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Report: Athletics to sign Brett Anderson

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Athletics and pitcher Brett Anderson are close to an agreement on a major league contract, pending a physical.

Anderson tweeted, “Fingers crossed for a passed physical tomorrow.”

Anderson, 31, signed a minor league contract with the A’s last March, making 17 starts during the regular season with a 4.48 ERA and a 47/13 K/BB ratio in 80 1/3 innings. The lefty battled a shoulder injury that kept him out between mid-May and early July. Anderson has historically had trouble staying healthy, crossing the 20-start threshold just once in a season (2015) since after his rookie campaign in 2009. He has made a total of 33 starts over the last three seasons.

For at least the first half of the upcoming season, the Athletics’ rotation will be missing Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, and Daniel Gossett, so Anderson will provide some much-needed depth at the back end. The front end of the rotation is not particularly inspiring as it includes Mike Fiers, Daniel Mengden, and Marco Estrada. Carrie Muskat reported for the Associated Press yesterday that the A’s are considering using “openers,” popularized by the Rays last year. Anderson could potentially be one of the starters who doesn’t officially start if the club opts to use an opener.

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.