Best hitters in playoff history: Ruth, Gehrig and … Beltran?

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The perception of Carlos Beltran’s performance in the playoffs is largely built around his once taking an Adam Wainwright curveball for an NLCS-ending called third strike. That narrative, like many narratives, couldn’t be further from the truth.

After homering twice last night Beltran has now gone deep 13 times in 25 career playoff games while hitting .362 with a 1.297 OPS. He’s played in six different playoff series and has posted an OPS above 1.000 in four of them (including that NLCS against Wainwright and the Cardinals in 2006).

Obviously those are amazing numbers, but did you know Beltran now owns the highest slugging percentage and the highest OPS in postseason history? Here are the career leardboards among everyone with at least 100 plate appearances in the playoffs:

                    PA      SLG                            PA      OPS
CARLOS BELTRAN     115     .819        CARLOS BELTRAN     115    1.297
Babe Ruth          167     .744        Babe Ruth          167    1.211
Lou Gehrig         150     .731        Lou Gehrig         150    1.208

Carlos Beltran. Babe Ruth. Lou Gehrig. No big deal or anything.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.