Baseball Terms Glossary
(Starting with "B")
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This is an alphabetical list of selected unofficial and specialized terms,
phrases, and other jargon used in baseball, and their
definitions, including illustrative examples for many entries.
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 most famous backdoor slider
may be the one that Kirk Gibson hit off of Dennis Eckersley for a game-winning
home run in the first game of the 1988 World Series, which the Dodgers
went on to win.
- 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.
- A batter who excels at hitting pitches that are outside the strike
zone. Notable bad ball hitters include Yogi Berra and Vladimir Guerrero.
- 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.
- A batter who sees a pitch coming toward his head may "bail out" (hit the deck).
- When two fielders are converging on a fly ball, one of them may "bail out" to avoid running into the other.
- A relief pitcher may come into the game with men on base and bail
the previous pitcher out of a jam.
- 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.
- A short downward swing intended to make the ball rebound off 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 the ball can be
fielded by an infielder the batter will reach first for a base hit.
This was a tactic of the Baltimore Orioles of the National League in
the 1890s. John McGraw is supposed to have had the earth in front of
home plate compacted for this purpose. When it happens in the modern
game, it is more often simply a result of poor contact that just happens
to aid the batter-runner.
- A ballpark with small dimensions that encourages offense, especially
home runs. A crackerbox.
- A baseball player's term for 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
- 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.
- 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 hit.
- A single. Also see knocks.
- 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."
- 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".
- 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.
- 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 says " Nice catch Hayes, don't ever
(expletive) 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.
- When each of the nine players in the lineup makes a plate appearance during
a single inning.
bat the ball
- To hit the ball with the bat -- whether into fair territory or foul.
- 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
- 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
- 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 batters 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. Henry Chadwick
coined the term, drawing from the military sense of the term artillery
battery. It also suggests a play on words, as its activities center
on the batter.
- A pitcher and catcher from the same team.
- 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 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 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 Adrian 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.
- The period, often before a game, when players warm up or practice their hitting
technique. Sometimes the term is used to describe 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
- A strong throwing arm. A gun, a cannon, a rifle.
- 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
- 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
less 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 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."
- 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.
- 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.'"
- A long home run.
- 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.
- A nickname for Major League Baseball
- 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.)
- 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
- 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."
- A blown save (BS) is charged to a pitcher who enters a game
in a save situation but allows the tying run (and perhaps the go-ahead
run) to score. If the pitcher's team does not come back to win the game,
the pitcher will be charged with both a loss and a blown save. 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 in a way that's analogous to won-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.
- Rhymes with "closer". A closer who seems to get more blown saves than
- A term commonly used by players to address 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.
- 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.
- A young player who received a signing bonus.
- Extra innings. Also called "bonus cantos" by Yankees announcer
- 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."
bottom of the inning
- The second half or "last half" of an inning, during which
the home team bats, derived from its position in the line score.
bottom dropped out of it
- 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
- 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.
- batting practice.
- Devotees of baseball research also sometimes refer to Baseball Prospectus
- Bats right; used in describing a player's statistics, for example: John Doe (TR, BR, 6', 172 lbs.)
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.
- 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."
- To pitch; often used for a fastball: bring the gas, bring
the heat, bring it.
- 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.
- 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.
yankees bullpen is ridiculous.
- 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.
- 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.
- A slang term used to describe play that is of minor league or unprofessional
quality. The "bushes" or the "sticks" are small towns
where minor league teams may operate, the latter term also used in the
acting profession, famously in the Variety headline of July 17,
1935, "Sticks nix hix pix", meaning small towns reject motion pictures
about small towns. A "busher" refers to someone from the "bush leagues":
see subtitle of Ring Lardner's first book, "You Know Me Al: A Busher's
- A day game on a weekday.
bust him in
- To throw a fastball in on the hitter's hands. Also: tie him up, in
- A very poor fielder.
- 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.
See all sports glossaries:
Published - February 2011
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