Stark/Sarris: Does electronic sign stealing work? The Astros’ numbers are eye-popping

From SABR members Jayson Stark and Eno Sarris at The Athletic on January 31, 2020:

Their strikeout rate plummeted — at a level unparalleled in the last 100 years.

Their strikeout rate at home took an even more dramatic plunge — and that, too, was unlike anything we’ve seen in the last century.

They developed an uncanny ability to lay off breaking balls below the strike zone — an ability they hadn’t displayed before, and didn’t display on the road. But at the same time, they began crushing every kind of pitch inside the zone — at a rate that didn’t bear much resemblance to the way they’d handled those very same pitches in the past.

These were your 2017 Houston Astros. Remember back, oh, a few months ago, when we just referred to them as the World Series champs? Those were the days. Now we look at them and ask: Were they really that good? How much did they owe to pilfering signs and thumping on trash cans?

So here at The Athletic, we’ve been digging through the data, looking for answers to those questions. We can say, with total assurance, that what we found was intriguing. It strongly suggests that what they were doing worked.

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Originally published: January 31, 2020. Last Updated: January 31, 2020.