The Houston Astros Sign-Stealing Scandal

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Even in football the QB doesn't have to yell as much or for as great of a distance as the catcher would and when it's noisy QB's use silent signals.

Before technology about the only way to really steal signals from an opposing team was when you had a runner on 2nd base.
Yeah, the huddle makes calling plays in football much more similar to line-outs in rugby.
 
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Was a joke wasn't it? I didn't know Bregman was a cyborg...

There's been some delays to the Red Sox investigation. Management have hinted that they think the Red Sox will be found innocent, but they've also said they're completely in the dark about the investigation so I'm not sure how much we can read into anything they say. most reports seem to be saying that it's not going to be as bad as the Astros. I can hope I suppose...

I heard Mike Bolsinger (Former Blue Jays pitcher) is suing the Astros over lost wages (he wants to donate it to charity). This could be the beginning of a very long, drawn out story. He had the worst inning of his career against the Astros, got sent down to the minors and never came back up. Whether he'll win or not I don't know, but it seems like a fairly legitimate claim.

As always (for baseball), Curt Schilling is worth listening to:

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1DexukUxTc
 
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I looked at his (Bolsinger) stats, and he was bad the last 3 years, not only against the Astros. His numbers were not much worse against them then any other teams in recent years. I dont see any correlation between them cheating and him just not being any good. Somebody said this on Twitter:

MIKE BOLSINGER:

Career record: 8-19 over 4 years

2014:
  • No games against the Astros
  • 5.50 ERA
2015:
  • No games against the Astros
  • 3.62 ERA
2016:
  • No games against the Astros
  • 6.83 ERA
2017:
  • Had 2 games against Astros
  • 6.31 ERA
You’re just a crappy pitcher my guy
 
His 2017 ERA in the Majors was 4.92. That's including the two games against the Astros.

In 2015 he had a decent ERA and he was injured in 2016. He also started to switch from a starting pitcher to a relief pitcher in 2017 for the Jays. I'm pretty sure I read that video analysis showed the Astros cheated during the game he gave up those runs that resulted in him getting sent down.

In 2018 he had a good season for Chiba and made the all-star game.

No one's claiming he's Clayton Kershaw, but he had enough to bounce around triple A and maybe the majors. Like I said, I'm not sure he'll win and it might be hard to prove that one innings was what did for him, but I think he at least has a case the Astros need to answer. Essentially he's saying that it wasn't his arm that determined if he stayed in the Majors.
 
Well I think the chances of the Red Sox being found guilty and severely punished are slim to none. The Red Sox are much more mainstream with tons more exposure and nobody benefits from them being punished. The Astros on the other hand are not a huge market team (from what I understand), their history isn't that rich (pun intended) and they were snitched on by a former player of theirs who himself was already doing questionable (at best) things to have his way on the mound, but he wasn't happy with the team, apparently didn't get the money he thought he'd get and the story began.
 
Like I said, I'm not sure he'll win and it might be hard to prove that one innings was what did for him, but I think he at least has a case the Astros need to answer. Essentially he's saying that it wasn't his arm that determined if he stayed in the Majors.
I agree he has a case, but it will be very hard to win. One inning is just too small a sample size. Even an elite pitcher can have a bad inning. Plus the analyses that have been published to date--particularly Tony Adams's record of all the times Astros hitters heard bangs when receiving a pitch--show that the benefit to the hitters, while potentially significant, was not huge. It's not like every time a hitter knew what pitch was coming he got a hit. As usual in baseball, it was a matter of a slight edge adding up over time. The greatest benefit seemed to be walking a little more often, and striking out a little less often. So while that could have contributed to Bolsinger's bad inning, a really bad inning would be more likely due to chance than to tipping pitches.

I think the chances of the Red Sox being found guilty and severely punished are slim to none.
I'm sure they'll be found guilty. The fact that Cora was fired was in anticipation of that, and I'd expect his suspension. But there isn't much more punishment that can be doled out, given that Manfred isn't going to punish any players. They have a new GM, who wasn't there when this was going on.
 
I've not dug into any of the analysis beyond what you linked in the first post @Merckx index , maybe I need to have a look around more now. I remember that all of the individuals they looked at had pretty big upticks in hits against off-speed pitches at home, but they hadn't looked at left pitches, is that still correct?

I don't know enough about Bolsinger's pitches, but if they knew that any off-speed pitch he threw wasn't going to be a strike, then that's an enormous advantage. I found this Washington Post article Bolsinger wrote and that looks like it could the the case. He also claims that analysis of tape showed they cheated more in this specific game than any other. The pertinent parts in case you can't read it (they limit the number of articles you can see for free):

Toward the middle of the 2017 season, I was transitioning into the role of relief pitcher. My first few games as a reliever made me optimistic: This could be my future in baseball. Then came the Astros game on Aug. 4, 2017, in Houston.

I remember the game vividly, because it was my last and worst in major league baseball. The stadium was packed. I live in Texas, so my wife and her friends were there. The Astros got off to a lead, and I was brought in during the fourth inning. The Astros seemed to know every pitch that was coming. I threw 29 pitches, and the Astros scored four runs off me in one-third of an inning before I was taken out. My pitches were getting smashed, and I ended up walking a few batters because the Astros appeared to know when to lay off. The postgame recaps said I had unraveled. I knew as I left the mound that this could be it; for a journeyman pitcher, a game that bad could be his last.
In January, the MLB commissioner confirmed that the Astros had cheated. The league suspended their manager and general manager, and the team fired them. Journalists and concerned fans began studying video from 2017. They figured out the Astros had cheated more often on Aug. 4 than in any other game that season.


I think the fact he was a journeyman pitcher and transitioning to a relief role adds weight to his claim. It'll be interesting to see if the Jays come out and say that this specific performance was a big part of why they cut him.



The Red Sox are claiming they have no idea what the outcome will be. So if they fired Cora for this then they know they're guilty. I'm holding out hope they're not, but I'm not stupid. I can't imagine Cora wouldn't have suggested it when he move to Fenway. If someone in the clubhouse, or a few people, stood up and said no, then why fire him? They know they didn't do it. Maybe they felt they had too, but I think what you suggest is more likely.

However, if that's the case then it doesn't look good hiring Roenicke, Cora's bench coach, as their manager, interim or not. I know they didn't have much time to look around, but if they're found guilty it's going to look very much like "meet the new boss, same as the old boss".
 
I've not dug into any of the analysis beyond what you linked in the first post @Merckx index , maybe I need to have a look around more now. I remember that all of the individuals they looked at had pretty big upticks in hits against off-speed pitches at home, but they hadn't looked at left pitches, is that still correct?
The best data have been published by Tony Adams, an Astro fan, who recorded every single pitch that was or was not signaled by one or more bangs in home games in 2017.

http://signstealingscandal.com/

He has data for the 60/81 home games for which video was available. Some of the conclusions emerging from this are:

1) Some Astros were signaled much more than others. Particularly interesting is Jose Altuve, who won the MVP that year, and had a month or two for the ages beginning in June, when the sign stealing scheme really took off. You would think he benefitted a lot, but in fact only about 3% of the pitches he saw were associated with bangs. Other players had much higher rates, e.g., Bregman and Springer about 16%, Marwin Gonzalez 25%. We don't know why this was the case; Carlos Correa insisted that Altuve told everyone he didn't want to use the system. To make the situation more complex, even in a single game, a batter might get signaled during some plate appearances, and not others. There's been speculation that maybe the Astros were using other means to signal than banging, but no confirmation of this from the team so far.

2. The banging seemed to be associated most often with breaking or off-speed pitches. More than 90% of fastballs were not signaled, so a hitter would know with pretty high certainty when a fastball was coming. On the other hand, a lot of breaking balls were not signaled, either, and multiple bangs were used, with it's not being clear, from the data, whether the number of bangs mattered.

3. An interesting analysis at FanGraphs suggests, as i noted upthread, that the biggest benefit would probably be taking more pitches outside of the zone, IOW, walking more and striking out less.

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/the-hypothetical-value-of-an-ideal-frictionless-banging-scheme/

We don't know how much the signaling might have affected hitting, but I went through the Adams data just for one hitter, Bregman (because he was signaled a lot, and is a very good hitter, though he was't the elite hitter then that he is now), and found his contact rate was significantly higher on signaled pitches, and he put more of them in play (relative to his rates for the whole season, which would include road games). Since I was only looking at signaled ptiches,i didn't look at his contact rates on fastballs, which would probably also be available.
 
I looked at his (Bolsinger) stats, and he was bad the last 3 years, not only against the Astros. His numbers were not much worse against them then any other teams in recent years. I dont see any correlation between them cheating and him just not being any good. Somebody said this on Twitter:
I dunno -- I honestly think previous stats have nothing to do with the claim. The Jays thought he was good enough to take the mound, and he got lit up by a team that cheated in pretty much every imaginable way. The Jays deemed him good enough to play and the Astros tore him to pieces. Previous stats have nothing to do with it. His chance at staying with a big league club were squashed by the cheating Astros. He never pitched in the major leagues again after that outing.
I really hope he gets fair financial compensation for what could have been a successful career. Who knows? He could have struck out the side and been on his way.

As an aside, I think the commissioner botched everything. He should have vacated the title and start fresh with new rules regarding sign-stealing. I think fans would have tempered their criticism to some degree if he did so. Now it's pretty much the wild west, and the Astros are going to be booed without mercy in every visiting ballpark for the entire season. There is no way that is not going to have a psychological effect on every player who steps to the plate. Manfred has let the dogs out, and I don't think it's going to be a pretty sight.
 
I dunno -- I honestly think previous stats have nothing to do with the claim. The Jays thought he was good enough to take the mound, and he got lit up by a team that cheated in pretty much every imaginable way. The Jays deemed him good enough to play and the Astros tore him to pieces. Previous stats have nothing to do with it. His chance at staying with a big league club were squashed by the cheating Astros. He never pitched in the major leagues again after that outing.
I really hope he gets fair financial compensation for what could have been a successful career. Who knows? He could have struck out the side and been on his way.

As an aside, I think the commissioner botched everything. He should have vacated the title and start fresh with new rules regarding sign-stealing. I think fans would have tempered their criticism to some degree if he did so. Now it's pretty much the wild west, and the Astros are going to be booed without mercy in every visiting ballpark for the entire season. There is no way that is not going to have a psychological effect on every player who steps to the plate. Manfred has let the dogs out, and I don't think it's going to be a pretty sight.
But the stats show that he was bad even before he played against the Astros. And no, I dont condone their cheating, but HIS claim is ridiculous. He did not lose his job because of that one game but because of a series of 3 years of bad play when he did not even face said team. Both things have nothing to do with each other. Bolsinger can be a bad player with or without the Astros cheating and then he would not get a job anyway. So the stats show that his statements are just flat-out wrong. Obviously Houston should be punished for what they did but Bolsinger is not really any more of a victim than any other player. And when talking about possible compensation that should be noticed. If he was a top 5 or top 10 player and had his worst career game against the Astros and lost his job I would understand it but he wasnt. He was just a mediocre player who would've had a hard time finding a new team regardless.
 
3 years of bad play? That's just not true. In 2015 he was the Dodgers 3rd best starting pitcher based on ERA+, 4th on ERA just behind Anderson. In 2016 he was injured and hardly pitched and in 2017 he was moving from starting to relief. It's very possible that this one game was enough to tip the scales against him. Maybe it would have happened without the sign stealing, but we'll never know. Proving it is going to be difficult of course, he'll need some of the people from the front office at Toronto to back him up.

As for him being no different to other players the Astro cheated, that's kind of the point. At the moment the Astros players have basically got off with no punishment. They get to keep their world series, any contracts they got of the back of it and the people who suffer are the people they took this from. Bolsinger would be a good test case. If he wins, and it's a big if, this could rumble on for a long time.

I'm not sure why you mention he didn't face the Astros in those years, seeing as the report says they only started stealing signs in 2017?
 
Teams have been conspiring to gain an advantage by stealing signs for as long as ball has had 108 stitches. All teams use basically the same set of signals when there's no one on base (1 finger for fastball, 2 for curve, etc) but change to bespoke signals as soon as there's a runner on base because the baserunner potentially could steal the sign and relay it to the batter.

In 1951 the Giants won the LCS when Bobby Thomson hit a walk-off home run, the legendary Shot Heard Around the World, off a stolen sign. The Astros probably weren't even the most prolific sign stealers in MLB, they're just the ones who got caught. All that has changed in the (almost) 70 years since is the amount of technology involved in the scheme.
 
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Teams have been conspiring to gain an advantage by stealing signs for as long as ball has had 108 stitches.
Pro cyclists have been conspiring to gain an advantage by using certain performance-enhancing substances.

All that has changed in the (almost) 70 years since is the amount of technology involved in the scheme.
All that has changed is the technology involved in producing the substances.
 
Blood vector doping changed everything. Nothing that came before actually made cyclists faster, it just blunted the fatigue. EPO is like installing an auxiliary heart.
That's exactly my point. The sign stealing scheme represents a similar quantum leap in efficiency.

And relieving fatigue is not that small a benefit. It does make cyclists in their normal condition at a certain point in the race faster.
 
Excuse my extra, extra ignorance, but why do the catcher and pitcher need to signal anyway? Can't the pitcher just throw the ball? Why does the catcher tell him what to throw? Seems the pitcher would know more about pitching than the catcher.
 
Excuse my extra, extra ignorance, but why do the catcher and pitcher need to signal anyway? Can't the pitcher just throw the ball? Why does the catcher tell him what to throw? Seems the pitcher would know more about pitching than the catcher.
In the first place, the catcher has to know what kind of pitch is coming, and where, in order to be prepared to catch it. Not knowing this ahead of time would be a potential disaster. The catcher would miss catching the ball far more often than is actually the case. Keep in mind that some of these pitches travel 100 mph or faster; from the time the pitcher releases the ball to the time it reaches home plate is about four-tenths of a second.

But knowing the pitch that's coming is even more vital now that pitch framing is appreciated. This is an art in which a catcher catches a ball that is on the borderline of the strike zone (as most good pitches are) in a way that makes it appear more likely to be a strike to the umpire. To do that, you want your glove in just the right place so that as the pitch hits it, it appears to be in the strike zone from the perspective of the umpire--even if subsequent video shows it isn't. The best pitch framers literally save their teams dozens or hundreds of runs by getting favorable calls on pitches that are either out of the zone, or would be more likely to be called out even if they aren't. To make this happen, the catcher has to set up before the pitch is thrown.

Second, while pitchers obviously know more about execution than catchers, they don't necessarily know more about what pitch to throw, and when and where and to whom. Pitchers only throw a few innings every few days, more or less. Catchers are out there every day. They have more experience with hitters, knowing what they will and won't swing at. They're also, obviously, up close and personal with the hitter, in a much better position than the pticher to pick up little slgns that might indicate what a hitter is planning to do or is expecting.

That doesn't mean the catcher always has the final word. Often the pitcher will shake off the sign, indicating he doesn't want to throw that pitch. Then the catcher suggests another. This happens till the pitcher agrees, so in this case, the pitcher's choice prevails, or at least he gets a choice more to his liking, But regardless, the two need to be on the same page.

The suspension is ridiculous.
I hope you mean because it wasn't long enough?
 
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No, it’s ridiculously long. It’s the equivalent of a 21 game, I think, suspension in a regular season. He wasn’t ejected, the umpires didn’t even have a word with him. The Correa pitch just looked like one that got away from him, I’m not even sure he meant to throw at Bregman except when he was at first. I don’t know what Manfred thought was going to happen, but essentially saying massive cheating is fine and we’ll actively protect you rather than suspend you was always going to result in this.
 
No, it’s ridiculously long. It’s the equivalent of a 21 game, I think, suspension in a regular season.
Do you understand that an eight game suspension for a pitcher means he misses just one start? You can't have a lighter penalty than that.

The equivalent to 21-22 games argument only applies to position players. A 20 game suspension for a pitcher would mean four missed starts, which would really hurt the rotation. One missed start is no big deal. It's a slap on the wrist, which is pretty mild, if you ask me, for doing something that could end a hitter's season--if not his career.

He was definitely pissed off at the Astros, as the entire Dodger team was, of course he was intending to hit those batters. Everyone knew this was coming, pitchers on other teams were throwing at the Astros during spring training back in March. Of course it was intentional.
 
Do you understand that an eight game suspension for a pitcher means he misses just one start? You can't have a lighter penalty than that.

The equivalent to 21-22 games argument only applies to position players. A 20 game suspension for a pitcher would mean four missed starts, which would really hurt the rotation. One missed start is no big deal. It's a slap on the wrist, which is pretty mild, if you ask me, for doing something that could end a hitter's season--if not his career.

He was definitely pissed off at the Astros, as the entire Dodger team was, of course he was intending to hit those batters. Everyone knew this was coming, pitchers on other teams were throwing at the Astros during spring training back in March. Of course it was intentional.
He's a reliever, he hasn't started a game since 2016. Do you understand not every pitcher is a starter?

He wasn't on the Dodgers team when they lost to the Astros, he was on the Red Sox.
 
He's a reliever, he hasn't started a game since 2016. Do you understand not every pitcher is a starter?
My bad, he began his career as a starter, and played that role until a few years ago. It doesn't change my argument, though. In eight games, Kelly would not miss more innings than a typical starter would in one start. A reliever will typically appear in about one-third of a team's games, and pitch for one or at most two innings in those appearances. In fact, a reliever is even more expendable, because there is no rotation to worry about.

In his best season as a reliever, Kelly was worth less than one WAR, which means that the suspension will have a trivial effect on the Dodgers's season. Particularly in light of the fact that they are strongly favored to win the division by a large margin.

He wasn't on the Dodgers team when they lost to the Astros, he was on the Red Sox.
Yes, the 2018 Red Sox, who also beat the Dodgers in the WS, and who were also accused of cheating. Kelly is the last player to be acting self-righteously.

When Kelly joined the Dodgers, he took on their enemies, regardless of whether he was on the team when the incident took place.
 
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