A list of the most common baseball phrases and their meanings: Understanding baseball lingo

A list of the most common baseball phrases and their meanings: Understanding baseball lingo

Ciku Njuguna
updated at February 13, 2024 at 11:54 AM

Slang terms, idioms and official baseball phrases make up what is regarded as the delicious language of baseball. Additionally, these phrases have become a staple in everyday language. Dig in for a list of the most used baseball terms.

Common baseball phrases
A list of the most common baseball phrases and their meanings: Understanding baseball lingo. Photo by Adam Bettcher.
Source: Getty Images

This article dives into the language of baseball, defining terms and phrases used on the pitch and in match reports. Dive into a comprehensive list of baseball phrases and their meanings and understand the baseball lingo better.

What are some of the most used baseball phrases?

Baseball phrases and slang make up one of the most unique sports languages. Some of the most used baseball phrases and sayings share bizarre backstories, such as cans of corn, butcher shops and hot stoves. This comprehensive list of the best baseball phrases has been compiled using the official MLB glossary and other sources.

What are the most common baseball phrases and terms?

While ardent fans easily follow a conversation in this language, it may seem foreign to new fans. Have a look at the most common phrases specific to baseball and their meanings.

1. Ace: A team's best-starting pitcher. An ace on a baseball team typically starts during the first game of the playoff series.

2. Appearance: An appearance is credited to a pitcher when they pitch in a game. On the other hand, a plate appearance is credited to a batter for each completed turn at the plate.

What are the important terms related to baseball?
Dovydas Neverauskas of the United East All-Stars pitches against the West All-Stars at Dubai International Stadium on November 24, 2023. Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz/Baseball United.
Source: Getty Images

3. Assist: An assist is a standard defence statistic awarded to fielders who touch the ball or throw the ball to another player.

4. Balk: This is a pitching statistic used to describe when a pitcher makes a deceitful pitching motion on the mound.

5. Baserunner: This refers to a baseball player who attempts to run to the next base once a pitch is thrown.

6. Complete game: A complete game is awarded to a pitcher who pitches for an entire game.

7. Can of corn: This idiom refers to a fly ball thrown to the outfield that is easy to catch. The term's origin can be traced to store clerks in the 19th century who pulled down and caught cans of corn stored on high shelves like a fly ball.

Which term is associated with baseball?
Colorado Rockies' right fielder, Michael Toglia, caught a fly ball at Coors Field on August 29, 2023, in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Justin Edmonds.
Source: Getty Images

8. Designated hitter: This is one of the terms that refer to baseball positions. The designated hitter is a player who takes the batting position in place of the pitcher.

9. Doctoring the baseball: This term refers to one of the newest rules prohibiting players from intentionally doctoring the ball by damaging, defacing or discolouring it. Players who doctor the ball with saliva, dirt or any other foreign substances receive an immediate ejection and an automatic 10-game suspension.

10. Eephus: The eephus is a pitching type thrown with little speed and velocity. Coined by Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Maurice Van Robays, the pitch is favoured because it can easily catch the hitter off guard. An eephus pitch can also be called a slowball, an overhand softball pitch, a folly floater, or a space ball.

Which term is associated with baseball?
A Boston Red Sox player throws an Eephus pitch. Photo by Vincent Alban/The Boston Globe.
Source: Getty Images

11. Error: One of the defence stats awarded to a fielder when a poor play allows runners to advance to the next base. It is also called a blunder, miscue, mishap, or an E.

12. Extra-base hit: This is a baseball hit type such as doubles, triples, and home runs that allow the runner to advance to the second base.

13. Fielder right of way: According to the MLB glossary, the fielder has a right of way when attempting to field a thrown baseball. A penalty is conferred to players and coaches who attempt to obstruct or interfere with the fielder's right of way.

14. Foul ball: This is a batted ball that falls out of the demarcated fair territory.

What are the important terms related to baseball?
Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt in action against an LA Dodgers catcher at Chase Field on May 23, 2012, in Phoenix, Arizona. The hit was deemed a foul ball. Photo by Christian Petersen.
Source: Getty Images

15. Foul tip: The MLB glossary defines a foul tip as a ball that is batted sharply and directly into the catcher's glove. The catch is deemed legal.

16. Golden sombrero: A report by Sports Brief defines a golden sombrero as a term used when a batter or a hitter strikes out up to four times in one baseball game.

17. Green light: A signal or prompt from a coach allowing a hitter to prompt a manager to give a hitter permission to take a 3-0 pitch if they have a strong possibility of reaching the next base.

18. Hit: A baseball put into play by a batter's strike, allowing them to advance to the next base safely. There are four types of hits in baseball: singles, doubles, triples and home runs.

19. Hill: Another term for a pitcher's mound.

What are baseball idioms?
The aerial view of a professional baseball pitcher on a mound throwing a pitch. Photo by Thomas Barwick.
Source: Getty Images

20. Home plate: A 17-inch square of whitened rubber where a batter stands when batting.

21. In the hole: A batter in line to bat after the on-deck batter. The term's origins can be traced to airport carriers during World War II. Also known as 'in the hold', the term is used interchangeably with 'on deck' to refer to the following two batters in line.

22. Inherited runner: This is a baseball position term that refers to runners who occupy the bases when a relief pitcher is called to play.

23. Jump: A defence statistic that describes a player's reaction time, burst or acceleration and route. According to MLB's official glossary, the statistics' leaderboards are occupied by players with the fastest reactions and most direct routes in the outfield.

24. Junk: A junkball or junk pitch is a pitching type such as a curveball, slider or knuckleball. The pitch is typically made with a lot of movement and low velocity, which is hard for the catcher to catch.

What are the baseball related terms?
Minnesota Twins' Royce Lewis strikes out during a game against the Houston Astros at Target Field on October 10, 2023, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Adam Bettcher.
Source: Getty Images

25. K: This is one of the sport's idioms used interchangeably with a strikeout.

26. Knuckleball: Abbreviated as KN, the knuckleball is one of the rare pitching types used on the diamond. When throwing a knuckleball, a pitcher uses as slight rotation on the ball as possible, causing it to flutter or float erratically through the air with no lack of spin.

27. Launch Angle: Abbreviated as LA, the launch angle is an offence statistic, the angle at which the baseball ball is launched from a player's bat after being struck.

28. Loss: a pitcher is awarded a loss when the run that is charged to him or he gives the opposing team a go-ahead run in the game, giving it a lead.

29. Maddux: Coined by baseball pundit Jason Lukehart, the term named after MLB Hall of Famer Greg Maddux is a statistic awarded to a starting pitcher who throws a complete game in less than 100 pitches.

What are baseball idioms?
Greg Maddux of the Atlanta Braves pitched during the National League Championship Series against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium on October 17, 1999, in Flushing. Photo by Jamie Squire/Allsport.
Source: Getty Images

30. Mendoza line: The term gained popularity in the 1980s as a good-natured joke about Mario Mendoza's slump. Today, the meaning of the Mendoza line in baseball stats refers to a .200 batting average.

31. No-no: In baseball slang, a no-no refers to a no-hitter.

32. Nubber: A number refers to a weakly batted ball that travels on the ground for a short distance.

33. Obstruction: The obstruction rule referred to by this term is used to prevent fielders from impeding a baserunner from advancing to the next base. As a consequence of obstruction, the ball is ruled dead.

34. Out: Alternatively called a putout, an out occurs when the umpire puts the player at bat out of play.

What do they say at baseball games?
Baltimore Orioles' Billy Ripken gets the put out during an MLB game circa 1990 at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Focus on Sport.
Source: Getty Images

35. Pea: This term is slang for a batted ball travelling at high velocity.

36. Pickle: A pickle or run down occurs when a baserunner is caught between bases.

37. Quality Start: This pitching statistic refers to a starting pitcher's quality performance, where they pitch in not less than six innings and allow less than three runs.

38. Quick Pitch: This is an illegal pitch made without pause in a deliberate effort to catch the batter off guard. As a rule, a quick pitch is prohibited as it can cause injury to the batter.

39. Rhubarb: The meaning of rhubarb in baseball slang can be traced to a 1938 scuffle between a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and a New York Giants fan. The term is used to describe a fight.

What do people say at baseball games?
A scuffle breaks out during a match between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates players on June 24, 1972, in Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Herb Scharfman/Sports Imagery.
Source: Getty Images

40. Run: The run makes up part of scoring in baseball. A player achieves a run when they cross the plate.

41. Shortstop: This term refers to a baseball player positioned between the third baseman and the second-base bag.

42. Southpaw: Like in boxing, the southpaw refers to a pitcher who uses their left hand.

42. Tools of ignorance: Washington Senators catcher Herold 'Muddy' Ruel, who played between 1915 and 1934, coined the term in reference to a catcher's safety equipment.

44. The hot stove: This term refers to the Major League Baseball offseason. Notably, the term hot stove refers to the period around Winter Meetings when transactions, trades and free-agent signings occur.

45. Utility player: A baseball player who can occupy multiple positions.

What are slang terms for hitting a baseball?
Cleveland Indians' Jim Thome hit a grand slam during a game against the New York Yankees on October 13, 1998, at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. Photo by Ezra Shaw.
Source: Getty Images

46. Uncle Charlie: This slang term refers to a curveball.

47. Vulture: Coined in 1966, the nickname Vulture was given to Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Phil Reagan and was nicknamed 'The Vulture'. Today, the term describes relief pitchers who receive credit for a win or 'steal' a win from a starting pitcher.

48. Velocity: This is a pitching statistic used to evaluate the speed of a pitch.

49. Wheels: This baseball slang phrase refers to a player's legs.

What are the baseball related terms?
Arizona Diamondbacks' Tommy Pham runs home during a World Series match against the Rangers at Globe Life on October 28, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos.
Source: Getty Images

50. Whiff: When a baseball player whiffs, their attempts to hit the ball are unsuccessful. It is also referred to as a hit, miss, or strikeout.

51. Yakker: This term is another name for a curveball.

52. Yips: The yips refer to a player's sudden and involuntary inability to pitch a ball. Wrist spasms can cause this phenomenon.

Final inning

Hundreds of baseball phrases and slang are adopted from player positions, pitching types, rules, injuries, and defensive and offensive statistics. Like its language, all fascinating sports traditions unite fans and players.

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Sports Brief published a collection of the most funny memes about baseball. As a sport, baseball gives joy to its players and fans. Memes contribute to the fun and passion experienced by both avid and casual by capturing some of the most hilarious moments of the game. Click the link above for a taste of top memes to bat away the blues.

Ciku Njuguna photo
Ciku Njuguna
Ciku Njuguna is a journalist with 3 year’s experience in content creation based in Kenya. She currently covers sports personnel as well as team biographies.