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Old 11-18-2019, 03:34 PM
davidmich is offline
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Question regarding sign stealing in baseball.


Hi
I am not a baseball fan. I don't watch it. But am interested in the rules.
What exactly is the issue involved in sign stealing in baseball?
I understand that it involves stealing signs (signals) between the catcher and pitcher or to relay that information to batters or dugout personnel. What is wrong with the practice? How do these signs/signals help opposing teams exactly?
Perhaps someone can recommend a very good comprehensive and easy top follow baseball rule book or video.
I look forward to your feedback.
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Old 11-18-2019, 03:35 PM
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It helps the batter to know what pitch is coming
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Old 11-18-2019, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by davidmich View Post
Hi
I am not a baseball fan. I don't watch it. But am interested in the rules.
What exactly is the issue involved in sign stealing in baseball?
I understand that it involves stealing signs (signals) between the catcher and pitcher or to relay that information to batters or dugout personnel. What is wrong with the practice? How do these signs/signals help opposing teams exactly?
1. There is nothing wrong with the practice if done on the field with eyeballs. The rule that is allegedly being broken is that teams are using electronic devices and cameras to steal signs from off the field of play.

2. There are two common sets of signs in baseball. One are the signs relayed from coaches and managers in the dugout to players on the field to execute specific plays, like stealing bases or bunting or whatever. That's not what this current controversy is about.

The current issue is about the other sets of signs; the signs given by the catcher to the pitcher telling him what pitch to throw. They are usually conveyed by the catcher holding fingers down between his legs. (The catcher MUST know what pitch is coming or he'll have difficultly catching it, and it's usually his job to decide how to approach the batter - what pitches to throw.) It is alleged the Houston Astros were using a center field camera to steal these signs and then send that information to confederates behind the Houston dugout, who used sounds to convey information to the batters. Of course, different teams and catchers use different sequences of signs, so it might have required a little decoding.

The importance of knowing what pitch is coming cannot be overstated. If a major league batter KNEW for sure what pitch was coming every time he'd go from being an average major leaguer to the greatest hitter in baseball. That the Astros did not all start hitting just like Babe Ruth suggests their system didn't always work, but after all, ever trying to cheat is still cheating.
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Old 11-18-2019, 04:00 PM
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Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
The importance of knowing what pitch is coming cannot be overstated. If a major league batter KNEW for sure what pitch was coming every time he'd go from being an average major leaguer to the greatest hitter in baseball.
For illustration of this, I refer the reader to the documentary Bull Durham, particularly the scene that accompanies the following dialogue:

Nuke God, that sucker teed off on that like he knew I was gonna throw a fastball!
Crash He did know.
Nuke How?
Crash I told him.
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Old 11-18-2019, 04:03 PM
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1. There is nothing wrong with the practice if done on the field with eyeballs. The rule that is allegedly being broken is that teams are using electronic devices and cameras to steal signs from off the field of play.
So there is a specific rule about off-field sign stealing, or using a camera, or something like that?

That suggests that somebody in the past already tried it, and it was outlawed. What's the history?
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Old 11-18-2019, 04:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Melbourne View Post
So there is a specific rule about off-field sign stealing, or using a camera, or something like that?
That's what I was wondering: Can someone quote the specific rule that was broken?
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Old 11-18-2019, 04:17 PM
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So there is a specific rule about off-field sign stealing, or using a camera, or something like that?

That suggests that somebody in the past already tried it, and it was outlawed. What's the history?
Yes, many teams have done this since the early days of baseball. The 1951 Giants, for example, admitted to doing so on the biggest stage. It's been a constant problem in baseball, and modern electronics make it even harder to detect. The biggest problem has been signaling the batter in time, since the signs are given only 3-5 seconds before the pitch.

There are no electronics allowed in the dugout for this reason. The Red Sox got in trouble a few years ago because of the manager wearing an Apple Watch, which theoretically could be receiving signals from someone.

There's nothing against the rules or unethical about a runner on 2nd trying to steal signs from the catcher. That's why batteries change their signs with runners on base. It's accepted and normal, but not very effective because the countermeasures essentially make it useless. But with an outfield camera/scope and some way to signal a batter it changes the whole nature of the game. And that's why it's not allowed.
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Old 11-18-2019, 04:22 PM
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Moving to the Game Room.
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Old 11-18-2019, 04:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
That's what I was wondering: Can someone quote the specific rule that was broken?
https://www.si.com/mlb/2019/02/19/ma...ng-rule-change
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sport...sign-stealing/

I'm not sure where these are in the rule book, I couldn't find reference to them specifically. It was 1961 when MLB prohibited the use of "mechanical devices" to steal signs, this new memorandum expands on that.
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Old 11-19-2019, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by RickJay View Post
The current issue is about the other sets of signs; the signs given by the catcher to the pitcher telling him what pitch to throw. They are usually conveyed by the catcher holding fingers down between his legs. (The catcher MUST know what pitch is coming or he'll have difficultly catching it, and it's usually his job to decide how to approach the batter - what pitches to throw.)
That was in the olden days of Yogi Berra and such. For some time the catcher has usually looked over to the dugout to get a sign for the next pitch and then relays that to the pitcher. The extra time for the initial sign to be decided on and sent contributes to the longer game time.
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Old 11-19-2019, 01:25 PM
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Related: There's a video on youtube by Mark Rober where he and another person write some code, collect some data and have found away to decode the signs with very little input (ie, entering the signs and the pitches thrown for the first inning). For the rest of the game, they can fairly reliably use it to predict the rest of the pitches.
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Old 11-19-2019, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
Related: There's a video on youtube by Mark Rober where he and another person write some code, collect some data and have found away to decode the signs with very little input (ie, entering the signs and the pitches thrown for the first inning). For the rest of the game, they can fairly reliably use it to predict the rest of the pitches.
It's not really that difficult even without code. But it's also less useful these days.

Teams, especially in the playoffs, will often switch up signs between innings or even between batters. You can use the number of current outs or the inning number or some other system to slightly modify the basis set of signs so they are not immediately decodable but still simple enough to use.
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Old 11-19-2019, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by ftg View Post
That was in the olden days of Yogi Berra and such. For some time the catcher has usually looked over to the dugout to get a sign for the next pitch and then relays that to the pitcher. The extra time for the initial sign to be decided on and sent contributes to the longer game time.
I believe for the most part catchers still call the bulk of the game. The manager may send in a specific call for a pitch out or intentional walk, but they don't call regular pitches. All that prep goes in before the game and the catchers are expected to know the analytics, but then go by their knowledge and what they see in front of them.

AFAIK, individual pitches do not come in from the dugout. If they did, a pitcher would never wave off a particular sign.
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Old 11-20-2019, 10:30 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ftg View Post
That was in the olden days of Yogi Berra and such. For some time the catcher has usually looked over to the dugout to get a sign for the next pitch and then relays that to the pitcher. The extra time for the initial sign to be decided on and sent contributes to the longer game time.
Can you provide any citation for this? I donít believe any of this is true (that the majority of pitch calls originate from the dugout or that it is the cause of longer game times).
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Old 11-20-2019, 10:37 AM
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Can you provide any citation for this? I donít believe any of this is true (that the majority of pitch calls originate from the dugout or that it is the cause of longer game times).
The best cite I found is here:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/23/s...-catchers.html

Summary: In major league baseball, catchers generally call the pitches. In college baseball, for some reason, the bench calls the pitches, and this makes the game longer.
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Old 11-20-2019, 11:23 AM
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Can you provide any citation for this? I donít believe any of this is true (that the majority of pitch calls originate from the dugout or that it is the cause of longer game times).
There are a number of pitchers who insist on always being caught by the same catcher, which one would not expect if most calls were being made from the dugout.
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Old 11-20-2019, 12:01 PM
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You can take out the word "alleged." The Astros definitely stole signs and they definitely used a camera. You can see the monitor and trash can set up in many pictures. Here is a video of a White Sox pitcher figuring out the whole thing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2XNW1qHN9w

It's bad. The Astros may not have turned into Babe Ruth, but their offense improved TREMENDOUSLY from 2016 to 2017. For example, in 2016 they had 1452 Ks. In 2017 that went down to 1087. That is an absurd improvement for what is basically the same core roster.
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Old 11-20-2019, 12:38 PM
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What I don't get is how did they not expect to eventually get ratted out as players changed teams? If I'm a former Astros player about to play them, of course I'm gonna give my team a heads up.
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Old 11-20-2019, 03:17 PM
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What I don't get is how did they not expect to eventually get ratted out as players changed teams? If I'm a former Astros player about to play them, of course I'm gonna give my team a heads up.
That is exactly what happened. Mike Fiers told his teammates in Detroit and then in Oakland. And he may very well be the guy that told reporters and/or MLB. That's not confirmed. But yeah, this was definitely going to get out. And honestly, if a White Sox reliever figured it out in a half inning with the loud banging, it's very possible that umpires and everyone else on the field figured it out and reported something, too. Honestly, the trash can banging method was just real dumb.
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Old 11-20-2019, 03:47 PM
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What I don't get is how did they not expect to eventually get ratted out as players changed teams? If I'm a former Astros player about to play them, of course I'm gonna give my team a heads up.
There are a few things coming together for why it's you wouldn't necessarily expect it to have blown up sooner.

One is there is a culture of keeping some things within the clubhouse (or at least within the league).

Another is that pretty much all teams at least suspect some level of sign stealing (some within the rules, some without) is happening and some of those teams also engage in it themselves. In 2017 there were several teams suspected of violating sign stealing rules but, with the exception of the the Red Sox and now the Astros, no direct evidence of it. It's not an accident that signs are changed much more frequently now that technology has advanced.

Doesn't excuse in the slightest what the Astros did, but it does help explain why it didn't get out sooner or why it's seems to be blowing up bigger among fans than it is for people within the league.
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Old 11-20-2019, 04:38 PM
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They could take away the world series title but I would be shocked if that happened. I can see a fine and losing draft picks.
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Old 11-20-2019, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Great Antibob View Post
There are a few things coming together for why it's you wouldn't necessarily expect it to have blown up sooner.

One is there is a culture of keeping some things within the clubhouse (or at least within the league).

Another is that pretty much all teams at least suspect some level of sign stealing (some within the rules, some without) is happening and some of those teams also engage in it themselves. In 2017 there were several teams suspected of violating sign stealing rules but, with the exception of the the Red Sox and now the Astros, no direct evidence of it. It's not an accident that signs are changed much more frequently now that technology has advanced.

Doesn't excuse in the slightest what the Astros did, but it does help explain why it didn't get out sooner or why it's seems to be blowing up bigger among fans than it is for people within the league.
Being a Yankee fan, and having many friends who are Yankee fans, there isnít a huge uproar about what Houston did. I think because we all think that itís completely possible that using illegal technology to gain an advantage could be far more widespread than we think, so no one talks about it. Very similar to the steroid era. Anyway, everything you want to know about sign-stealing and combatting it....

https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=...&v=NBHfswApjig
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Old 11-21-2019, 12:08 AM
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Originally Posted by KneadToKnow View Post
For illustration of this, I refer the reader to the documentary Bull Durham, particularly the scene that accompanies the following dialogue:

Nuke God, that sucker teed off on that like he knew I was gonna throw a fastball!
Crash He did know.
Nuke How?
Crash I told him.
Not everyone knows that Kirk Gibson knew exactly what pitch was coming the night he hit the famous walk off home run against the A's Eckersley. All season long the Dodger pitching coach had kept notes on Eckersley and saw that every time he had a batter 3 and 2, he threw an inside slider. The coach stopped Gibson on his way out of the dugout and told him to look for that pitch should the count go to 3 and 2. It did and even though Gibson was in terrible physical shape, he hit the slider into the stands.
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Old 11-21-2019, 11:21 AM
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Being a Yankee fan, and having many friends who are Yankee fans, there isnít a huge uproar about what Houston did.
...
I take you don't spend much time on Reddit. This Astros cheating scandal has dominated the baseball talk there, especially from Yankees and Dodgers fans.

I honestly think the Astros were doing this to an extent way beyond what anyone else was doing. They were definitely the most brazen about it.
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Old 11-21-2019, 12:22 PM
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For example, in 2016 they had 1452 Ks. In 2017 that went down to 1087. That is an absurd improvement for what is basically the same core roster.
Fivethirtyeight was running the numbers.

It does appear to have helped, but they're numbers were also vastly improved away from home in 2017 as well, though not quite as improved as at home. It's possible they had an extensive system set up throughout the country, but more likely, it appears they were simply markedly better hitters in 2017 than 2016 for whatever reason.

It's worth noting that most of their roster at the time was still pretty young and just coming into it's own. That now infamous 2014 SI story predicting the Astros winning it all in 2017 wasn't pure fantasy. That's about how long it might have been expected to build up the team to that level.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Barkis is Willin' View Post
Mike Fiers told his teammates in Detroit and then in Oakland.
That's one of the weird things that struck me, though it's unrelated.

Fiers had 2 absolutely terrible outings this season against the Astros where he couldn't even get through 2 innings. Another one where he gave up 4 homers, and 2 just decent games.

But he also had his 2nd career no hitter.

Baseball can be really weird.
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Old 11-21-2019, 03:14 PM
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Baseball in the past wasn't too worried about cheating. Gaylord Perry is in the HOF and he wrote a book called "Me and the Spitter"
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Old 11-21-2019, 09:07 PM
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Baseball in the past wasn't too worried about cheating. Gaylord Perry is in the HOF and he wrote a book called "Me and the Spitter"
Whatís also funny is that historical methods of cheating become so ingrained in the game that they become misdemeanors; e.g. sign stealing, pine tar, spitballs, bat corking, sandpaper, amphetamines, etc. But paradigm shifts in cheating such as steroids and video technology make us question the validity of a championship. That said, if enough time passes, things are kind of forgiven; e.g. 1951 World Series
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