MLB Approves PitchCom to Limit Sign Theft

The old finger signals and the theft of the sign will soon be obsolete in Major League Baseball. Teams will begin using electronic devices that send signals from catchers to pitchers starting today.

The system, officially unveiled Tuesday, includes a push-button transmitter, worn on the wrist on the side of the catcher’s glove, which sends the desired type of pitch to the bone-conduction earpieces inside the pitcher’s caps. and any three other players. appointed by the team.

MLB says about half of the 30 teams have indicated they will open the season using the system, and the league expects others to join once they become more familiar with it this year.

Tested during spring training, the system was designed to eliminate the temptation of teams to use illegal means to steal signals, as teams have done throughout baseball history. The added urgency for a new system was felt after it was revealed that the 2017 Houston Astros used banned technology to steal signals and send them to the batters on their way to winning a championship.

Almost all signal theft – including an accepted method of testing base runners to detect signs – begins by spying on the catcher’s fingers. But even the above methods may become obsolete.

MLB says the communication system, known as PitchCom, is encrypted, and that the league has other systems in place to prevent hacking or signal interception.

“We’ve done a lot of hard work there, and we feel like that’s great,” Chris Marinak, MLB’s chief operating and strategy officer, said at a news conference Tuesday.

During the initial test, Marinak said, MLB saw that the system helped speed up the course of the game. With traditional finger signals, pitchers will stand on the rubber and focus on the catcher while the signals are relayed.

Under the new system, pitchers pick up signs as they walk around the hill and collect themselves, so that when they get on the rubber, they’re ready to throw. This does not prevent pitchers from shaking their catchers and the unusually open disagreement between pitchers and catchers in pitch selection.

Most clubs say they have a pitcher, shortstop, second baseman and center fielder to wear earpieces, Marinak said, and they can hear recorded, customized words like “fastball down and away. “

No team or pitcher is required to use PitchCom, and teams may have some pitchers using the system and others not.

Other technology initiatives for the future include microphones for umpires to communicate with ballpark fans and television viewers. The umpires, who have received training before the season, will explain the rules and details of the manager’s challenges on field calls, as do football referees.

Teams also have access to tablets in their dugouts that display video of the latest at-bats, all controlled and delivered by MLB The system is intended to center and limit videos that teams have access to. during games. Video clips of the pitches begin about half a second before the pitch is released, eliminating “99.9 percent” of all signs displayed by catchers, Marinak said. Teams will not have access to videos until the end of each half inning.

The league will also expand the use of robot umpires in the high minor leagues – but they are limited to calling balls and strikes. Pitch clocks, which limit the time between pitches, will be used for all minor league games as a prelude to its potential use in major leagues in the coming years.

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