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Former Astros pitcher weighs in on pitch tipping during ALDS Game 5

'It's the game within the game.'

(FreeImages.com/lkwolfson)

HOUSTON – Getting an edge in baseball has been common in the sport for a long time. Pitchers tipping their pitches to opponents has always been in the spotlight and even more often during the postseason.

Here we are in Mid-October and yes, the chatter is back thanks to the Rays' Tyler Glasnow who started against the Astros in the decisive Game 5 Thursday night at Minute Maid Park.  

Only seven pitches into the game Glasnow was greeted by his pitching coach.

Glasnow was roughed up by Houston in the bottom of the first giving up four runs. Social media conversation grew rapidly as many were watching the broadcast and could clearly tell that Glasnow was tipping his pitches to the Astros hitters in the bottom of the first inning.  

Curve balls down the middle were taken. Same with a Glasnow 98 mph fastball. Astros hitters made it obvious they knew what pitches were coming just like some former players did when they posted on Twitter.

So what's behind Pitch Tipping and how does it happen so often on the big league level? 

I made a trip out to Tomball and caught up with former Astros Pitcher Chris Sampson who was a starter and reliever from 2006 through 2010. Sampson now works for Dynamic Sports Training (DST) at their Tomball facility at Premier Baseball.

"The thing about Major League hitters when they walk up to the plate they are looking for any kind of edge. It's hard enough to hit, " said Sampson. "If they know what's coming it will be easier to hit, and they are looking for that edge."

Sampson added all eyes on the pitcher means looking for anything, any movement that stands out and is consistent. As Sampson put it, "it's the game within the game."

"If he's coming to set position and his hands are higher like Glasnow did, it was a fastball. If it was below the logo at the chest it was a curve ball. Major League hitters will pick up on any detail like that."

"If my finger is out of the glove and it wiggles some players notice that. We all watch each other in the dugout to try and help each other. Roger Clemens wanted his checkpoint watched and had the hitting coach keep an eye on things as well."

"In the heat of the moment, pitchers are trying to make a pitch and you don't think about it. Pitchers have to think about the little things, so they don't give an edge to Major League hitters," added Sampson.

So it's on to the ALCS now and make sure to watch closely at the way the hitters approach things in the box and the communication between the pitchers and catchers and the dugout conversations.  Glasnow was giving it away in the first inning then made adjustments and settled down. 

"Cameras are everywhere nowadays in baseball. You've been aware of that. It's not cheating. As a pitcher and you tell the hitters what is coming. No doubt it's just like offensive lineman in football. When you are giving away a run or pass play the defense will pick it up and adjust," said Sampson.