inning
The second half of an inning, during which the home team bats.
Any ball that deviates from a straight path due to a spin used by the pitcher to achieve the desired affect.
To pitch; "bring the gas", "bring the heat", "bring it".
A pitch intentionally thrown close to a batter to intimidate or misdirect, i.e. to "brush him back" from the plate. Also chin-music. A batter targeted by such a pitch is sometimes said to have had a "close shave". 1950s pitcher Sal Maglie was called "the Barber" due to his frequent use of such pitches.
The area used by pitchers and/or catchers to warm up before taking the mound when standard play has already begun. This area is not part of the baseball field, but usually off to the side along either the left or right baseline, and occasionally along the outfield fence. Also used to collectively refer to a team's relief pitching corps.
To bat the ball weakly and deliberately, by holding the bat nearly still and letting the ball hit it, trying to place the ball in a particular spot on the infield. Also, the play resulting from that action. Typically, a bunt is used to advance other runners and is then referred to as a "sacrifice". When done correctly, fielders have no play except to retire the batter-runner. Speedy runners also bunt for base hits when infielders are playing back.
A slang term used to describe play that is of inferior or unprofessional quality.
Baseball Terms Starting with C
The group of teams that conduct their pre-season spring training exhibition games in Arizona.
can of corn
An easily-caught fly ball. Supposedly comes from a general store clerk reaching up and dropping a can from a high shelf. It may also be used in reference to acknowledging something or used when one is in mild excitement. Frequently used by Chicago White Sox broadcaster Ken "The Hawk" Harrelson.
A desirable or auspicious situation. Popularized by Red Barber, longtime broadcaster for the Brooklyn Dodgers. James Thurber wrote in his short story of the same title: "[S]itting in the catbird seat" means sitting pretty, like a batter with three balls and no strikes on him. The catbird is said to seek out the highest point in a tree to sing his song, so someone in the catbird seat is high up.
Change (or change up)
a pitch meant to look like a fastball, but with less velocity
To swing at a pitch well outside of the strike zone.
check the runner
When the pitcher looks in the direction of a runner on base, and thereby causes him to not take as large of a lead as he would otherwise have taken.
A high and tight, up and in pitch meant to knock a batter back from the plate. Also known as a brushback.
The fourth batter for a team, usually a power hitter. The idea is to get some runners on base for the "cleanup" hitter to drive home.
climbing the ladder
a succession of pitches out of the strike zone, each higher than the last, in an attempt to get the batter to swing at a pitch 'in his eyes'
A relief pitcher who is consistently used to "close" a game by getting the final outs. Closers are often among the most overpowering pitchers, and sometimes even the most erratic.
Good performance under pressure or when the chips are down/when good performance really matters (such a period is referred to as being "in the clutch.") May refer to a player (a good "clutch hitter") or to a team as a whole. For example, a player who hits many home runs but strikes out in crucial win-or-lose moments "can't hit in the clutch." The existence of "clutch" hitting is a controversial and divisive topic among baseball fans. All baseball fans agree that clutch hits exist, but there is significant disagreement over whether clutch hitting or being clutch is a skill a player can possess, i.e. whether his batting performance in the clutch is statistically or mathematically different from his overall batting performance.
Symbol of going hitless in a game, suggested by its resemblance to a zero, along with the implication of "choking"; to wear the collar.
when a fielder goes to make a play at a base that is not his position (usually because the fielder for that base in unavailable to catch the ball at that base because he is busy fielding the batted ball. Most common example: 1st baseman catches a batted ground ball, but is too far from 1st base to put the runner out. The pitcher covers 1st base to take the throw from the 1st baseman.)
A number greater than one, referring to the appearance of the actual number. A team which is able to score two or more runs in an inning is said to "hang" a crooked number on the scoreboard.
crowding the plate
When a batter comes extremely close to the plate, in essence covering up part of the strike zone, a practice that angers pitchers and, if done repeatedly, can lead to a bean ball being thrown at the batter to clear the plate.
cup of coffee
A short time spent by a minor league player at the major league level, the idea being that the player was only there long enough to have a cup of coffee.
a "cut fastball"; a fastball pitch that has lateral movement.
Refers either to a cut-off man who shortens the throw or to cut off the ball. The phrase "hit the cut-off man" is a common phrase in baseball.
Specifically referring to the player that serves as a middle man in a throw to a far off and/or important target, such as: the shortstop or second baseman in a throw from deep center field to home plate or the shortstop in a throw from left field to the pitcher when a runner is on third base and it is important to not allow the runner to advance. The cut-off man does two things: it increases accuracy over long distances and serves to shorten the time the ball requires to get to a specific place. The latter is due to the fact that the ball, when thrown over long distances, loses a considerable amount of speed the farther it must be thrown.
Baseball Terms Starting with D
Dead Ball Era
The time period prior to the Lively Ball Era, when the nature of the ball along with other rules tended to limit the power game, and the primary batting strategy was the inside game of baseball. Most historians agree that the Dead Ball Era ended after the 1919 season.
A play in which a runner advances to the next base without a throw from the catcher or without any fielder attempting to cover the bag to accept a throw from the catcher. The runner then does not get credit for a stolen base because his action was not challenged in any way. This usually occurs in a game in which the score is heavily favored towards one team and a runner advancing a base will not make a large difference in the expected outcome of the game... specifically, the ninth inning with two outs, where the objective is simply to focus on the batter and induce him to make the final out.
A curveball, because it is usually signalled for by the catcher by showing the pitcher 2 fingers.
The layout of the four bases in the infield. The infield is actually a square 90 feet (27 m) on each side, but from the stands it resembles a parallelogram, or "diamond".
digging it out
Fielding a ball on or near the ground. Usually a 1st baseman taking a low throw from another infielder
Home run. Also homer, round-tripper. See more nicknames in the article home run.
Referring to home plate. i.e. "The batter is 1-3 at the dish."
doctoring the ball
Cheating by applying a foreign substance to the ball, or otherwise altering it, to put an unnatural spin on a pitch. Examples: Vaseline or K-Y or saliva ("spitball") possibly aided by chewing slippery elm; or scuffing with sandpaper, emory board or belt buckle. All of these became illegal beginning in the 1920 season.
double header or doubleheader
When two games are played back-to-back by the same two teams on the same day. In the major leagues, both games are scheduled for 9 innings. In amateur leagues, the second game may be scheduled for only 7 instead of 9 innings. When the games are scheduled for late in the day, they are referred to as a "twilight-night" or "twi-night" doubleheader. When one game is scheduled for the afternoon and one for the evening (typically with separate admission fees), it is referred to as a "day-night" doubleheader. The doubleheader is baseball's equivalent to the movie "double feature". The separate admission charge for so-called "day-night" doubleheaders belies the original "two for the price of one" concept of the doubleheader.
Any sequence of defensive plays in the same continuous playing action resulting in two outs. Hence:
double play depth
2nd baseman and shortstop play in closer to the basepath in order to be able to get to second base quickly
down the line
On the field near the foul lines, often used to describe the location of batted balls.
down the middle
Over the middle portion of home plate, used to describe the location of pitches. Also referred to as "down Main Street", "down Broadway", etc.
When a pitch suddenly drops as it approaches home plate, also known as a "sinker." Some extreme "12-to-6" curveballs are also referred to as "drop balls," since they start high and dive as they reach the plate. Also known as a "dropper" or "el droppo".
drop off the table
When a pitched ball (e.g., a curveball) breaks extremely sharply.
ducks on the pond
runners on base, especially when the bases are loaded: "Look at all the ducks on the pond!"
A batted ball that drops in front of the outfielders, often unexpectedly (like a shot bird).
Baseball Terms Starting with E
The first, second and third innings of a regulation nine-inning game.
A very slow pitch with a high arcing trajectory. Invented by 1930s Pittsburgh Pirates hurler Rip Sewell, it is not a part of any current pitcher's repertoire, but some (Orlando Hernandez has a variation) do throw it occasionally to fool a hitter's timing. Prior to the 1946 All-Star Game, Sewell boasted that the Eephus had never been hit for a home run; during that very game, Ted Williams famously proceded to rip the ball out of his home park, the only time anyone would ever homer off the Eephus.
excuse me single
A single which results from a batter's inadvertently making contact during a check swing. Contrast with swinging bunt.
Any bases gained by a batter beyond first base on a hit. Doubles, triples and home runs are referred to as "extra base hits."
Additional innings needed to complete a game which is tied at the end of the regulation number of innings, typically 9 (nearly all levels of the sport), possibly 7 such as in the second game of a doubleheader (minor or amateur leagues only). Also known as "bonus baseball", "bonus cantos" or "free baseball".
Baseball Terms Starting with F
A strong supporter of a player, a team, or the game in general. As Paul Dickson explains, this term originated in the sport of boxing. Those who followed or "fancied" boxing in the 19th century were called "the fancy". The segment of the public that followed boxing tended to also follow baseball. "The fancy" was shortened to "the fans", was adopted into baseball (replacing the 19th century term "kranks" or "cranks"), and was reinforced by its apparent connection to the word "fanatics".
Additionally, to "fan" a batter is to strike him out, especially a swinging strike 3.
An old-fashioned and funnier way of saying "numbers nut", for a fan with a near-obsessive interest in the stats or "figures" of the game. Bill James could be said to be the iconic "figger filbert".
FL or F.L.
Abbreviation for Federal League, a major league that existed for two years, 1914-1915.
A ball hit high in the air, as opposed to a ground ball.
When a runner must advance and tagging him is not required and stepping on the base with the ball in hand will suffice. First base is always a forced out, the remaining bases become forced outs when more than one runner is on base and must advance such as when a runner is on first and must run to second when the ball is hit right to the second baseman or shortstop forcing the out.
Batting a pitch foul with two strikes, in order to keep the at bat going, in part to help wear down the pitcher. Luke Appling was said to be the king of fouling them off.
Another term for extra innings.
a hard hit line drive (travels in a straight line)
A count of 3 balls and 2 strikes; that is, no more balls or strikes can occur without a result.
Baseball Terms Starting with G
A fastball, a pitcher's fastest pitch, "Give him (the batter) the gas"; as in stepping on the gas pedal in a car and accelerating.
Getting off the schneid
To break a scoreless or hitless or winless streak (i.e. a schneid). According to the Dickson Baseball Dictionary, the term "schneid" comes to baseball via gin rummy, and in turn comes from German / Yiddish "schneider", one who cuts cloth, i.e. a tailor.
One who strikes out four times in one game is said to have gotten the Golden Sombrero.
Swinging at a pitch obviously outside of the strike zone, particularly one pitched low or in the dirt. Also, golfing can be used to describe actual contact with a pitch low in the zone (he golfed that one for a home run). Vladimir Guerrero and Alfonso Soriano are "golfers" par excellence.
Good hit, no field
Said to have been the world's shortest scouting reporting, and often quoted in reference to sluggers such as Dick Stuart and Dave Kingman, who were notoriously poor fielders.
The group of teams that conduct their pre-season exhibition games in Florida.
A ball hit on the ground, i.e. bouncing repeatedly in the infield.
Baseball Terms Starting with H
A curveball that does not drop very much in its delivery, especially when hit for a home run.
a fielding defect - balls tend to bounce out of the fielding player's hands.
To strike out three times
A fastball, a pitcher's fastest pitch, as in "Bring the heat".
high and tight
High, or above the strike zone, and close to the batter, used to describe the location of pitches.
A "rising" fastball, which can be very difficult to hit; with two strikes on the batter, the pitcher might "bring the high heat" and go for the K. Also known as "high cheese". Not to be confused with the baseball PC game of the same name, published by 3DO.
Referring to the pitcher's mound.
hit and run
Offensive play executed jointly by a baserunner (usually on first base) and batter. At the pitch, the baserunner begins to run towards second as if to steal the base. The second baseman must move towards second base to catch the catcher's throw and attempt to tag out the runner. This creates a gap between first and second base, and the batter attempts to hit the ball into this gap (so contrary to the name, the hit follows the run). A successful hit and run can avoid a double play and advance the first-base runner to third. The hit and run is usually ordered, or put on, by the manager.
hit 'em where they ain't
Said to be the (grammatically-casual) response of late-19th-century / early-20th-century player Willie Keeler to the question, "What's the secret to hitting?" in which "'em" or "them" are the batted balls, and "they" are the fielders.
hit for the cycle
To hit a single, double, triple and home run in the same game. To accomplish this feat in order is termed a "progressive cycle."
hitting behind the runner
To intentionally put the ball in play to the right side of the field with a runner on second and less than two outs, with the intent of advancing the baserunner to third base, where a sacrifice fly by the next hitter can result in a run.
hole in his glove
a tendency to drop caught balls.
hole in his swing
location in or near the strikezone where the batter can't hit a pitch
A home run, which is when the ball is hit over the outfield fence in fair play.
When the batter "pulls" the ball down the line, starting fair and ending foul, on the same side of the diamond that the batter is standing. Contrast with slice foul. Both terms are also used in the game of golf.
Same as rundown or, specifically, the area occupied by the runner while he is being "run down".
The third base fielding position, so called because many batted balls arrive very quickly at the position.
Baseball Terms Starting with I
throwing in the batter's eyes
pitching a high fastball, usually at or near the batter's eye level. A "ball", and hard to hit, but hard to lay off.
A call made by the umpire signaling the batter is out when he hits a fly ball that can be caught by an infielder with runners on first and second or with the bases loaded and less than two outs. This rule is intended to prevent the fielder from intentionally dropping the ball and getting force outs on any or all of the runners on base. The rule is sometimes a little mystifying to casual fans of the game, but it has been a fundamental rule since 1895, presumably to prevent the notoriously tricky Baltimore Orioles from doing it.
inside baseball or inside game
Playing strategy that focuses on teamwork and good execution. It is a double-meaning term in that such strategy usually centers around the infield - the walk, the base hit, the bunt, the stolen base, etc. The last of the ninth inning in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS is a perfect example: a walk, a steal and a single to tie the game. The game was tied by the inside game, but was won by the power game, in extra innings, when slugger David Ortiz hit a walk off home run. The inside game was the primary approach to playing baseball during the Dead Ball Era. "Inside baseball" is commonly used as a metaphor in American politics to describe background machinations that have no relevance to anyone not working in politics.
When a batter is sent to first base automatically without batting, or when a pitcher purposely throws all balls so as to prevent a clutch hitter from making a play that would be detrimental to the team that is on defense. Because it is sometimes seen as an insult to "take the bat out of [a batter's] hands" the latter method is used to cover up an intentional walk. The effectiveness of the latter method relies solely of the ability of the pitcher to "place the pitch"
on the interstate
A player batting between .100 and .199 is said to be "on the interstate." The term, popularized by New York Yankees broadcasters Michael Kay and Ken Singleton, derives from referring to an American interstate route as I-(number). Therefore, when a batting average is listed as .195, it can be said to look like I-95. A hit to put an average above .200 gets a batter "off the interstate."
in the hole (1)
On the infield at a location nearly exactly between fielders, used to describe the location of a batted ground ball, or the location a fielder as he runs to try to retrieve that ball. Used most often in reference to the space between the first and second basemen, or between the shortstop and the third baseman. A ground ball hit between second and short is more apt to be described as "up the middle". The term is also occasionally used to designate the space between any pair or group of fielders. In any case, "the hole" is "where they ain't" as Willie Keeler famously stated. Term similarly used in football.
in the hole (2)
Due to bat third in order; batting immediately after the on-deck batter. Presumably derived from card-playing terminology.
Baseball Terms Starting with J
A Home Run, as in, "Hitting a jack" or "Jacking one out of here"
As a verb, to throw a pitch far enough inside that the batter is unlikely to make good contact if he hits it. "The pitcher jammed the batter". As a noun, a situation where there are runners on base in scoring position, 1 or none out, and good hitters coming up. "The pitcher is in a jam."
The American League, so-called because it is the younger of the two major leagues.
a sequence of several different pitches with not much velocity but a lot of movement. Throwing junk is usually a strategy of a pitcher who does not have a good fastball.
Baseball Terms Starting with K
Strikeout. A backwards K is sometimes used to denote a strikeout looking and forwards to indicate a strikeout swinging. Originating from the last letter of "struck" (as per Henry Chadwick, inventor of baseball scorekeeping techniques) and reinforced by inference of "knockout" or "K.O."
Second base. Like the keystone of an arch, second base is "key" to both scoring (a runner on the base is in "scoring position") and preventing scoring (by defensive "strength up the middle").
A pitch that is thrown with the knuckles and/or the fingernails. It tends to flutter and move suddenly as it is on it's way to the plate. Often, knuckleballs have very little or no spin at all.
Baseball Terms Starting with L
The seventh, eighth and ninth innings of a regulation nine-inning game.
a 1-2-3 double play (and a one, ana 2, ana 3...)
lead off (batting order)
The player who is first in the batting order for a given team. Also, the first batter in any given inning.
lead off (base running)
When a base runner steps off of the base in order to reduce the distance to the next base, before a pitch is thrown.
Lively Ball Era
The time starting around 1919 (many say 1920) when several factors came together to shift baseball away from the time-honored inside game to the power game, ending the Dead Ball Era. Following World War I, the construction of the baseball improved significantly, with a cork center and tighter-wound yarns that made the ball inherently "livelier". Also, there were significant rules changes that abolished abuse of the ball (such as the spitball) and also required substitution of a new ball when the previous ball became dirty or scuffed. This gave a great advantage to hitters, especially power hitters. Babe Ruth and Rogers Hornsby were most notable among those who took full advantage of these changes and rewrote the record books.
load the bases
The act of causing runners to occupy the three numbered bases (first, second, and third bases).
a soft straight pitch with a lot of arc
Baseball Terms Starting with M
an easy pitch to hit - down the middle of the plate
A batting average of .200. Batters hitting below .200 are colloquially said to be below the Mendoza line. Named for Mario Mendoza, a notoriously poor hitter of the 1970s. Less commonly used for .215, Mendoza's lifetime batting average. See this site for more.
Refers to Fred Merkle's infamous baserunning gaffe that cost the Giants the 1908 pennant, but can be used to describe any mental error that costs a team the game. A good example would be forgetting the number of outs and tossing the ball into the stands, allowing the runners to advance.
The fourth, fifth and sixth innings of a regulation nine-inning game.
middle of the inning
The few minutes that lapse between the top and bottom half of an inning when the visiting team takes the field to defend, and the home team prepares to bat. No gameplay occurs during this period. Television and radio broadcasts run commercial breaks during the middle of an inning. See also seventh-inning stretch.
Refers to the 2002 book of the same name, written by Michael Lewis. Typical "Moneyball players" walk a lot, have high on-base percentages, and don't steal a lot of bases. In more traditional baseball circles, evoking Moneyball to describe a player or team can be a term of derision. "Moneyball" is often seen as the antithesis of "smallball", where teams take chances on the basepaths in an attempt to "manufacture" runs.
Refers to deviations from a straight flight of a pitch. More movement is preferable because it makes the ball harder to hit. Can be used to refer to both straight pitches (fastballs) and curving pitches (breaking balls). Movement in a fastball only occurs at higher speeds (over 80 m.p.h). If you watch such a pitch up close, it appears to "bounce" on the way, much like turbulence on an airplane. Hence the term "rising fastball".
Baseball Terms Starting with N
NA or N.A.
Abbreviation for National Association. It could mean the long-ago amateur organization called the National Association of Base Ball Players; or the first professional league, called the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players; or the modern collective governing body of those minor leagues that are affiliated with the major leagues, long called the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues (also abbreviated NAPBL) and officially renamed "Minor League Baseball" in 1999 .
NL or N.L.
Abbreviation for National League, the older of the two existing major leagues.
Baseball Terms Starting with O
A player who goes hitless in a game, or wears the collar, as in "0 for 4" (spoken as "oh for four") or however many at bats he took in the game.
Used when a player strikes out five times in a game.
The next batter due to bat, after the current batter; the second batter in order. The designated area for the on-deck batter is a circle 5 feet (1.5 m) in diameter, officially called the "next batter's box", and commonly called the "on-deck circle". Ironically, the on-deck batter rarely steps or stands on the on-deck circle.
Derisive nickname of the short-lived Union Association.
on the black
A pitch which is over the outside, black edge of home plate.
Over the edge of home plate away from the batter, used to describe the location of pitches.
Baseball Terms Starting with P
to throw the ball at the edges of the strike zone. A pitcher who has so much control that he can paint regularly may be referred to as Rembrandt or Picasso.
To hit a home run. He parked a three-run homer. Also see yard
A pitch made when the pitch count is full, i.e., when three balls and two strikes have been totaled for the batter. The implication is that much effort has gone into reaching this point (this is at least the sixth pitch of the at bat), and the pitch will either pay off for the pitcher (resulting in a strikeout) or the batter (resulting in a hit or a walk). This is not always so, though, as a foul would extend the length of the at bat. The term is most often used when whatever happens next will either score a run or end the inning.
Same as rundown.
A hitter substituted, mid-inning, for the scheduled batter. Often, a pinch hitter is brought in during a critical situation (a "pinch", or "the clutch") to replace a weak batter (usually the pitcher, in the National League). Although that's the origin of the term, any batter substituting for another, for any reason, is conventionally called a pinch hitter.
A runner substituted for another runner who is on base. Often, a pinch runner is brought in during a critical situation (just as with a pinch hitter), typically to replace a slower runner with a faster runner in hopes of gaining an extra base. However, any substitute runner, for whatever reason, is conventionally called a pinch runner.
When the baseball is thrown by the pitcher from the pitching mound to the catcher in standard play.
The player responsible for pitching the ball. Known as the "1" position.
not intentionally walking a batter, but not throwing him a hittable pitch - hoping to get him to swing at bad pitches
The total number of pitches a pitcher has thrown in a given game.
A pitch that is so far outside that it can't be hit. The catcher catches the pitch while standing, allowing a quick throw to try picking off a runner.
PL or P.L.
Abbreviation for Players' League, a one-year (1890) major league.
see double play depth. Also can refer to the 1st baseman and/or 3rd baseman playing closer to home plate in anticipation of fielding a bunt.
A powerful batter who hits many home runs and extra base hits, but who may not have a high batting average, due to an "all or nothing" hitting approach. Also slugger.
Any batter that can "pull hit," a technique where the batter hits the ball towards their side of the field (i.e. a right handed hitter would pull hit to the left because they bat on the left side of the plate). This is a difficult thing to do because the tendency is to hit towards the opposite side of the field.
pull the string
To throw an off-speed pitch.
Baseball Terms Starting with Q
When the pitcher comes to a less-than-complete stop in the midst of the stretch position, in an attempt to throw off the timing of batter and runners. When detected, the umpire calls the pitch a balk, and all runners can freely advance one base.
Baseball Terms Starting with R
usually a curve ball with a high arc in its path to the plate
how far to his left and/or right a fielder can go to catch a ball
the process of getting the ball from the deep outfield to third base or home plate by first throwing to an infielder, who then throws to the final target. The relay to the plate...he's out at home!
reliever or relief pitcher
A pitcher brought in the game to replace (i.e. "relieve") another pitcher.
an argument or fight in a baseball game. Hence, Rhubarb, a novel by H. Allen Smith.
Expansion of the initial's RBI, which stand for Run batted in
ring him up
Another term for a strikeout.
A pitcher is said to have a "rubber arm" if he can throw many pitches without tiring. Livan Hernandez may have the ultimate rubber arm, having eclipsed 200 innings seven times in his ten-year career.
rubber game or rubber match
term used for the third game of 3-game series when the two teams have split the first two games. Originally a card-playing term.
A play in which a runner is stranded between two bases, and runs back and forth to try to avoid fielders with the ball. The fielders (usually basemen) toss the ball back and forth, to prevent the runner from getting to a base, and typically close in on him and tag him, barring an error or the need to make a play on another runner. Also called a hot box or a pickle. Sometimes used as a baserunning strategy by a trailing runner, to distract the fielders and allow a leading runner or runners to advance.
runners at the corners
runners on 1st and 3rd.
A home run that travels very far.
Baseball Terms Starting with S
A squeeze play in which the runner on third waits for the batter to lay down a successful bunt before breaking for home. Contrast this with the suicide squeeze.
a runner on 2nd or 3rd base is in scoring position.
2 seamer - a "two seam fastball" where the ball is held by the pitcher such that, when thrown, its rotation only shows two seams per revolution
4 seamer - like a 2 seamer, but the rotation shows 4 seams per revolution of the ball. Batters count the number of visible seams to help judge what kind of pitch by its rotation.
seeing eye ball
a batted ground ball that just eludes capture by an infielder, just out of infielder's range, as if it could "see" where it needed to go. Less commonly used for a ball that takes an unusual lateral bounce to elude an infielder
The National League, so-called because it is the older of the two major leagues.
A relief pitcher who is consistently used immediately before the closer.
The period between the top and bottom of the seventh inning, when the fans present traditionally stand up to stretch their legs. A sing-along of the song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" has become part of this tradition, a practice most associated with Chicago broadcaster Harry Caray. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, "God Bless America" is sometimes played in addition to, or in lieu of, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the attacks, especially at home games of the New York Yankees and New York Mets. This occurs on Opening Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Sundays and during the All-Star Game, and post-season inculding the World Series.
verb, where a player(s) (usually an outfielder) positions oneself slightly away from their normal spot in the field based on a prediction of where the batter might hit the ball.
where the entire infield and/or outfield (that is, the players) position themselves clockwise or counter-clockwise from their usual position. This is to anticipate a batted ball from a batter who tends to hit to one side of the field. Also shade. In the case of some batters, especially lefthanders, and with the bases empty, managers have been known to shift fielders from the left side to the right side. This was done to Willie McCovey among others. The most extreme case was the famous "Ted Williams shift" (also once called the "Lou Boudreau shift"). Cleveland Indians manager Boudreau moved 6 of 7 fielders (including himself, the shortstop) to the right of second base, leaving just the leftfielder playing shallow, and daring Teddy Ballgame to single to left rather than trying to "hit it where they ain't" somewhere on the right side. Williams saw it as a challenge, a game within The Game, and seldom hit the ball to left on purpose in that circumstance.
When a fielder, usually an outfielder, catches a ball just before it hits the ground ("off his shoetops"), and remains running while doing so.
a ball that hits the ground immediately in front of an infielder.
the major leagues. Particularly in the Show.
When a fly ball or line drive starts out over fair territory, then curves into foul territory due to aerodynamic force caused by spinning of the ball, imparted by the bat. A slice which curves to the right is not to be confused with a hook which curves to the left.
A slide is when a player drops to the ground when going into a base, to avoid a tag and (in the case of second or third base) as a means of stopping, so as not to overrun the base and risk being put out. Players also sometimes slide head-first into first base, thinking it will get them there faster than simply running.
A relatively fast pitch with a slight curve in the opposite direction of the throwing arm.
To hit with great power.
Any person who commonly hits with great power, but sometimes used in reference to a child to boost their ego.
A strategy by which teams attempt to score runs using station-to-station, bunting and sacrifice plays; usually used in a situation where one run will either tie or win the game; "manufacturing" run(s); close kin to inside baseball.
A fielder's ability to cradle the ball well in his glove. Contrast hard hands.
The tendency for players to follow a good rookie season with a less-spectacular one. (This term is used outside the realm of baseball as well.) Two of the most notorious examples are Joe Charboneau and Mark Fidrych. The statistical term for the sophomore jinx is "regression to the mean".
Left-hander, especially a pitcher. Most baseball stadiums are built so that homeplate is in the west and the outfield is in the east, so that when the sun sets it is not in the batter's eye. Because of this, a left-handed pitcher's arm is always facing south when he faces the plate. Thus he has a "southpaw."
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.
starter or starting pitcher
The first pitcher in the game for each team.
Oddly enough, this term can mean completely different things. It can be referred to as a close relative of inside baseball, where hit-and-runs and base-stealing are frequent. It can also mean its exact opposite, where a team takes fewer chances of getting thrown out on the bases by cutting down on steal attempts and taking the extra base on a hit; therefore, the team will maximize the number of runs scored on a homer.
Short for "statistics", the numbers generated by the game: runs, hits, errors, strikeouts, batting average, earned run average, fielding average, etc. Most of the numbers used by players and fans are not true mathematical statistics, but the term is in common usage.
When a batter swings at a pitch, but fails to hit the ball within the baselines or when a batter does not swing and the pitch is thrown within the strike zone.
An imaginary box used to call strikes that lies in the following area: vertically from the knees to the nipple line and horizontally from the left side of the plate to the right side of the plate. When the ball passes through the strike zone and the batter either does not swing or misses when he swings one strike has occurred.
A pitcher who throws underarm.
A squeeze play in which the runner on third breaks for home on the pitch, so that, if the batter does not lay down a bunt, then the runner is an easy out (unless he steals home). Contrast this with the safety squeeze.
Baseball Terms Starting with T
A sign given to a batter to not swing, or "take", at the next pitch.
Texas Leaguer or Texas League single
A weakly hit fly ball that drops in for a single between an infielder and an outfielder. See "Bloop".
three true outcomes
The three ways a plate appearance can end without fielders coming into play: walks, home runs, and strikeouts. Baseball Prospectus coined the term in homage to Rob Deer, who excelled at producing all three outcomes. Traditionally, players with a high percentage of their plate appearances ending in one of the three true outcomes are underrated, as general managers often overestimate the harm in striking out, and underestimate the value of a walk.
tools of ignorance
a catcher's gear.
Tommy John surgery
A type of elbow surgery for pitchers named after Tommy John, a pitcher and the first professional athlete to successfully undergo the operation.
top of the inning
The first half of an inning, during which the visiting team bats.
a double play.
Baseball Terms Starting with U
UA or U.A.
Abbreviation for Union Association, a one-year (1884) major league.
A slang term used to describe a curve ball.
up and in
Same as high and tight.
A home run that lands in the stadium's upper deck of seating.
up the middle
On the field very close to second base, used to describe the location of batted balls. Also, in a more general sense, the area of the field on the imaginary line running from home plate through the pitcher's mound, second base, and center field. General managers typically build teams "up the middle"; that is, with strong defense in mind at catcher, second base, shortstop, and center field.
A player (usually a bench player) who can play several different positions.
Baseball Terms Starting with V
Value Over Replacement Player, Keith Woolner's method of evaluating baseball players. VORP ranks players by comparing a their run production to that of an imaginary "replacement-level" player that teams can acquire for the league-minimum salary.
Baseball Terms Starting with W
walk-off home run
A game-ending home run by the home team. So called because the losing team (usually the visiting team) then has to walk off the field. The term "walk-off" can also be applied to any situation with two outs or less in the last at-bat of the home team (such as the walk-off single, wild pitch, etc.) where the game ends as the winning run scores. For example, a bases loaded bases on balls in the bottom of the last inning has been considered to be known as "a walk-off walk".
The dirt and finely-ground gravel (as opposed to grass) area bordering the fence, especially in the outfield. It is intended to help prevent fielders from inadvertently running into the fence. 1950s and 60s broadcaster Bob Wolff used to call it the "cinder path". The first "warning tracks" actually started out as running tracks in Yankee Stadium and Cleveland Stadium. True warning tracks did not become standard until the 1950s, around the time batting helmets came into standard use also.
As a verb, to swing and miss a pitch. As a noun, as in "doing the wave".
an outstanding defensive play. Popularized by Baseball Tonight on ESPN.
upon a bunt to the left side of the infield, the 3rd baseman runs toward home to field the bunt, and the shortstop runs to third base to cover.
Another tern used to describe a strikeout. The phrase has even been immortalized by ESPN's Dan Patrick, who uses it by saying "The whiff'.
A hard hit ground ball that "burns" the ground.
Scoresheet notation for "wasn't watching", used by non-official scorekeepers when their attention has been distracted from the play on field. Supposedly used frequently by former New York Yankees broadcaster Phil Rizzuto.
Baseball Terms Starting with X
Baseball Terms Starting with Y
Baseball Terms Starting with Z