Blue Jays, Giants “taking their best shot” at Chase Utley

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Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe drops the following blurb in his weekly Sunday notes column

Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies — Right now it doesn’t appear that Utley is going anywhere because he can invoke his 10-5 rights and it looks as if he wants to remain in Philadelphia. But there’s time. And it hasn’t stopped teams such as the Blue Jays and Giants from taking their best shot, and they likely will through the end of the month.

Toronto second basemen — a mix of Steve Tolleson, Brett Lawrie, Munenori Kawasaki, Ryan Goins, and a couple others — have posted a combined .254/.312/.365 batting line this season. And the Giants just got Marco Scutaro back from the disabled list but can’t count on him to play every day and stay healthy.

Utley is hitting .289/.347/.441 with eight home runs and 46 RBI in 93 games this season at age 35. “I guess we’d have to see at that point,” he told MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki in late June when asked about the possibility of being shopped at the July 31 trade deadline. “But I don’t plan on going anywhere.”

Utley is making $15 million this season, owed $15 million next season, and holds $15 million vesting options for the 2016-2018 campaigns. They vest if he reaches 500 plate appearances in the year previous.

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.