Christian Yelich
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Here’s what Sunday means for NL postseason contenders

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The Brewers, Cubs, Dodgers, and Rockies are all headed to the playoffs this fall, but Saturday’s games came and went without clear winners established in the National League Central or the National League West. If all four teams pull ahead with wins on Sunday, they’ll force two tiebreakers on Monday when the Cubs host the Brewers for the NL Central title and the Rockies travel west to meet the Dodgers in Los Angeles for the NL West championship.

The losers of the tiebreakers, naturally, will face each other in the Wild Card Game, with the winner scheduled to face off against the highest-seeded division winner in the National League Division Series. The other half of the NLDS will feature the remaining team against the Braves.

The Cubs entered Saturday with a one-game advantage over the Brewers, but dropped a 2-1 squeaker to the Cardinals early in the afternoon and watched the Brewers defeat the Tigers 6-5 to close the gap at the top of the NL Central. Everything will hinge on Game 162, when the Cubs will send left-hander Mike Montgomery up against St. Louis righty Jack Flaherty at 3:20 PM EDT and the Brewers will hang their hopes on Gio Gonzalez over the Tigers’ Spencer Turnbull at 3:10 PM EDT. Should the Cubs gain the edge over their division rival, it’ll mark their third division title in a row and eighth overall (sixth since moving to the NL Central). Should luck falls to the Brewers, on the other hand, it’ll mark their third division title (second since they moved to the National League in 1998) and first since 2011.

Over in the NL West, the Rockies and Dodgers will try to grab a foothold atop the division as they round out their final series against the Nationals and Giants, respectively. After dropping a 12-2 heartbreaker to the Nationals on Saturday night, the Rockies will send Tyler Anderson out against Washington rookie Erick Fedde at 3:10 PM EDT. The Dodgers, meanwhile, will roll with southpaw Rich Hill against Giants’ lefty Andrew Suarez at 3:05 PM EDT. A win for the Dodgers (and loss for the Rockies) would hand them their sixth straight division title and 17th in the NL West. For the Rockies, a division championship would be even more significant, as they’ve yet to clinch a single title in their 26-year history.

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.