I don’t want to write this article. I don’t want to because I just don’t think it’s a good look. Opposing announcers say stupid things all the time, most of them without really thinking, and then here comes someone to blow it all out of proportion. I don’t need to defend the Cardinals. Nobody is really taking this seriously, and I honestly don’t even think Brewers fans believe it.
But also, I really want to write this article. I have what one might call the writer’s itch. I’m sure there’s a real term to describe what I have. I feel compelled to write it. It’s almost like OCD. I just have to write it. I’ll put it this way. If I didn’t get to write for VEB, I would mostly not write that much about the Cardinals. But I would still write about them on rare occasions where I have this sudden writer’s itch.
So I’ll just introduce you to this event the way I was introduced to this event. I witnessed zero part of Friday night’s game. I was somewhere where the Cardinal game wasn’t on. I didn’t really even follow the game on my phone much. Saw they were up big, ignored it the rest of the night. Literally the first thing I saw related to the game was this play this morning.
(There are two other instances of them implying the Cards are stealing signs, both of which are in the tweets following that one)
Based purely on the clip above, an absurd speculation. First off, Freddy Peralta does not have a good changeup. He’s never had a good changeup. He threw it less than 10 percent of the time last year, and I’m going to guess he throws it even less to right-handed batters. It was his only negative pitch last year. In the shortened 2020 season, when he was mostly a reliever and could rely on his strongest pitches, Peralta did not throw a single changeup. You do not need to know that pitch is coming to hit it.
At this point, I still didn’t feel the need to write about this. But whenever I miss games, the next day I’ll attempt to watch victories on MLB TV and I’ll watch the opposing broadcast. The juxtaposition of announcers being homers while knowing they will lose is just great entertainment. Highly recommend. So that’s how I started watching Friday night’s game. But I had the clip in mind and out of curiosity, I paid very close attention to potential sign stealing possibilities.
To be honest, I expected something. Like some indication of why the announcers said that. Maybe on an 0-2 pitch, Freddy threw a tough pitch that the Cardinals hit for a line drive. Something to that effect. This is not me saying I thought the Cardinals stole signs, sometimes hitters are just on a pitcher who doesn’t seem to be pitching badly and I kind of expected something like that.
The first two batters got out. Carlson was a little behind on an up and away fastball, and Goldschmidt jumped early and weakly grounded out. No reasonable person could possibly suggest they were stealing signs with those results. Then Tyler O’Neill stepped to the plate.
O’Neill definitely knew a fastball was coming, but it sure doesn’t take sign stealing to figure that one out. This is pure scouting, plain and simple, and not particularly complicated at that. He fell behind 1-0 on a fastball too high. Then he threw two not very good sliders back-to-back. The first, if O’Neill knows its coming, is absolutely being hit into the stands. The second didn’t quite make it to the strike zone. At this point, Peralta has laser focused on high and inside, doesn’t want to fall farther behind in the count, and happens to throw his fastball over 50% of the time. Oh yeah and he probably doesn’t trust his slider at this point. Not only could O’Neill sit fastball, he could sit fastball high and tight.
You can absolutely steal signs that lead to a walk, avoiding pitches that you might chase otherwise if you know it’s coming. So I’m not going to ignore the walks. This Nolan Arenado walk speaks for itself though.
If his control wasn’t so shaky, one might be inclined to think he was pitching around him. Whether he was actually doing so, the results were the same. Maybe only Yuniesky Betancourt doesn’t walk with this sequence. Let’s look at the Lars walk.
Again, very obviously you not need to know what’s coming to walk in this situation either. All four balls were not even remotely close to the strike zone. I guess you could accuse Lars of knowing the fastball is coming, but simple scouting is all that is needed to figure that out.
I mean seriously folks, would it not be the biggest waste of time to try to steal signs on this guy? He throws two sliders in the other batter’s box, throws a pretty good fastball that Bader chose not to swing at - and probably was in “I’m going to make him throw a strike” mode anyway. Then he gets another fastball right smack down the middle.
Peralta had Knizner’s number in this plate appearance, but Knizner got lucky. For the first time in this inning probably, Peralta did nearly exactly what he wanted to do. I say nearly because he probably wanted that slider more out of the strike zone, but that was hardly a bad pitch. But Knizner, who I think was ready for another high fastball but adjusted to the slider, had a defensive swing and managed to make contact. Hardly the type of swing one would have if you knew a slider was coming.
It’s not usually this easy to surmise what’s happening, but I think I got this one figured out too. So we’re going to skip to Sosa being down 1-2 on a horrible strike two call. Sosa is expecting slider, but gets fastball low and outside and has a very late swing and manages to spoil the pitch. He expects slider the next pitch and lucky for him, it was kind of a hanger. We’re going to blow past Edman just because he doesn’t typically strike out and he struck out and someone with Edman’s contact skills is probably not striking out if he knows what’s coming.
In the 2nd, Dylan Carlson gets hit by a pitch on the first pitch. Then Paul Goldschmidt comes to the plate. Now this is about the closest you get to a credible sign stealing accusation. But it’s Paul Goldschmidt. It’s kind of what he does. Let’s follow pitch-by-pitch again.
Goldschmidt finds himself in a 2-2 hole after fouling off two pitches. He gets a hanging slider that, lucky for Peralta, kind of just stops before it hits the strike zone or I think Goldy is crushing that. He’s a little overaggressive on a fastball inside and then gets that not very good change up, which although below the strike zone, was probably intended as inside like a previous change in that plate appearance that Goldschmidt fouled off. This is the advantage you get when you make a pitcher throw everything he’s got - he knew how his change worked, probably saw it was a change, and swung fairly late to put it in the opposite field.
While Tyler O’Neill is probably a hitter who could still strike out while knowing what is coming, he seems clearly caught off guard by the slider there. He could have simply not swung and taken ball four if he did at the very least.
This is actually not a very good at-bat salvaged by the hit, or at least a horrible approach. Every ball Arenado swung at prior to the hit was a clear ball. That half swing foul tip in fact gives us a clue as to where Peralta wanted the following changeup. It just stayed in the strike zone.
I just have no clue how you can watch the inning and a half up to that point and come the conclusion that it must be sign stealing. There’s already an easy explanation. Peralta fell behind on hitters, and not wanting to walk them, threw predictable pitches. His outing is a pitch perfect case study on why not to fall behind on hitters. It’s literally as simple as that. Nearly every hit can be explained with “the hitter was in a favorable count and was sitting on the pitch.”
I can honestly say I was expecting more than a few hitter’s ABs to be like Goldschmidt’s the second time round. Like I can sort of squint and see why it seems like that. But nope. I guess it was just lazy announcing, not really paying attention to the game like you should, seeing a great pitcher doing poorly and not noticing why for some reason. Like this is surface level stuff here. You get paid to notice these things and you just... don’t.
With the black mark attached to sign stealing, it’s actually kind of frustrating me the more I think about. I think stealing signs the old-fashioned way is fine by the way. I’m just saying though at this point, you really need a little evidence here or just don’t mention it at all. Good scouting and bad pitching combined is why Freddy Peralta stunk up the joint. Nothing else to see here.