MLB will allow players to use PitchCom devices this season, according to ESPN.
What is PitchCom, exactly? It’s basically a high-tech version of the play call wristband quarterbacks wear.
Using a pad with buttons on the wrist of the gloved hand, a catcher can signal pitches — pitch type and location — directly to the pitcher through a listening device.
Up to three teammates of the pitcher and catcher will also have access to the signals, aiding fielders in positioning.
The main motivation is to protect against sign-stealing and gain more distance from the subsequent scandals that have plagued the sport for years now. But the new accommodation could have a secondary benefit: Increasing pace of play, which is up there with climate change among the long-running challenges of the nation.
USA Today reports about half the big league clubs are expected to use PitchCom. The Yankees are expected to be one of them as they further embrace their role as the self-appointed keepers of the anti-cheating flame.
“I think it was great,” righty Luis Severino told reporters after using it during a spring training appearance last weekend. “I was a little doubtful at the beginning, but when we started using it, it was really good — with a man on second, too. I would definitely like to use it in my first start [of the regular season]. … You know what pitch you’re going to throw right away.”
Added Aaron Boone during a YES hit: “It went really well. We really liked it. We want all of our guys to use it as much as they can. We’ll see. But I would say the early returns are we think it’s something that can be a real positive.”
This will be portrayed as some huge scientific revolution for baseball, but it’s really not. High school and college teams have been giving signs like this for a while, albeit without such a sophisticated setup. But we do have one question: Why, exactly, does this system involve any sort of audio? Can’t it just spell out the signs like a text message?
The voice component feels like the next inevitable area to be exploited. Some enterprising team is going to figure out how to intercept the calls. Or interfere with them so pitchers can’t hear them (or hear the wrong ones). You can apparently custom record calls. What if someone hacks the Yankees and does a great Kyle Higashioka impersonation?