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Ground Control to Major Tom: How PitchCom is Impacting the Game

Some brief—and remarkably positive—thoughts on PitchCom

Oakland Athletics v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Thus far in 2022, the average length of a Major League Baseball contest is 3 hours and 10 minutes (according to ESPN)—basically unchanged from the last few years. In a very literal sense, this represents a failure on MLB’s part in its ongoing quest to make overall game times start with a “2” instead of a “3”. But much like how speed does not equal velocity (see, I learned something in high school physics), the pace of a game is different from its length. That is where PitchCom comes in.

To be honest, one could be forgiven for not having noticed PitchCom’s insertion into MLB whatsoever, seeing as how it flew under in the radar in the new CBA. After years of catchers putting down fingers to convey signs to the moundsman, most—it is still an optional decision—batteries are now using the PitchCom device strapped to the backstop’s wrist for communication purposes.

Oakland Athletics v Philadelphia Phillies
Which button makes Mario jump?!
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The contraption—as pictured above and in the article header—looks remarkably like the Nintendo Power Glove, but fortunately for all involved functions far better. The catcher selects the pitch type and location via the push of a few buttons, and that selection is routed to an earpiece in the pitcher’s cap.

Ostensibly, PitchCom was put in place to vanquish telescopes in the outfield, buzzers in the turf, Apple Watches transmitting messages, and trash can banging schemes—all ways in which MLB clubs have tried to steal signs.

Houston Astros Vs. Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in ALCS
Granted, technology may eliminate wonderfully creative signs like this :)

Maybe I’m just overly excited to have baseball back after the lockout settlement, but I have noticed what I believe to be a distinct uptick in the pace of MLB games thanks to PitchCom. The numerous pitching changes and lax enforcement of the pitch clock are still doing the length of games no favors, but the streamlined catcher-to-pitcher communication seems to make the on-field action lag a bit less. Nothing I can quantify—just a feeling honed by years of watching baseball. No more pitchers squinting towards the plate for signs and often misinterpreting their lightning-fast execution, necessitating a full reset and/or mound visit. Now, the pitcher is rocking and firing after the push of a few buttons.

Of course, as I’m sure the more tech-wary amongst us are now screaming from the rooftops, eventually the PitchCom frequency will be hijacked by the opposing squad. This will either be used to: A. Communicate the pitch/location to batters; or B. Jam the signal in favor of public radio or Top-40.

But in the brief interim before the hackers inevitably win, it certainly seems like MLB might be on to something with PitchCom.

Poll

Have you noticed a pace-of-play increase attributable to PitchCom

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Yes
    (56 votes)
  • 22%
    No
    (23 votes)
  • 23%
    Sorry—what? I was digging out my old Power Glove from the attic
    (24 votes)
103 votes total Vote Now