In the world of baseball, every advantage counts. Pitchers and batters are constantly searching for any clue that could give them an edge over their opponents. One such advantage is the art of pitch tipping, where subtle signals can reveal the type of pitch that’s coming. In this breakdown, we explore a fascinating case where a pitcher’s glove gives away the secret, leading to an onslaught of home runs.
Unveiling the Glove Trick
The sequence begins with a powerful swing on a fastball, resulting in a home run. The next batter faces a slider and replicates the same outcome with another big swing. Then, two batters later, a curveball is met with yet another impressive swing and a home run. At this point, the pitcher, Kopeck, is left pondering what the opposing team knows that he doesn’t.
The Glove Revelation
Little does Kopeck know that this breakdown is brought to you by Shady Rays, one of the sponsors. But more importantly, the opposing team has deciphered a hidden secret regarding his curveball. They have noticed something peculiar in his glove that gives away the impending curveball, allowing them to prepare for the pitch. The question is, what exactly are they seeing?
The Thumb Flare Technique
Former professional baseball player Trevor Plouffe, known for his acute observation skills, tipped us off on this discovery. When closely examining the glove, there is a noticeable difference in how Kopeck positions his thumb. During a curveball, his thumb flares up, creating a gap between the thumb of the glove and his skin. In contrast, for other pitches, his thumb remains flat against his wrist, with no visible gap.
Picking Up the Clue
Batters have sharp eyes and pay close attention to such details. They have become adept at spotting the thumb flare technique and use it to their advantage. In slow motion, the distinction becomes even clearer. As Kopeck twists the grip, the thumb flare technique comes into play, leaving a visible gap between the glove’s thumb and his skin. This is the telltale sign for batters to expect a curveball.
Unraveling the Fifth Inning Mystery
In our earlier statement, we misspoke when we mentioned that Kopeck didn’t throw any curveballs until the fifth inning. He actually threw two or three curveballs in the fourth inning. These pitches were the turning point, as the Giants’ batters or their reviewing team members noticed the thumb flare technique. The secret was out, and they were ready to capitalize on this newfound knowledge.
The Battle at the Plate
With this insight, the Giants’ batters step up to the plate, fixated on Kopeck’s glove. Conforto, the first batter, diligently observes the glove. When the thumb flares up, indicating a breaking pitch, he anticipates a curveball. However, Kopeck throws a fastball, leaving Conforto swinging under the ball. The next pitch, with the thumb flat against the skin, suggests a fastball, and Conforto adjusts his swing accordingly.
Decoding the Glove Signals
The Giants’ strategy becomes apparent as Tyro steps up to bat. Kopeck throws a slider, and the glove remains flat, indicating a non-fastball pitch. It seems that the Giants’ hitters have focused primarily on recognizing the curveball through the thumb flare technique. Jack Peterson, who previously hit a home run, falls into this pattern and misreads a changeup, unaware of the subtle glove cues for non-breaking pitches.
The Glove’s Influence
Despite the Giants’ hitters knowing which pitch is coming, success is not guaranteed. The ability to predict the pitch type doesn’t automatically translate into home runs. The batters still need to execute their swings effectively. The pitcher’s skill and variability also play a significant role in the outcome. Nevertheless, the advantage gained by recognizing pitch tipping is undeniable.
Adjustments and Frustrations
As the game progresses, Kopeck’s pitching coach realizes that the Giants are picking up the breaking pitches exceptionally well. He advises Kopeck to stick to fastballs and avoid tipping off the curveball. Kopeck adjusts accordingly, keeping the thumb flat against his skin for fastball pitches. Frustrated by the situation, Kopeck faces the batter, knowing that every thought in his mind could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The Power of Observation
The batter, now aware of the potential glove trick, examines Kopeck’s hand carefully, searching for the subtle clue. The glove reveals a flat thumb, indicating another fastball. The batter eagerly awaits the pitch, ready to unleash his swing with confidence. Four home runs in five batters stand as a testament to the effectiveness of recognizing pitch tipping and the psychological advantage it provides.
Expanding the Repertoire
With the Giants’ left-handed hitters at the plate, Kopeck and his team decide to reintroduce the changeup into the mix. They believe the focus on breaking pitches may have caused the Giants to overlook the changeup. By keeping the thumb flat against his skin, Kopeck successfully disguises the changeup, catching the batter off guard.
The End of an Era
Despite the efforts to adjust and overcome the pitch tipping situation, the game takes its toll on Kopeck. The pressure mounts as he gives up four home runs, and his composure begins to waver. The pitching coach recognizes this and makes a crucial decision, opting to replace Kopeck with a new pitcher. The breakdown serves as a vivid reminder of the incredible power of the human eye in detecting subtle cues and the need to protect one’s vision.