After getting swept this week in Miami and getting outscored 23-7, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is wondering about the Marlins possibly stealing signs from his club.
“If you would have taken a look at our dugout at one point in the game, it was like the fourth or fifth inning, they were hitting balls everywhere, we got three guys looking at the scoreboard,” Gonzalez said. “You got two guys looking at their bullpen. I’m calling (bullpen coach) Eddie (Perez), ‘Eddie do you see anything?’ I’m looking at Gattis, thinking he’s maybe tipping his pitches. Carlos (Tosca) is looking in the bench over there, maybe somebody is whistling or something.”
Aaron Harang, who started for Atlanta on Wednesday, allowed nine runs on ten hits in just 4 2/3 innings. I do like the idea that Harang, who has a 4.26 career ERA and had a 5.40 ERA in 26 starts last year, is somehow beyond reproach. I mean, he wouldn’t suddenly turn back into a pumpkin after five good starts, would he?!
When you have a fly ball prone pitcher that hasn’t allowed a homer all year and is allowing an incredibly low batting average on balls in play, these things happen. It’s called “regression to the mean” – these things equal out over time, and pitchers don’t dominate for the whole season based on a flimsy set of peripherals.
The theory of Harang tipping pitches seems to hold much more water, especially given Harang’s comments after the game.
“They were looking bad on some pitches and they were standing up on some other ones like they knew what was coming,” Harang said. “I’ll go back and watch tape and see if it’s maybe something I’m doing.”
“Just give us a little credit,” said Marlins manager Mike Redmond. “I mean, we’re out there playing the game the right way. Guys are battling and competing. That’s how we’re winning ballgames. Actually, I don’t even think much about it because my focus is on our guys and my team and what we’re doing. We just played a great three-game series and I’m not going to let anything diminish that.”
If the Marlins *were* stealing signs, wouldn’t they have continued to pound Atlanta’s bullpen? After David Hale allowed a two-run double to Marcell Ozuna, the first hitter he faced, the Marlins tallied just four hits over the final three innings of the game against Atlanta’s bullpen, all of which were singles.
The Marlins are hitting .307/.366/.471 at Marlins Park this year, a primary complaint for people who think that the team might be stealing signs, especially when you consider that they’re hitting just .215/.287/.333 on the road. But Miami didn’t hit on the road *or* at home last season, and their split differences were negligible in 2012, the first year that Marlins Park was open. If they really were stealing signs, don’t you think that they would have started two years ago instead of just this season?
Teams as a whole this season are hitting better at home than on the road. They did the same thing last year, and the same thing the year before, and so on and so forth. Maybe, just maybe, the Marlins are hitting so well at home because they’ve gotten ridiculously lucky with balls in play (.363 average). Maybe they’re hitting so well at home because we’re dealing with just a ridiculously small 16 game sample size. Maybe they’re hitting so poorly on the road because nine of their 12 road games so far this year were in cold weather climates (Washington, Philadelphia, New York).
Or perhaps the Marlins are just better than most of us thought this year. Their offense doesn’t look like a cast of extras from The Walking Dead anymore – Giancarlo Stanton finally has some help in the form of Christian Yelich, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Marcell Ozuna, Derek Dietrich, and a rejuvenated pair of veterans in Casey McGehee and Garrett Jones.
A lot of the damage Miami did off of Harang and Alex Wood the night before came on their third trek through the lineup. That says a lot – when a pitcher is facing the lineup for the third time in the fourth and fifth innings, bad things are going to happen. Bad things happened to the Braves this week, and they have no one to blame but themselves. After all, any potential Marlins sign stealing didn’t push Atlanta into scoring just one run over the first 17 innings of the series. Throwing accusations around after the fact only makes your team look bad, and looks like sour grapes.