In one of my baseball games, our team faced a pitcher that threw batting practice speed. Regardless of how my teammates were performing at the plate, the one thing everyone agreed on is that we should be raking the ball. For those who are unfamiliar with baseball lingo, this phrase may sound a little strange. What does it mean to rake in baseball?
Rake in baseball refers to a batter who is hitting the ball very well. “Raking the ball” is generally associated with players who hit for multiple extra-base hits in a single game, but it can also be used to describe a team who hits for multiple extra-base hits in a single game.
Using the word “rake” as a way to describe a player’s hitting seems a little strange, so I decided to do some research around why baseball players say “rake” to describe someone who hits the ball very well.
Three Reasons Why “Rake” Means Hitting the Ball Well
As it turns out, there is not a lot of info on the internet about where the term “raking” comes from or why it’s used. It seems like the phrase has been used for a long time to describe the ball being crushed and people have naturally accepted it as a baseball saying.
In general, raking the baseball refers to a player or a team who frequently hits the ball for power in a short amount of time.
In my experience, this short amount of time could mean one game or it could mean two or three games in a row. “Raking” the ball doesn’t have a specific amount of time, it’s more of a general understanding that a player is seeing the ball well and hitting it hard in a short amount of time.
After doing some research, I was able to find three reasons why “raking the ball” is another way for saying that a player or a team is crushing the ball.
1) A Spray Chart Looks Like a Rake
If you imagine the end of a traditional rake you can use to rake leaves, you think of a tool that uses tines in an evenly spread out, but tightly fit formation. If you were looking at a baseball diamond from above, the shape of this rake is similar to a baseball diamond.
In baseball, players hit the ball all over the diamond and if you were to plot these hits as a spray chart, where each line represented where a player hit a ball, the visualization closely resembles a rake.
For a visual reference, I threw together the example spray chart below. As you can see, a spray chart that shows where a player or a team hit the ball can closely resemble a rake.
2) Outfielders Are Sometimes Called “Gardeners”
Baseball has been around for a long time and even though you no longer hear too many nicknames for outfielders, one of the more common nicknames that use to be used to describe an outfielder was “gardeners”.
The outfield used to be referred to as a “garden” so outfielders were consequently nicknamed “gardeners”. It wasn’t too far of a stretch to use the term “rake”, another gardening term, to describe a hitter who was easily hitting the ball all over the outfield.
3) “Raking It In” Means Bringing in a Lot of Money
Another possible meaning I found for how “rake” came to mean a player who hits the ball very well was found on https://edge-forums.nbcsports.com/topic/341619-origin-of-the-word-raking/. Unfortunately, this URL is no longer valid, but one person on this forum hypothesized that it came from the gambling term of “raking it in”.
When someone is “raking it in”, they are bringing in a lot of money. In other words, they are highly successful at whatever it is they are doing.
So I also hypothesize that “raking it in” translated over into a successful hitter in baseball. And eventually, this phrase was shortened to mean that a good hitter was raking the ball.
What Does it Mean to Wake and Rake?
There are a lot of baseball phrases that are a play on words and one of those phrases that came from the term “rake” was “wake and rake”. What does wake and rake mean in baseball?
“Wake and rake” is a phrase in baseball used to describe a player who starts their day by hitting the ball very well. A player who rakes a baseball is a player who is crushing the baseball whenever they bat, so a player who wakes up ready to hit the ball hard is ready to wake and rake.
In fact, if you’re a fan of the phrase “wake and rake” you can even order a Wake and Rake t-shirt from Amazon.
Pitchers Who Rake
Most people who follow Major League baseball know that pitchers aren’t known for being great hitters. There are a handful of exceptions, but pitchers who are in the batting order are usually placed at the very end of the batting order.
Because of how rare it is to see a pitcher hit the ball well, it’s easy for fans to get excited whenever they see a pitcher who can rake. What does pitchers who rake mean?
In baseball, “pitchers who rake” is a phrase used to describe pitchers who can hit the ball very well. Pitchers who can rake are known for hitting a lot of extra-base hits, which are a rare occurrence in Major League Baseball.
Unlike with other position players, pitchers are on a pitching rotation so you don’t normally see the same pitcher in the batting lineup every day. Because the same pitcher isn’t in the batting lineup every game, pitchers tend to practice pitching a lot more than they practice hitting. This leads to pitchers being below-average hitters, which makes it even more incredible to see pitchers who can rake.
A great example of pitchers who rake is when Zack Greinke hit two home runs in one game. The MLB also included the phrase “pitchers who rake” in the title of this video to convey the excitement of seeing a pitcher raking the baseball.
Raking the Field in Baseball
Although raking in baseball is a way to describe how well a hitter is performing, I don’t believe this article would be complete without mentioning that sometimes raking in baseball is simply referring to players raking the actual baseball diamond.
In general, the home team is the team that is responsible for the maintenance of the baseball diamond. So after each game, the home team will put away equipment, make sure all the dirt holes are filled, and rake the infield.
Sometimes the team will rake the field with an actual rake and sometimes they have a small tractor with a metal drag mat attached to the back. In either scenario, the infield needs to be raked to fill in any holes and to prevent uneven surfaces on the diamond.
So in the correct context, raking in baseball could mean that a team needs to actually rake the infield. But in general, raking in baseball refers to players crushing a baseball when batting.
How to Rake in Baseball
Raking in baseball is not easy to do. It takes time, patience, and a lot of practice to become a great hitter. In order to be a great hitter, it helps to study how other players became great hitters.
To become a player who can rake the ball, learn more about these 12 characteristics of highly successful hitters.