For every pitcher-catcher combo trying to figure out the most effective method of circumventing the Astros Way to Play Baseball, Trevor Bauer is here to tell you that your endlessly cycled signs, no matter how complex or arcane, are still no match for the proven system he employed in the Cactus League yesterday.
Facing the Dodgers, Bauer decided to let the hitter know exactly what was coming. He did this via the standard glove signs that pitchers give to catchers during warm-ups. If everything’s public, there’s nothing to steal.
In the top of the fourth inning, Bauer fed Matt Beaty a series of pitches, each preceded by a glove flip. Why Beaty? Maybe because he was the first batter Bauer faced. Or maybe Because because he’d already homered, against Reds starter Sonny Gray, and one thing Bauer likes nearly as much as a soapbox is a challenge. (Bauer made his feelings about Houston’s shenanigans very clear in an interview with The Athletic about two weeks ago.) Beaty ultimately flied out to center field.
The pitcher’s rationale was explained by Derek Dietrich in an in-game interview.
“If you’ve followed baseball this off-season, there’s a little thing going on with sign stealing,” Dietrich said. “Trevor’s not too fond of it, so he figured he’s gonna try something new this season, and he’s gonna start telling batters what’s coming—just, here it comes, try to hit it.”
It’s not quite the same as Nolan Ryan’s strategy during a game in 1973, but it’s in the same ballpark. Unlike Bauer, Ryan didn’t reveal his pitch selection to Tigers in advance, but, concerned about Detroit spies, he devised his own system. Whatever sign Angels catcher Art Kusnyer put down, Ryan ignored it entirely. Instead, he touched the back of his cap to tell Kusnyer that he would be throwing a fastball, the bill if he was going to the curve. As an experiment in subterfuge it worked out okay: Ryan ended up with the second no-hitter of his career.
Would Bauer’s system work in extended use during a regular-season game? Of course not. But if anybody in baseball might try to figure out an efficient reverse-sign a la Ryan, Bauer’s the guy.