Teams have stolen signs since baseball’s invention, but Major League Baseball was moved to step in and halt the practice after the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, which rocked the sport after the 2017 and ’18 seasons. The league is also looking for ways to speed the pace of games, and the introduction of PitchCom this season was supposed to assist with that while preventing teams from stealing signs to gain advantages.
Not everyone is a fan, though. New York Mets starter Max Scherzer finally tried the tool on Wednesday and afterward said it shouldn’t be in the game.
“Here’s what I’ll say about PitchCom: It works,” Scherzer said after leading the Mets to a 3-2 victory and a series sweep over the Yankees. “Does it help? Yeah. But I also think it should be illegal.”
What is PitchCom?
PitchCom is an electronic device that allows catchers to transmit pitch signals to pitchers. It was first used last season in the minor leagues and implemented in the majors in 2022 after teams tried the device and liked using it during Spring Training.
The multi-piece device includes a wristband worn on the catcher’s arm with a set of 12 buttons mapped to pitch types and locations. Once entered, the button sequence transmits a robotic voice to the pitcher that he hears via a speaker embedded in his cap. (For example: “Slider low away.”) Catchers also wear a speaker to ensure that the buttons they pressed led to the correct pitch instructions. The audio signals can come in any language, and teams can also program a sign to tell the pitcher to throw to first base.
Not all catcher wear their PitchCom device on their wrist, however.
Does it work?
By and large, yes. Even Scherzer admitted that.
There have been problems, like the system not working as intended and sending the wrong pitch and/or location to the pitcher, which have led to delays during games. Sometimes catchers and pitchers give up and go with traditional hand and finger signs.