Marwin Gonzalez, the Twins, and How the Astros Cheated Minnesota
Image courtesy of © Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsBack in early January Nick Nelson wrote about how the Twins may have been impacted by cheaters. We know that Houston and Boston were involved, but we aren’t sure how far that reach expanded. Thanks to Tony, who Marc Carig did a great job speaking with over at The Athletic, we now can see a pretty direct picture of the tainted Twins happenings.
Here’s the thing, it actually appears like the Astros started off the year relatively clean. Maybe they were feeling out their new system, or maybe it was around the time that A.J. Hinch went on his smashing spree. Nonetheless, it was in July that Minnesota traveled to Minute Maid Park, and it was game one that produced the second most egregious results of the regular season.
During the three-game series in Texas, Twins pitchers threw 472 pitches. Of those, there were trash can bangs on 112 pitches, a whopping 24%. In game one, 48 of a total 179 (27%) pitches were tipped off. 84 total pitches thrown that day were not fastballs. That means Houston hitters knew, at a 57% clip, when they’d see a breaking pitch during that specific game.
Not surprisingly, the results suggested this was the case as well. Houston scored 10 runs that day, hanging seven on starter Jose Berrios. Phil Hughes came on to get the final out in the second inning but was tagged for three runs on five hits while allowing two dingers on his own. The Astros grabbed 10 runs before Minnesota was able to record nine outs. Good day at the office to be sure, but certainly not as impressive when it’s coming in on a tee. The Twins fared better in game two and three, splitting the affairs, but 64 more Rubbermaid bangs were used over the course of that action.
Hughes had opined when the original story broke that this was a game he thought back to. Knowing it was the one time he pitched against the Astros on the road, and proceeded to get lit up, it isn’t a surprise it would stick in his memory. His tweets today immediately pointed to that performance and give significant credibility to the advantages Houston had.
More bad news is that it wasn’t just the 2017 Twins who felt the impact of these exploits. Matthew Trueblood recently wrote how Marwin Gonzalez likely benefitted from Houston’s scheme. He posted a career best OPS, and despite favorable numbers on the road, Nick Nelson pointed out a wOBA that jumped off the page in the friendly confines of Fresh Squeezed Park.
What’s more, the analysis provided by Mr. Adams shows that Marwin didn’t only participate, but he may have been a ringleader. No Astros player was given more hints as to what was coming than Gonzalez received. If he knew breaking pitches were coming that often, it’s pretty apparent why he would have posted career bests across the board.
There’s a ton to unpack here and heading over to signstealingscandal.com will allow you to dig to your hearts' content. It’s interesting that Jose Altuve was the batter at the plate the least when the garbage can rang out, but if he was wearing an electronic device as suggested then there’s probably less of a need to be involved. Former, and very short-term, New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran appears near the top of the leaderboard which isn’t a surprise given his named involvement.
At the end of the day, this whole orchestration will go down as one of baseball’s greatest transgressions. A wild card-reaching Twins team was definitely exploited on the arms of Berrios and Hughes, and a current utility man will likely have question marks follow his production wherever he goes. This doesn’t change punishments or make any new ones more likely, but it definitely points to the negative impact on the Twins as being more drastic than on most other teams
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