Glossary of baseball (B)
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 appearing 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".
- Consecutively. 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.
bad-ball hitter 
- A batter who excels at hitting pitches that are outside the strike zone. Notable bad ball hitters include Yogi Berra and Vladimir Guerrero.
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.
- 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 that's on the verge of being swamped, or perhaps bailing somebody who is in trouble 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 that 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, which only applies during an intentional walk.
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.
Baltimore Chop 
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— who once legged out a double off a Baltimore chop - 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. Relief pitcher José Arredondo recorded his first major league hit via a Baltimore Chop to third base, although it presumably was inadvertent in nature, as relief pitchers rarely get at-bats and may have a "just make contact" approach at the plate.
- A ballpark with small dimensions that encourages offense, especially home runs. A crackerbox. (see: Baker Bowl)
- Cancelling a game because of bad weather: "I thought we were gonna get banged but we got in 5 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 can't 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"'
banjo hitter 
- 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.
barehand it 
- Refers to when a fielder catches a ball with the hand not covered by his glove.
- See hit.
base knock 
Baseball Annie 
- 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 1984 film, "The Natural".
bases loaded 
- Runners on first, second, and third base. Also known as "bases full", "bases packed", "bases jammed", "bases juiced", "bases chucked" or "bases polluted, 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 being forced home. In the major leagues, only Abner Dalrymple, Nap Lajoie, Mel Ott, Bill Nicholson, Barry Bonds, and Josh Hamilton hold the distinction of being intentionally walked with the bases loaded, chronologically.
- 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.
basket catch 
- Catching a fly to the outfield with open glove near belt level. The signature catch of Willie Mays. It was also used in the movie Major League where Willie Mays Hayes makes a basket catch and as he approaches the dugout his manager, Lou Brown, says, " Nice catch Hayes, don't ever fuckin' do it again!"
- 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 that the player simply owns a bat and a glove but instead that 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".
bat around 
- When each of the nine players in the lineup makes a plate appearance during a single inning.
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 Yankee Stadium. At one time, there were seats where the black area is now, but because of distractions the seats were removed and the area 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.
battery mates 
- 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. Even the level of .400, which is outstanding and rare (last achieved at the major league level, by a batting champion, in 1941), suggests "failure" 60% of the time. 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.
batting practice 
- 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."
- 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."
beat out 
- 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 that 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 only allowed 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."
bench jockey 
- 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.
- Coming close to an important accomplishment. "Russell Branyan hit a home run in the ninth inning as the San Diego Padres broke up Carlos Zambrano's no-hit bid with one out in the eighth inning."
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.'"
big fly 
- A long home run.
big inning 
- 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.
big Leagues 
- 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 stetch 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)).
- 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 hitter is to throw a fastball that that batter is unable to catch up to.
- 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."
- A blow-out is a game in which one team wins by many runs. Headline: "Zito Shines as the Giants Blow Out the Dodgers."
blow open the game 
- To gain a large 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."
blown save 
- 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 analysts and sportscasters count blown saves 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 3 blown saves."
- A lopsided win, a laugher.
- An umpire, referring to the typical dark blue color of the umpire's uniform. A derogatory term in professional baseball. Usually when complaining about a call: "Oh, come on, Blue!"
- A home run.
bonehead play 
- A bonehead play or "boner" is a mental mistake that changes the course of a game dramatically. A play where there is an obvious loss of focus and a bad choice was made when the alternative was clear.
- See "Merkle's boner".
- A young player who received a signing bonus.
bonus baseball 
- 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 it fell through a trap door. "Ideally, a pitcher would like to throw the pitch with the same arm speed at the same 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.
- The 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 ballgame 
- When a team that has been behind in runs, most often by a significant margin, ties up the game, it's sometimes said to be a brand new ballgame. This does not mean that the game starts over from the first inning; it means only that neither team is ahead, and the game continues.
bread and butter 
- A player's greatest or most reliable skill. For example: "The curveball is this pitcher's bread and butter pitch." From the more general expression, "bread and butter", denoting any person's most basic source of nourishment and strength.
- The Break or the All-Star Break is the 3-day period roughly halfway through the regular season during which no games are held except for the All-Star Game, held on the second of the three days, giving other players a break from the 162-game schedule where normally the longest break is one day off between stretches of seven to ten or more games. It is also a common reference point for comparing a player's statistics: before the break vs. after the break; the first half vs. the last half of the season (even though the "last half" is shorter than the "first half" — about 45% of the games remain to be played).
- 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 into 
- When a player first reaches or enters a league or level of baseball, such as breaking into professional baseball or AAA-ball or the major leagues. "Ruth was 19 years old when he broke into the big leagues on July 11, 1914, with the Boston Red Sox". "Gibson broke into organized baseball as a precocious youngster in 1930".
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."
Bronx Bombers 
- A nickname for The New York Yankees.
- 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 leaguers 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. "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.
bullpen session 
- 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 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.
bush league 
- 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".
businessman's special 
- A day game on a weekday.
bust him in 
- A very poor fielder.
butcher boy 
- 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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