The Houston Astros are once again at the center of controversy over allegations of the club electronically stealing signs at Minute Maid Park throughout the course of the 2017 season.
Mike Fiers, who pitched for the organization over parts of the 2015-17 seasons, went on record to detail the Astros’ installation of a camera in center field that was used to capture opposing catchers’ signs.
The feed was then transmitted to a television in the tunnel near the dugout, where Astros employees attempted to decode the signs. When successful, a loud bang on a trash can motioned to hitters which specific pitches were coming their way.
While there are conflicting reports on whether the Astros continued this practice in the postseason, some wonder just how far they were willing to go in order to secure their second World Series championship in franchise history.
The Astros went on to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games and specifically had their way with Yu Darvish, scoring nine runs against him in his two appearances. Pitch-tipping was initially believed to be the main contributor for the right-hander’s woes.
President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman revealed that an unidentified Dodgers player good at picking up habits was adamant that Darvish didn’t tip his pitches against the Astros in the 2017 World Series, via Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group:
“We had a player who was really good at picking up pitch-tipping type things and watched the Darvish outings and said you couldn’t sell out on something that Darvish was doing,” Friedman said.
While Friedman did not identify the player, it’s reasonable to suspect it may have been Chase Utley. He developed a reputation of being skilled in that area, and Dodgers pitchers have revealed Utley noticed and helped correct their pitch-tipping.
As for Darvish, he endured two rough outings against the Astros in the Fall Classic. In Game 3, he allowed four runs on six hits in just 1.2 innings of work. Then in the deciding Game 7 — albeit at Dodger Stadium — Darvish yielded five runs (four earned) and three hits while again only recording five outs.
Friedman revealed the Dodgers were suspicious of the Astros stealing signs heading into their World Series matchup, citing their reputation of going above and beyond to steal signs.
If the Astros are ultimately found to have utilized technology in effort as part of their sign stealing, it could lead to a severe punishment from MLB. The Boston Red Sox were fined an undisclosed amount during the 2017 season after the New York Yankees submitted evidence that an Apple Watch was used to steal their signs.
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