Spring Training in in full swing (literally), and as expected, the Astros are getting the equivalent of Wild West justice in every possible way. Since Commissioner Manfred did not give the Astros players any actual punishments, stating that the public shaming should be more than enough, opposing teams, fans, and the media have been handing down their own punishments. The retribution has ranged from the biblical ‘eye for an eye’ of hitting multiple Houston batters with pitches, to fans trolling the team with posters at Spring Training games.
But the most interesting part of this entire ongoing, seemingly-endless ordeal has definitely how MLB players are handling the Astros. Dodgers’ Joc Pederson colorfully told the media that teammate Cody Bellinger is the real MVP. A mic’ed up Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo joked “Someone bang for me” while batting during their game today, one of many quips and jabs players around the league have made to express their feelings about Houston’s betrayal of the game. And as for pitchers? Well, Houston leads the league in hit batsmen this Spring Training.
As usual, pitcher Trevor Bauer is doing things his own way, with a unique spin on the situation. After his piece in the Players’ Tribune about the sign-stealing, and his vocalness about wanting to see for himself just how much knowing what pitch is coming affects the batter’s chances, Bauer took matters into his own hands. In the 4th inning of a Spring Training appearance today, Bauer used his glove to signal his pitches, telling Dodgers batter Matt Beaty exactly what he was going to throw before he threw it.
Bauer is known for his cerebral, experimental style when it comes to working on his pitching, so it isn’t surprising that he wanted to conduct an experiment of this kind, given the current baseball climate. Despite Bauer’s transparency on the mound, Beaty lined out to center, and Bauer threw three scoreless innings, only allowing two hits.
During the game, teammate Derek Dietrich told Fox Sports’ Jim Day, “Trevor’s not too fond of [sign-stealing], so he figured he’s gonna try something new this season, and he’s gonna start telling the batters what’s coming, and that way there’s no if, ands, or buts about what’s going on, just ‘Here it comes, try to hit it.”
The effectiveness of knowing a pitcher’s pitch has been hotly contested, especially over the last few months due to the Astros scandal. Naysayers take the Mariano angle: that a pitcher can tell a batter exactly what he’s going to throw, but the batter still has to be able to hit it. Mariano Rivera was primarily famous for his cutter, but most batters still ended up slumping back to their dugouts. It’s why in 96 career postseason games, Mo only has two home runs to his name.
Of course, most pitchers are not Mariano Rivera, and so it is generally agreed upon that there is an advantage to knowing what the pitcher is going to throw, if only for the batter to make the necessary adjustments that increase the possibility of them hitting the ball.
We’ll have to wait and see if Bauer follows through on actually telling batters what he’s going to throw when the games actually start to count at the end of the month, but either way, it’s fun to watch him experiment with it now. A-plus trolling by Bauer, and as Dietrich said, “Trevor’s always gonna do something nuts… We enjoy him. It’s pretty cool.”
Photo: Kareem Elgazzar