In a sport like baseball or softball, there is a lot more that goes into the game plan than meets the casual eye. One aspect of strategy is signaling that takes place from the catcher to the pitcher. Today, we will be talking all about catcher signals for the beginner who may not understand the system. Here is a guide to catcher signals!
What Are Catcher Signals?
Catcher signals are methods to relay information from the catcher to the pitcher or other positions in the field. Obviously, yelling out the plan will tell the other team what you will do, so the signals are there for silent communication amongst your team and your team only.
There are a number of catcher signs and uses thereof, but the most common and consistent catcher signal is to tell the pitcher what pitch to throw. These signals come in the form of the catcher’s hand displaying numbers and sequences to tell the pitcher what to throw.
Common Pitch Signs
Catcher-Pitcher Signs by Type
Although these will vary slightly, there are some common finger signals that are known to correlate to certain pitchers. This is a super-easy way for catchers to tell pitchers what to throw next.
- Fastball =1 finger
- Curveball = 2 fingers
- Slider = 3 fingers
- Changeup = 4 fingers
These signals will change depending on the pitcher and what they have in their lineup. For example, knuckleballs, 2-seam fastballs, cutters, and many other pitches may need to be thrown into the mix if the pitcher throws them.
Catcher-Pitcher Signs by Location
Catcher signs also are there to tell pitchers where they should try to throw the ball. This is super important because the location is just as crucial as the pitch itself.
There are a couple of ways to signal location, and the type you use depends on the situation. You can quite simply tilt your head, as the catcher, to the side of the plate that you want the pitch to be at. This is not very secretive, so there are two other ways to signal location.
The most common for beginners and younger athletes is to point or tap the signal hand in a specific location. For example, if you want the pitch to be inside, you tap the inside thigh. If you want a pitch high, point upward.
The most advanced and subtle way to signal location is by integrating a number system similar to how you choose the type of pitch.
Catcher Signals Chart
When you have a series of signals designating where the pitch should be and what it should be, you have created a series.
Catchers show these series super fast and in various combinations to throw off potential onlookers. Here are some examples of catcher signal series that you could use.
Alternative Methods to Calling Signs
There will be certain situations where the way signals need to be presented changes. Whether it be because of the weather conditions, lighting, the thought of the other team peeking, or anything else, you may need to improvise.
The easiest way to do this is by changing the location of the signals. For example, instead of down below the crotch area, you can move them to the chest or helmet areas. Of course, this is less than ideal, but you have to think quickly when interesting situations arise.
When moving the signs to a more exposed area, you need to be more conscious about changing them up and keeping the competitors on their toes. Changing up your sequences and making up new ways to signal is a good way to keep important information hidden.
One interesting workaround for the lack of visibility is with painted nails, for whatever reason it may be. You will see this sometimes in the MLB when catchers paint their nails bright colors so the pitcher can see the signs.
Changing Signs With a Runner on Second Base
Sign stealing and signaling to the batter has been an age-old issue that does not have a good workaround. However, there are a few things you can do to mitigate that issue.
Now, sign stealing happens the most when there is a runner on second base. They will have a clear view of the catcher’s signals. The best way to throw in some confusion is by making the signal series more complicated.
This requires a bit of planning, but the catcher and pitcher should plan for a series of signs. For example, the catcher will flash four signs, and the pitcher will only care about the second one shown.
If a situation like this comes up, you can have a rule in place between the catcher and pitcher to automatically switch to the series system, or the catcher can call timeout and talk to the pitcher at the mound.
Other Catcher Signals
Although most of what we have discussed so far has been about relaying signs from the catcher to the pitcher for specific pitches, there are a few other aspects that the catcher is in charge of coordinating.
Pickoffs are fairly common for a catcher to do to hold runners close and potentially get an out. Now, the catcher must signal that a pickoff is coming. If a baseman is not holding the base in a good position to receive a throw, it could be a horrible mistake to throw down.
Catchers can create signs to let basemen know that a throw will be coming. It could be as simple as exchanging a certain look or tapping the outside of their leg.
Pitch-outs have been created to put the catcher in the best possible position to get an out when the defensive team senses a steal might be coming. The pitcher will throw a chest-high pitch outside of the strike zone so the catcher can be ready to throw to second or third base. This sacrifices a ball to the count, but it is much easier to throw someone out with a pitch-out.
There are certain situations when the hitting team may want to bunt to score a run or move runners. Teams have strategies to help mitigate any bunting advances. It is usually the coach’s or catcher’s job to relay the specific plan to the rest of the field. For example, it could be bringing the corners in or telling the middle infielders where the catcher might throw when fielding a bunt.
This signaling style is usually accomplished by standing in front of the plate and touching certain parts of the body.
The hold runner sign is the same as the pickoff signal, but the catcher will not throw the ball. This sign is used to keep the runners close without actually throwing and potentially making a mistake.
Tips for Catcher Signals
Be Ready to Mix It Up
Today’s game is full of people trying to get the slightest edge. As a catcher, you need to be prepared for that. Mixing it up and changing the series of signs and presentations will keep your competitors on their toes.
Keep It Simple
Overcomplicating the signs with a ton of information and different series will only make things worse. Of course, you want to disguise your signals, but they are worthless if they are too complicated for the pitcher to understand.
At the end of the day, as a catcher, do not be afraid to call timeout. Leave the plate and talk to the pitcher whenever someone is confused about a sign. Calling timeouts plays it safe and makes sure everyone is on the same page.