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A contrarian take on the Astros' sign stealing

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  • A contrarian take on the Astros' sign stealing

    Yesterday, I attended a D1 game, Sacred Heart, from Fairfield Ct, visiting Fordham.

    Sacred Heart does something really unique: It sends its pitcher the signs with literal signs -- 3 enormous flash cards, each with a digit, held up in plain view in the dugout.



    I initially thought from the bleachers the base code was something simple like whether the number shown was odd or even, as its pitcher was really only a fastball curve guy, but it wasn't that. Then I thought it might be one of the other digits, but that didn't pan out either. In each case, I allowed for mistakes by the pitcher in interpreting the sign, but there were too many differences between what I guessed and what was thrown for it to be that.

    My next guess was that one of the digits was an indicator, but I was unable to test that as the inning closed. And then I figured that if the system was sophisticated enough to include an indicator, the team would prolly change the indicator and/or the base code itself the next inning, so I gave up.

    Then it occurred to me there are lots of things you can do with three digits to make the sign hard to interpret. Maybe the base code is the sum or the difference of two of the digits, with or without an indicator to tell the defense which two. Maybe it is the sum when there is an even number of outs and the difference when there is one out. Maybe there's an indicator to tell the defense whether to add or subtract the digits to reach the base code going forward. Maybe everything flips every inning. Or every pitching change or every batter.

    There's almost an unlimited number of possibilities with a readily changeable base code, and readily changeable public and/or private encryption keys so you can reach the base code, with those options invoked at almost random times based on the game situation and/or an announcement made in public or in the privacy of the dugout of some kind.

    FWIW, the former Fordham pitcher standing next to me (now a pro player) thought the whole thing was a ruse, but I dismissed it in context as college teams have plenty of guys at the end of the bench or done after their pitching stints to scratch their heads on it without distracting the coach or the guys in the game, and a sophisticated ruse involving props is a lot of effort and honestly a blessing to help fill the time of the bench warmers if and until the possibility they break the encryption and then the base code. But it did alert me to the possibility that it is a partial ruse; ie, use of the flash cards can be turned on and off.

    And obviously, if someone seems to have gotten through all that mist to break the code and actually know what the signs mean and when they change to new signs, it is easy enough to add a fourth digit and make the whole process of stealing signs 1000x harder without adding any extra effort to the players who have been told how it works. So it seems to me that what we are really talking about is a roughly 8 or 10 character combination encryption key/coded message if the information was being transmitted by computer rather than visible light.

    So now lets deal with the Astros, and more particularly, the Yankees and the Dodgers who felt they were cheated. These are billion dollar companies. The failure to have proper security on their info would be more on them than on thieves in a real world scenario, ie, Equifax. And let's not forget the Astros' own mistake of failing to secure their data by having a master password on their data, allowing unauthorized access by a former confidential employee. If the clubs had their signs stolen and forwarded to the hitters, it was because it was too easy to break the code and the encryption.

    I'm usually not a blame the victim guy, but if you don't lock your doors, don't be surprised if your stuff gets swiped.

    Discuss amongst yourselves.
    Last edited by rodk; 02-27-2020, 09:52 AM.

  • #2
    Tl;dr

    But I can already sense this is another Astros defense post, which is usually replied to with "I'm not defending the Astros." Yes, yes you are.
    Last edited by UnderPressure; 02-28-2020, 12:03 AM.
    Using a stolen chant from Boston Celtics fans whenever an L.A. team is playing up there just reeks of inferiority complex.

    If hitting a baseball is the toughest thing to do in sports, then pitching must be the easiest thing to do in sports.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by rodk View Post
      Yesterday, I attended a D1 game, Sacred Heart, from Fairfield Ct, visiting Fordham.

      Sacred Heart does something really unique: It sends its pitcher the signs with literal signs -- 3 enormous flash cards, each with a digit, held up in plain view in the dugout.



      I initially thought from the bleachers the base code was something simple like whether the number shown was odd or even, as its pitcher was really only a fastball curve guy, but it wasn't that. Then I thought it might be one of the other digits, but that didn't pan out either. In each case, I allowed for mistakes by the pitcher in interpreting the sign, but there were too many differences between what I guessed and what was thrown for it to be that.

      My next guess was that one of the digits was an indicator, but I was unable to test that as the inning closed. And then I figured that if the system was sophisticated enough to include an indicator, the team would prolly change the indicator and/or the base code itself the next inning, so I gave up.

      Then it occurred to me there are lots of things you can do with three digits to make the sign hard to interpret. Maybe the base code is the sum or the difference of two of the digits, with or without an indicator to tell the defense which two. Maybe it is the sum when there is an even number of outs and the difference when there is one out. Maybe there's an indicator to tell the defense whether to add or subtract the digits to reach the base code going forward. Maybe everything flips every inning. Or every pitching change or every batter.

      There's almost an unlimited number of possibilities with a readily changeable base code, and readily changeable public and/or private encryption keys so you can reach the base code, with those options invoked at almost random times based on the game situation and/or an announcement made in public or in the privacy of the dugout of some kind.

      FWIW, the former Fordham pitcher standing next to me (now a pro player) thought the whole thing was a ruse, but I dismissed it in context as college teams have plenty of guys at the end of the bench or done after their pitching stints to scratch their heads on it without distracting the coach or the guys in the game, and a sophisticated ruse involving props is a lot of effort and honestly a blessing to help fill the time of the bench warmers if and until the possibility they break the encryption and then the base code. But it did alert me to the possibility that it is a partial ruse; ie, use of the flash cards can be turned on and off.

      And obviously, if someone seems to have gotten through all that mist to break the code and actually know what the signs mean and when they change to new signs, it is easy enough to add a fourth digit and make the whole process of stealing signs 1000x harder without adding any extra effort to the players who have been told how it works. So it seems to me that what we are really talking about is a roughly 8 or 10 character combination encryption key/coded message if the information was being transmitted by computer rather than visible light.

      So now lets deal with the Astros, and more particularly, the Yankees and the Dodgers who felt they were cheated. These are billion dollar companies. The failure to have proper security on their info would be more on them than on thieves in a real world scenario, ie, Equifax. And let's not forget the Astros' own mistake of failing to secure their data by having a master password on their data, allowing unauthorized access by a former confidential employee. If the clubs had their signs stolen and forwarded to the hitters, it was because it was too easy to break the code and the encryption.

      I'm usually not a blame the victim guy, but if you don't lock your doors, don't be surprised if your stuff gets swiped.

      Discuss amongst yourselves.
      This was an excellent read, so I won't add too much to it. ...yet.

      I think Sacred Heart proves the point that there are indeed a plethora of ways to secure pitching signs, even when "the signs" are right out in the open, and if someone by chance is diligent enough to crack the code by the end of the 9th – which is what, 150 pitches? – then power to them. And they still have to swing the bat.

      Speaking of which, who won the game?

      I've basically been saying since the beginning that with so many ways to protect signs (and indeed all data/info), stealing them should and can be MUCH more difficult. If nothing else, a result of this whole mess should be teams devising more complex ways of communicating on the field. If they don't, no one's learned a thing.
      Put it in the books.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by milladrive View Post

        Speaking of which, who won the game?
        Fordham won, scoring two in the ninth to tie and winning in 13 by 5-4.

        a. I don't know if it was the code, but the game was closer than the respective talent, so the fact SHU lost isn't a demerit against the effort.
        b. Still have to execute, secrets or not.

        Comment


        • #5
          This is a great point. Astros are cheaters, but any team can workout a better pitch selection system if they want better security.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by rodk View Post
            b. Still have to execute, secrets or not.
            This is what it all comes down to on the mound and in the batter's box. We could go back to the very early days where the batter could call a pitch's type/speed and location–and if batters still can't tee off on the pitchers (who were presumably) following through with these requests, then whose fault is it if they can't get it done?

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by pedrosrotatorcuff View Post

              We could go back to the very early days where the batter could call a pitch's type/speed and location
              I believe "high" or "low" was the only thing they could pick.

              Comment


              • #8
                Just as I don't mind roiders I could care less about the Astros sign stealing. I won't be surprised if the same roid hand wringers are all butt hurt about the Astros. Some people run on indignation.

                As the OP noted, billion dollar companies couldn't figure out a code that others can't steal??

                It's all part of the competition.
                This week's Giant

                #5 in games played as a Giant with 1721 , Bill Terry

                Comment


                • #9
                  Mariano Rivera threw the same cut fastball for 18 seasons and everyone knew it. A lot of good that knowledge did for the hitters. Discuss.

                  Comment

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