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Elephant Rumblings: MLB will allow anti-sign stealing technology this season

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Happy Wednesday, Athletics Nation!

It looks like signs may be sealed and delivered this year via PitchCom, a system that allows catchers to send audio pitch calls from a wrist worn device. Buster Olney at ESPN reported yesterday that MLB sent a memo to teams detailing approved usage of the new devices, which have been tested during Spring Training this year. Primarily designed to prevent sign stealing, the devices apparently may also help improve the pace of games.

The system involves a pad with buttons worn on the catcher’s wrist that sends signals to listening devices worn by the pitcher, catcher (for verification), and up to three other teammates on the field to aid positioning. MLB chief operations and strategy officer Chris Marinak stated that PitchCom eliminates the need for hand signals and that from “what we’ve seen so far, it really improves pace of game.”

The system does have some detractors, but per Olney, reviews have generally been glowing. Yankees pitcher Luis Severino said he would like to use PitchCom in his first start of the season after testing it in a Spring Training game last Saturday. Luddites and traditionalists will be allowed to stick with the old ways this season if they want, but Olney believes widespread adoption is inevitable.

So it’s official! Teams can ditch the hand signs in 2022 and there seems to be little downside to PitchCom, provided the information it transmits remains secure. And if it really improves the pace of games, it will be a nice bonus and one pretty unobtrusive way of accomplishing that aim. I’m very interested to see how quickly the A’s might embrace this solution.

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