Following the game, Hammel had this to say:
I don’t think you can take swings like that, not knowing they’re coming. There’s rumours and things like that, I don’t know. I can’t speak on that but they were taking very, very strong hacks on breaking stuff. It’s something I’ve never seen before.
Hmm. Is Hammel referring to the mysterious man in white story that ESPN: The Magazine reported on last year? You remember. The story that accused the Jays of going to elaborately laughable lengths to steal signs.
Well, his not quite accusations might have a bit more bite if, you know, it was actually his breaking pitches that the Blue Jays were bashing over the fence at Rogers Centre. All four of the solo home runs tonight were hit off of Hammel’s fastballs.
Overall, Hammel gave up nine hits on the night. Other than the four home runs, he gave up the following:
- a double with 0-1 count to LHB David Cooper on a curve ball;
- a single with 1-0 count to RHB J.P. Arencibia on a slider;
- a single with 0-0 count to LHB Omar Vizquel on a fastball;
- a single with 0-0 count to RHB Edwin Encarnacion on a fastball; and
- a single with 1-1 count to LHB Omar Vizquel on a fastball.
So, of the 48 combined curve balls, sliders and change ups that Hammel threw tonight, Blue Jays hitters connected on two of them for base hits.
Let’s look at those two instances. The first was Cooper’s double, which came on a 0-1 count. So far this season, in that situation against a left handed batter, Hammel has thrown a curve 23% of the time, his most often used breaking pitch. The second was Arencibia’s single, which came on a 1-0 count. So far this season, in that situation against a right handed batter, Hammel has thrown a slider 22% of the time, his most often used breaking pitch.
While in both situations, it’s more likely that Hammel will throw a fastball, it’s hardly unbelievable that a smart batter, properly prepared for Hammel’s repertoire, wouldn’t have been looking for the pitch that was hit in that situation.
But we probably don’t even need to look that deeply into the individual outcomes to deem the Blue Jays innocent of stealing signs. Let’s just use some common sense: Is it more likely that a) a baseball team would have a secret way of stealing signs to alert batters to incoming breaking pitches; or b) a baseball team would follow analytics to know what type of pitch chains their opposing pitcher is most likely to throw in a given situation?