On False Evidence

In an ESPN: The Magazine piece from this week, Amy Nelson and Peter Keating collaborated to report on allegations that the Toronto Blue Jays are stealing signs and signalling to batters via a mysterious man dressed in white who sits in right center field at Rogers Center.

While the evidence that the two writers present is mainly anecdotal, they also attempt to use statistics to point to Toronto’s supposedly outlandish success at home in 2010.

In 2010, the Jays swung at 48.9 percent of pitches, the highest rate in baseball. They hit just .269 on balls in play, the lowest in baseball by 12 points. However, they led the majors with 257 home runs, 46 more than the next-highest squad. In fact, the 2010 Jays had the highest isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) of any team since 1954. That’s what enabled Toronto to score 755 runs (ninth best in MLB) despite an abysmal team on-base percentage of .312 (fifth worst).

A huge proportion of the Jays’ power comes from their home ballpark. In 2010, Toronto blasted a whopping 146 homers at Rogers Centre, just seven homers shy of the all-time home record set by the Rangers in 2005.

Fair enough. Toronto played very well at home in 2010. But don’t teams in general play better at home than on the road? And is Toronto the only team that did this based on power alone? The article brings up isolated power numbers and attributes the Blue Jays’ offensive success to the team wide increase in power, by suggesting that “a huge proportion of the Jays’ power comes from their home ballpark.”

If we take a look at ISO home and away splits on a team by team basis we learn that Toronto has the highest rate at home and the second highest on the road. However, both the Rockies in the thin air of Colorado and the White Sox in Chicago have a larger positive difference in home and away splits than Toronto. In fact, the Blue Jays’ biggest accuser of fishy business, the New York Yankees, have a .046 difference in ISO between home and away, while the obvious cheats in Toronto have a .047 difference in ISO for the 2010 season.

The difference between home and away splits among the top five teams at home in terms of ISO:

  1. Toronto Blue Jays, +.047
  2. Colorado Rockies, +.074
  3. New York Yankees, +.046
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks, +.037
  5. Chicago White Sox, +.056

The article also suggests that individual players on the Blue Jays playing better at home than away is somehow evidence of foul play:

Several Jays had extreme splits in 2010. Bautista, for example, had a 1.118 OPS (on-base plus slugging) with 33 homers at home but an .879 OPS and 21 dingers on the road. First baseman Adam Lind had a .759 OPS with 15 homers in Toronto but a .660 OPS with eight bombs on the road. Second baseman Aaron Hill? His home-road OPS split was .730-.605. Shortstop Yunel Escobar was traded from Atlanta to Toronto in July 2010, and he has an .865 OPS at Rogers as a Jay but a .683 mark on the road. And then there’s Vernon Wells. The outfielder had a .990 OPS and 21 home runs in Toronto last season but crashed to .699 with 10 jacks away from Rogers Centre. This past winter he was traded to the Angels and has a .552 OPS in Halos home games.

Yeah. The home and away splits for Adam Lind and Aaron Hill are the biggest statistical anomaly for those two players in 2010, definitely not the .220 and .165 respective drop offs from the previous season.

We’ve already established that yes, the Blue Jays had more power at home than on the road, but that’s hardly anything unique when compared to other teams that relied on power hitting last season. Picking and choosing individual performances as signs of a massive home field advantage isn’t an honest sampling by any means. For ever Bautista and Escobar that performed better at home last year, there was an Edwin Encarnacion or John Buck who performed better on the road.

Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to look at the entire team’s OPS, and not just a select few? And from there, shouldn’t we look at how other clubs with good numbers at home last year performed on the road compared to the Blue Jays’ apparently staggering difference.

Let’s take a look at the difference between home and away splits among the top ten teams at home in terms of OPS:

  1. Colorado Rockies, +.212
  2. New York Yankees, +.090
  3. Boston Red Sox, +.027
  4. Texas Rangers, +.084
  5. Toronto Blue Jays, +.063
  6. Chicago White Sox, +.087
  7. Cincinnati Reds, +.042
  8. Arizona Diamondbacks, +.102
  9. Minnesota Twins, +.026
  10. Detroit Tigers, +.049

Of the top ten, five have a higher difference between home and away OPS than the Blue Jays, which to me suggests that if Toronto is stealing signs and signalling to batters from center field, they’re either not doing a very good job of it, or they could learn a thing or two from five other teams in baseball.

Even if you wanted to believe that signs from center field would make a difference for individual players, if he knew that it was coming, wouldn’t you expect Jose Bautista to hit more than two home runs off of change ups at Rogers Centre last year?

The real crux of the ESPN argument can be found in the work of Colin Wyers from Baseball Prospectus who finally compares Toronto to other teams and finds that:

Only the Blue Jays, and not their opponents, got a home run boost in Toronto. When the Jays were on the road in 2010, they hit home runs in 4 percent of plate appearances in which they made contact, compared with an AL average of 3.6 percent. At Rogers, their home run on contact rate soared to 5.4 percent, which is a home-field advantage seven times the magnitude teams typically enjoy.

What I’d be very interested in seeing is how other teams’ home runs on contact rates at home compare to their road split, which the article doesn’t offer. In 2010, the Blue Jays hit 67 more home runs at home than they gave up, which seems especially large considering that the next closest team was the Chicago White Sox who hit 34 more home runs at home than they gave up. However, this number appears to be a bit smaller when we see that Toronto also hit 40 more home runs than their pitchers gave up on the road, compared to those same White Sox who only hit nine more home runs on the road than they allowed. Again, Toronto emerges as having the largest split in home runs for versus home runs against at both home and away.

As a Toronto Blue Jays fan, I’m not so much of a homer as to blindly believe the defenses of Alex Anthopoulos:

That never happened, will never happen, not even a possibility. If it did happen, we’d be winning a lot more games at home. I think it’s a nonstory because no one ever has picked up the phone and called me about it. It’s never been an issue, and I would expect them to do so if it was.

Or Rogers Centre beneficiary Jose Bautista:

First of all, I don’t even know how you can do that. And second of all, it’s obviously something that’s not legal in the game. We do not cheat.

Both defenses sound somewhat similar to the “Who me? I wouldn’t even understand why you’d do that” explanation that Anthopoulos provided when rumours started circulating that his organization had a pre-draft agreement in place with first round pick Tyler Beede.

However, it’s pretty hard to use a single season’s worth of data to prove very much at all. It becomes even more difficult to take the supposed findings of an article seriously when the data that’s being provided is being manipulated with words to the degree that it is in this piece.

As we read through the anecdotes that begin the article, which range from the words of an angry reliever in the bullpen to broadcasters noticing the use of multiple signs, it reads to me as though the writers heard the anecdotes first and then went to the data to back up what was being suggested, which is always a dangerous way of going about interpretation, because it leaves a ton of data for another person to pick over (namely, me) and do the opposite.

Between the picking and choosing of numbers and the lack of comparisons to other teams, critically thinking about the piece ends up weakening their argument in a fashion I assume Nelson and Keating didn’t intend.

As for the anecdotal evidence, I can’t shake the belief that if stealing signs in this fashion was as wide spread at Rogers Centre as its being made out to be in this article, it would’ve gone to the commissioner’s office to be investigated long before it went to two ESPN reporters. The evidence being presented here isn’t a film crew getting caught filming an opposing team’s practice, it’s the meanderings of a few opposing players combined with picked over numbers being used to prove a point that doesn’t seem to exist.

That is the very opposite of convincing.

Generally speaking, if you summarize your article like this, you probably didn’t set out to do what you may have intended:

By themselves, these numbers are circumstantial evidence. Unsupported by data, the four players’ accounts might describe a scheme of uncertain impact. And without proper context, the Yankees’ decision to mask their signs could be chalked up to paranoia. But together, the numbers, the stories and the actions indicate one certainty: Every pitch to a Blue Jay in Toronto is worth watching.

Comments (77)

  1. personally, who gives a fuck? I’m pretty sure more than half the teams in MLB steal signs.

  2. jays to finder pointers: pix or gtfo

  3. *finger maybe works better….jeez.

  4. If you’re not following J.P. Arencibia on Twitter, now would be the time @jparencibia9. The dude’s on fire talking about this story.

  5. I found the story more convincing that you, but I completely agree that there needs to be more comparative analysis with the splits for other teams.

  6. Also, how practical is it considering everything a batter has to concentrate on, to be squinting to see a dude in right fucking field dressed in white trying to relay signs accurately. I think if that were happening, it would actually hurt the hitters. Have Nelson and Keating ever even tried to hit a baseball before?

  7. J.P. is amazing. I just can’t wrap my head around this – Tickets bought for RCF first row in section 101 – you better believe I’m wearing white. http://t.co/2pBnQEd

  8. Also, the rogers centre has a huge park factor, being 3rd in the league for runs above average and 4th in home runs above average according to ESPN. it makes sense they would be hitting better at home just due to the park they play in

  9. Parkes,
    I disagree that taking team OPS is a good way to do it. Here’s why: presumably not everyone on the team was/is aware of the mysterious ‘man in white’. Let’s say only Bautista, Lind and Hill were ‘in’ on what he was doing. This makes sense given that two of them were locked up long term, and that you don’t want guys who might be leaving shortly (Gonzalez, Buck, etc) to know a) your team is cheating b) how they are doing it.

    Again, the Jays have dozens of cameras recording each game. This seems like it would be pretty easy to verify. I’m surprised ESPN the magazine doesn’t have any photographic or video evidence.

  10. Amen Parkes. At least the Jays are finally getting attention on ESPN!

  11. That the authors couldn’t find one former Blue Jay who’d confirm their suspicions speaks loudly. That they didn’t bother quoting one denial is shoddy.

  12. There are so many things wrong with that article. It looks like it’s still being written, as JP’s tweets have been added to the article now, about halfway down, 20 or so paragraphs in.

  13. Excellent. Rip them a new asshole. So bush league. Thanks ESPN

  14. “However, I’m not really sure on the wording of this point either: If the American League average of home runs on contact in visiting ballparks is 3.6%, how can 5.4% be “seven times the magnitude teams typically enjoy” at home for home runs on contact?”

    The way I interpreted this quote was to mean that the difference in road home runs per contact and home home runs per contact was 7 times greater than the average difference. As in, the average home runs per contact on the road was 3.6%, but the average home runs per contact at home was 3.86 (approximately 7 times less than the 5.4% that the Jays are posting).

    Now I don’t claim to know if this is true or not, as I haven’t actually gone out to look at the actual statistics for teams, but this is how I interpreted the quote.

  15. Here’s all you need to know, until the video evidence comes out (never):
    “An MLB spokesman said “Major League Baseball has never received a complaint from any club about sign stealing in Toronto, and this is first [we've been] made aware of it.”"

    Thanks for the press, ESPN. No press is bad press.

  16. Couldn’t you virtually do this with every team in baseball, and all their splits will be better at home than on the road?

  17. “If the American League average of home runs on contact in visiting ballparks is 3.6%, how can 5.4% be “seven times the magnitude teams typically enjoy” at home for home runs on contact?”

    My guess? That the average of home runs in home ballparks is approximately 0.25 greater than the home runs hit in visiting ballparks. So the Jays’ 5.4 is seven times the magnitude of the difference.

    They just cut out the math.

  18. Brian not only beat me to it, but explained it better. Damn him!

  19. Look, I think it’s an interesting take. It is kind of strange that the Yankees mix up their signs with no one one base…but, the biggest problem with the article is that it cites statistics that are very inconclusive as fact. To say “Allegations of Sign Stealing May have a statistical Base” while providing some qualifiers about how park factors usually require a 3 year sample size, and how a free-swinging-pull hitting approach would lead to a low batting average, low OBP and high ISO if you connected on a lot of those HRS. Also couldn’t hurt to mention that BABIP is low because HRs aren’t included. A high ISO and Low Batting average don’t mean you know what’s coming…just look at Arencibia this year…

    Also they mention that 5.4% home run rate when they make contact and show a graph vs Opponents HR rate. 2010 does see a spike….but there is almost the exact same spike in 2006…So did they decide to stop stealing signs? Or is it more likely that these statistical anomalies are possible in a small sample size?

    It just seems sloppy to put an article on the main page of ESPN basically saying “The statistics show the Jays steal signs” without hard evidence or even suggesting that there is another explanation. There may be something there, but these stats confirm nothing.

  20. The ESPN article is not being taken seriously enough. This is what I take from it:

    1) From 2005 to 2009, Skydome is not a home run hitting park at all. Mysteriously, in 2010, it soars to being in the top 3% of all ballparks since 1950.

    2) On the road, the Jays were barely better at home run hitting than their opponents.

    3) At Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays were many times better than the visitors. So much so in fact that the home park advantage was the 3rd highest over the last 60 years.

    Combine these statistics with the (in my view weak) anecdotal evidence, and you have a strong case IMO.

    So of course, the Jays aren’t the only team that plays better at home than on the road. But even if you adjust for the park factor by taking only games played at Rogers centre, the Jays are suspiciously better than their opponents. Anyway, I’m by no means sold. Just saying this needs to be taken much more seriously.

    For one, I can’t believe there wouldn’t be some video of this guy, somewhere.

    Second, I can’t believe that we as fans wouldn’t have noticed it.

    Third, I would expect all of our hitting numbers to imporve at Rogers, not just power. If you know the pitch that’s coming, it should affect our ability to get all types of hits.

    Much of what you have written misses the point.

  21. Bautista’s home OPS this year is basically the same as last year. The difference is that he’s now tearing it up on the road as well. Is someone feeding him signs on the road?

  22. @yt

    Why would they only relay these signs to a few players? If you’re cheating wouldn’t you go all the way?

  23. Last year the Jays were basically instructed to ‘grip it and rip it’ and walks bedamned, we wanna watch them sock some dingers.

  24. GOT HIM!

    Just kidding. But take a look at this Snider home run from last year. It’s May 1st 2010 vs the Athletics. There’s roughly 10 people in right-centre field so it’s easy to spot anyone in white.

    There’s a person in white in the first seat beside the black tarp in centre in what appears to be the first row.

    I’ll be looking through more videos to see if I find anything more conclusive.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=7735311

  25. “2) On the road, the Jays were barely better at home run hitting than their opponents.”

    Per Dustin’s article, they hit 40 more homers than their opponents while playing on the road. Not as good as the +67 that they had at home, but still, you know, *really freaking good*.

    That Skydome turned into a launch pad last season was a bit weird, but I’ll accept a one-season anomaly like that since it’s obviously happened before.

  26. Parkes, I think that they Home/Road splits are definitely telling but what I would also like to see would be the Home team/Visiting team splits in certain parks such as Arlington, Coors, and Yankee Stadium relative to Rogers’ Center. I think that that was what the article was citing to show evidence to sign stealing at some points during the article…and obviously they should have included the comparison to other parks.

  27. The ESPN article now has a video interview with Amy Nelson and during it, they show video from what’s supposedly one of the disputed games. The clip ends with JPA swinging and missing on a CC Sabathia change-up low and inside. Good job ESPN, great evidence!

  28. awlang,

    it has to do with human elements. how many people do you consider your confidants in a workplace? circle of trust, fokker.

    a manager (or whomever organized such a thing) would be unlikely to tell people they don’t trust in the long term.

  29. If you know anything about Amy K. Nelson’s background, you know that she is and has never been a very good writer. It’s sensationalism at it’s best/worst. She throws out ridiculous evidence just to get attention.
    She also picks on a team that no one in the US cares about so as to not offend a majority of MLB fans. What about the guy with the earpiece that Keith Olbermann spotted at Yankee Stadium behind home plate? No expose on that.
    My first reaction was anger but now I know it’s just bush league-ish yellow journalism. One more hack trying to get exposure.

  30. @yt

    Good point.

  31. yt – Bautista was not signed long-term as of last season. He wasn’t even a full-time player entering the season. Hill’s option was declined by the Jays. Vernon Wells, who was locked up forever and was considered untradeable, has said nothing despite being referenced in the article.

    I don’t see this.

  32. In terms of trusting people in the long term, why would they get Jose Bautista in on it if they started in late 2009 stealing signs? Or even early 2010. Surely management didn’t know that he was going to become this great of a player.

    If ESPN can find some evidence of this ‘man in white’ giving signs apart from a guy in a Jays jersey sitting in the outfield, I’ll be a little more convinced.

    I still think it’s hilarious and awesome that the Blue Jays have been doing this if it is true, and wondering why the hell Aaron Hill hasn’t got any of these signs.

  33. Stephen. From article:

    “When the Jays were on the road in 2010, they hit home runs in 4 percent of plate appearances in which they made contact, compared with an AL average of 3.6 percent.”

    I haven’t checked his numbers (or Parkes), but to me an improvement of .04% is barely better, especially compared to the mammoth 1.8% improvement at Rogers.

    Just saying we should suspend our knee jerk reaction here, and take a closer look.

    BTW. DIdn’t mean for my previous comment to come across as aggressively as it did. I think the article is the best discussion I have seen so far on the issue. Most others dismiss the charge out of hand as being circumstantial and don’t deal with it at all.

  34. Apparently Karabell and Law discuss it on today’s Baseball Today podcast. I’d love to hear what Law thinks of this.

  35. 1967ers,

    The whole point of having confidants is knowing they won’t sell you out when things don’t turn out the way you plan…getting traded, for example.
    Bautista’s deal could have been in the works last year. Heck, maybe it was his idea. Who knows.

    I’ve been looking at more HR from the dome last year and I don’t see anyone, even in Yankees games, sitting where they are saying wearing all white…the home team’s colour, for the record…not exactly a good way to stick out in a crowd.

  36. “and wondering why the hell Aaron Hill hasn’t got any of these signs.”

    He just read the article, slapped his head, and realised that hands-up means fastball, not off-speed.

    Return to all-star production is imminent.

  37. “The next day, the players who had seen the man in white headed to the field early. One stood in the batter’s box while another stood on the mound. From the batter’s box, it was clear the man in white had been perfectly positioned just above the pitcher’s head so that the batter would not need to move his own head, or even alter his gaze, in order to see his signal. “It’s premeditated,” said one of the AL players, “as if the guy was a sniper trying to find the best position to make a shot.”"

    This is fucking bullshit. The spot above the pitcher’s head is occupied by 2 fucking closed off black tarp sections. It’s not possible for the batter to receive these so-called signs without having to “even alter his gaze”.

  38. I love that it’s “4 AL players” – are they even from more than one team? Or did one of the “writers” hang out with the Yankees bullpen at the bar after a game? lol.

  39. I agree with ESPN – attempting to sneak a peak at a catcher flashing a sign is a transgression far more grave than pumping your all-star third baseman full of anabolic steroids and then subsquently lying about it.

    Clearly, the future integrity of the game is at stake here, people.

  40. Yt – You don’t really have those kinds of things in baseball. The Jays had a vested interest in making Wells absurdly productive. Could they then turn around and move him and expect the secret to be held? Why would you confide in a guy with no history of power? A guy who had all of three homers heading into September of ’09?

    Others have dissected his swing and found significant differences that could lead to sustained power numbers. This is every bit as viable, if not more.

    Personally, I’d like to see the Jays data with Bautista’s surge removed. Given his home/away splits from last year (which have largely vanished this year with no loss in home production), that may have been enough to account for most of the variance.

  41. @ Shane “I’ll be looking through more videos to see if I find anything more conclusive.”

    More conclusive than a guy at a ball game wearing a white T-shirt? Just stop there. Case closed. Someone should get Shane to watch the Zapruder film.

  42. Amy K Nelson is actually pretty hot for a libellous hack. Of course I’m watching her interview on mute b/c of work.

  43. 1967,

    you don’t have what? basic interpersonal relations? not being pro ball player, i can’t say for sure. but my guess is that they do indeed exist everywhere…except in glenn beck’s head.

  44. yt – I don’t think you have that degree of trust in anyone, given the fluidity of modern rosters.

  45. so, half the roster was in on it, just too terrible at baseball to have it help them hit more HR at home than on the road?

  46. As a general rule, hitters dont like having white things behind the pitcher….because the ball is is white. Personally, if I was designing this, I would have my guy in a different colour.

  47. If it worked that well at home, don’t you think the team would have paid this same guy to travel to every single stadium with the team and plop him out in CF?

  48. Keith Law said some of the evidence is circumstantial, however the article was ‘excellent’.

    Ugh.

  49. What a ridiculous article. There is no way to connect these anomalies in the stats if there is no actual evidence available to show signs are being relayed. Who are these mystery players making the allegations, and how do we know they are telling the truth? Why didn’t they videotape or photograph him? How has no one else seen him? Why is Jose Bautista’s claim the argument wasn’t about that not be believed, but a left anonymous player’s claims are taken as the truth?
    I am just more concerned about the loads of people who will read this and not know any better, thus give the Blue Jays a bad name for no reason. Awful journalism.

  50. So Ms. Nelson was a beat reporter for the Red Sox. Surprising eh? http://www.overthemonster.com/2009/9/24/1052960/interview-with-espn-bostons-amy-k

    It also seems like she’s a good buddy of Jussell Martin, the big accuser and turncoat:
    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/otl/news/story?id=6535882

  51. @Ray:

    Adding Amy K. Nelson to a “Hot or Not” list would both marginalize the importance of her work AND drive her five-star apeshit.

    Make it happen, brother, make it happen.

  52. A few comments.

    First, I would imagine that if you look hard enough you will see a person in white sitting in every section of the stands.

    Second, even if he was raising or lowering his hands it may not have anything to do with relaying signs.

    Third, until some evidence shows up that this individual was sitting in the same seat for all or most of the Jay’s home games it is impossible to extrapolate what happened during one game or series over the entire year.

    Fourth, even if the individual was receiving the signs and relaying them there would have to be some evidence connecting him to the team. If he was raising his hands but the team was unaware of why it is a moot point.

    Fifth, there is a very short period of time (a few seconds at most) between the time that a catcher puts down a sign and the pitcher goes into his wind up. If someone was able to see the sign, relay it to someone in the stands who would then process the information, raise or not raise his hands, with the batter watching the stands instead of the pitcher, it is difficult to imagine that this would be of much benefit.

    Sixth, assuming that there was proof that the person in white attended all home games for 2010, raised and lowered his hands to indicate pitches, was part of a team-wide conspiracy, and was able to improve the Jays hitting against the Yankees then, as Stoeten might write, for fuck’s sake please don’t fucking stop!

    Seventh, the whole ‘unnamed sources’ crap makes me ill. If a Yankee pitcher threatened to throw a ball at Bautista’s head and actually threw something high and inside over the past year then this would be an issue for MLB to seriously investigate..

    There. Now I feel better.

    KK

  53. @ Ray:

    Putting Amy K. Nelson on a “Hot or Not” list would both marginalize her as a serious reporter AND drive her five-star apeshit.

    Make it happen, brother, make it happen.

  54. he also said that people think this is an old-tymey cito tactic

  55. Amen Dustin…this isn’t like the patriots situation where someone was caught filming another team’s practice. There is no evidence, just some rumors, and some flimsy stats. The amount of twitter responses that just take it as truth is pretty depressing.

  56. @Allan: He has to…he works for the company

  57. Then why dont other teams throw at the jays more? or knock them down?

  58. @sheldon its not even rumours. Usually you should be able to attribute a rumour to someone thats alive. The fact that they made no effort to get new commentary from even one person on the record is unbelievable. Really not a single Jay that has left recently would comment on this?

  59. I totally understand that Travis, I’m not sure what people were expecting him to say. He wasn’t going to rip into ESPN on their podcast.

  60. My brain is about to explode.

  61. I would have to agree with KK, if anyone from the Athletics throws something up and in tonight to Bautista, and even comes close to hitting him, I will jump out of my seat and sort out the Athletics myself. And I am sure if someone on the Blue Jays Roster has read the article on ESPN, then I would hope he would do the exact same thing tonight or any other night.

    On another note, if a player was traded away from Toronto, and is playing against the Jays, maybe the White Sox, why wouldnt they tell their manager. I am sure Frasor would say something if Bautista hits a bomb off him in the Rogers Centre.

  62. My big issue – I don’t think the stats cited can’t prove what the authors want them to.

    The authors go out of their way to cite the fact that the Yanks and Sox mix signs with no runners on as evidence that sign stealing is occurring. The implication being that by mixing signs you can successfully foil the “man in white” and his posse. Instinctively this makes sense because without knowing the indicator sign, you couldn’t know with any certainty what the next pitch would be (which is why this is standard practice for all teams with runners on). Further, it would seem to me that if this is common knowledge around the league, then other teams would adjust accordingly to keep it from happening.

    So unless the Blue Jays are stealing signs for every batter in every at bat (which the authors, Joe Girardi, the four unnamed players, and every pitcher/catcher who have ever allowed runners on base, seem to think can be easily overcome just by mixing signs), then a statistical analysis which includes every Blue Jay at bat for every player is not useful because it includes at-bats in which signs could not be stolen. At best, by the author’s own logic, their studies should only be focussing on the differences in at bats with no runners on.

    I am not saying the Jays don’t steal signs (it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they do in some form), I’m just saying I dont’ think that you can use the statistical evidence cited as proof that they do.

  63. Parkes tweeted about an excellent Tom Tango post that basically debunks the whole thing benefiting the Blue Jays.

    http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/article/stealing_signs_in_toronto/

    Story should be a non-story now.

  64. I’d said the same thing on twitter, but I don’t particularly care about the actual practise of stealing signs. What I care about is the libellous “reporting” based on nothing but circumstantial evidence that would not happen to other teams. I can’t quite decide which is worse, this or “have to ask the question”. As a Jays fans, *this*, since it’s on an international scale of bullshit reporting.

    The only thing I’ll say to people who say hitters should be locked in enough at the plate it wouldn’t matter what a guy at that distance was doing, that’s not exactly a valid claim. I remember reading in a “rules of baseball” book (title only vaguely correct) that members of the Jays staff fully admitted to signs (in I think it was the 80s). They would signal the type of pitch by standing up or down in the bullpen.

    Of course they were isolated rather than in a crowd, but same distance. Of course the most jackass amongst us could comment about the Jays lack of fans in the outfield stands anyway.

  65. Also, for Parkes – you might want to look at fixing the scrolling of the comments system when you have a post that gets popular enough for multiple comment pages.

    Opening the post takes you to the most recent page of comments, rather than the first. The problem though, is that when you try to click the “older comments” it links to “http://blogs.thescore.com/comment-page-1/#comments” – which just takes you to all the Score blogs on one page, rather than comments for this specific post.

    In the past for other posts I’ve been bored enough to correct and paste it with the specifics for this blog/post so I can read the comments, but that takes a lot of damn dedication.

  66. Tango article starts like this: “And sign stealing would go beyond just batted balls. Walks, strikeouts, the whole thing comes into play.”

    It then proceeds to make argument on the basis of OPS.

    I don’t think the premise (that sign stealing would asssit in drawing walks) is correct. Remember, the tip is only whether the pitch is a fastball or off speed. It doesn’t disclose location. It is not obvious to me how having some general info on the speed of the pitch assists in discerning balls and strikes. Fastballs and off speed pitches can be thrown for either.

    Anyway, the post certainly doesn’t make it a non-story.

  67. that article gave me hope….that one day ME a normal guy can be a columnist/reporter for ESPN…

  68. I love that this article came out.

    It’s obvious bullshit. There is no way that a team could keep something like this secret with the player and manager movement that is always going on in MLB. And how the fuck does our mysterious man in white see the signs and relay them quickly enough to benefit the batter? Ridiculous.

    The only thing this article really tells me?

    The Yankees, Red Sox and perhaps other teams in “America’s Game” are scared shitless of the up and coming Jays.

  69. And 10 mins later i learned nothing… what a waste of time. Oh well, no0w i can listen to Sid and Tim

  70. One of the best posts you’ve made on the blog… great work, Parkes!

  71. @Kathryn THATS SO FUCKING ANNOYING!

  72. no publicity is bad publicity! this story just drove more people out to the dome, mainly wearing white!

  73. I would like an experiment done on Mythbusters on this. Have them breakdown the possibility of a person in a crowd of people relaying signs from centrefield in white and see if it affects the ability of the hitter.

    I’m guessing that it does’t have that much affect and in fact would prove more distracting that anything.

    Different pitchers have different times to the plate as well. For a pitcher who delivers it quickly it would seem impossible for person in the stands using binoculars to be watching every pitch recognize the sign then he would have to make the signal quick enough so that the batter would have time to recognize the signal from the outfield and then have attention back quick enough to pick up the ball coming out of the pitchers hand.

    I would think that someone would see a spastic gentlemen in the stands who throws his hands quickly for no reason at all about 150 times in a game of maybe 20 times if it is only a select blue jays.

    Also it is not only Jays fans who sit in the outfield especially at Yankee and Boston games. I’m sure they would have noticed this guy.

  74. There is one thing I have not heard yet: There is this awesome new invention called ‘television’.

    From my understanding, even though only one camera feed is ‘live’ at any time, there are other angles being shot at all times (in order to provide the multiple replay angles we see every single game), You figure if some guy was in the stands giving signs to some, or all, of the players, you would likely be able to see it happen if you reviewed enough tape. I dont suppose the ESPN journalist did that?

    Oh wait, that would be known as ‘JOURNALISM’.

  75. Dexter said: “There is no way that a team could keep something like this secret with the player and manager movement that is always going on in MLB.”

    The 1951 Giants scheme (far more complicated that what is being discussed here) remained unknown for roughly 50 years. … Maybe a Jays player will talk in 2060 or so.

    I don’t much care whether this story is true or not , but I am fascinated by the possibility. Ilove stories like this (or stuff like Jason Grimsley crawling through the ceiling to steal Belle’s corked bat from the umpires room).

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