Adam Wainwright: “I’m obsessed with Tim Tebow”

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Adam Wainwright was at the Cardinals Winter Warm-up over the weekend and he went off baseball for a moment:

“I am obsessed with Tim Tebow.  I’m not afraid to say it. It’s almost embarrassing to us athletes that this much emphasis is put on Tim Tebow because that means we aren’t living our lives as we should. If we did that more often, the way he is living wouldn’t be as big a story. I’m so proud of him for living out his faith.”

I try to avoid football coverage as much as possible, but even I can tell that Wainwright isn’t alone in his obsession. The whole nation went Tebow crazy there for a while. Says a lot more about the whole nation than it does about Tim Tebow, but that’s the case with a lot of things.

I kind of don’t care, and not just because it’s a football thing. Tebow is not the first religious person I’ve encountered. He’s not the first openly evangelical and demonstrative religious person I’ve encountered either. He’s not the first person I’ve encountered whose fame far outstrips his abilities. He views the world very differently than I do and has put himself out there more than a lot of athletes, but I have never had any trouble ignoring what athletes say or do that doesn’t have anything to do with the sports they play. Good for him for being whatever he is. I scratch my head at how much people who love him and hate him get worked up about it.

I do have one Tebow observation that may be relevant, though, and that’s that the phenomenon that is Tebow says an awful lot about the differences between the world in which football operates and the world in which baseball operates.

There are a lot of hard core religious baseball players. Way more than you probably think. The difference is that baseball players play a game nearly every damn day and thus there isn’t a bunch of time in between in which baseball writers have to come up with fresh angles and stories highlighting that fact.

There’s a direct relationship, I think, between the Tebow stuff (or the Ochocinco stuff or T.O. stuff or whatever polarizing figure came before) and the amount of dead time between games. So even if a young, unproven baseball star did exactly the stuff that Tebow did to get his current level of notoriety, it would create far less of a buzz, even once you adjust for football’s greater popularity.  There are just too many games. Too many stories. No one person in baseball is able to suck all of the oxygen out of the room like Tim Tebow is in football.

Astros fan logs trash can bangs from 2017

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A fascinating and no doubt time consuming research project was released this morning. An Astros fan by the name of Tony Adams went through every Astros home game in the 2017 season and logged trash can bangs. Which, as you know, was the mechanism via which Astros players in the clubhouse signaled to hitters which pitch was coming.

Adams listened to every pitch from the Astros’ 2017 home games and made a note of any banging noise he could detect. There were 20 home games for which he did not have access to video. There were three “home” games which took place at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida due to the team being displaced by hurricane Harvey and for which, obviously, the Astros’ camera setup from Minute Maid Park would not have been applicable.

Adams logged over 8,200 pitches and found banging before over 1,100 of those pitches. He graphed which players got the most bangs during their at batsMarwin Gonzalez got the most, with bangs coming before 147 of 776 pitches seen, followed by George Springer, who got bangs on 139 of 933. José Altuve had the least among regulars, with only 24 bangs in 866 pitches. One gets the sense that, perhaps, he felt that the banging would interfere with his normal pitch recognition process or something. Either way it’s worth noting that a lack of banging was also signal. Specifically, for a fastball. As such, Astros hitters were helped on a much higher percentage of pitches than what is depicted in the graphs themselves.

Adams reminds us that Commissioner Manfred’s report stated that the Astros also used hand-clapping, whistling, and yelling early in the season before settling on trash can banging. Those things were impossible to detect simply by watching video. As it is, Adams’ graphs of bangs-per-game shows that the can-banging plan dramatically ramped-up on May 28.

It’s hard to say anything definitive about the scope and effectiveness of the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme based on this study alone. Adams may or may not have been hearing everything and, as he notes, there may have been a lot more pitches relayed thought means other than trash can banging than we know. Alternatively it’s possible that Adams was marking some sounds as bangs that were not, in fact, Astros players sending signals to the batter. It’s probably an inexact science.

Still, this is an impressive undertaking that no doubt took a ton of time. And it at least begins to provide a glimpse into the Astros’ sign-stealing operation.