Phillies accused of sign stealing

Ahhh, and I thought this was a slow year for cheating accusations. The Mets complained to MLB that the Phillies were using a centerfield camera to get their signs and tipping off batters. MLB investigated, sending Bob Watson out on Thursday, and didn’t see anything going on.

From the Philly Inquirer:

The Mets heard from former Phillies on their team and other clubs, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, that the Phillies use the camera to steal signs. The Mets possibly became sensitive to this after Monday’s 9-2 loss, so they changed their signs Tuesday.

Lefthander Tom Glavine threw seven shutout innings Tuesday before the Phillies won, 4-2, in 10 innings. The next day, the Mets reported that the Phils joked with them that they had changed their signs.

Without knowing how long the Phillies are accused of stealing signs, it’s particularly hard to figure out if there’s anything fishy in their hitting. But
At home, they’re hitting .285/.363/.480
On the road, they’re at .271/.347/.444

Last year, their split was

So it’s not as if they’re hitting dramatically better at home versus the road compared to last year.

The really telling stat would be whether the Phillies saw an advantage hitting until the other team went to using rolling signs. That’d usually be with a runner on second, though some teams are more aggressive about it depending on who’s on first or third. If the advantage went away, that’d be evidence in the Mets’ favor.

Unfortunately, as an outsider, I don’t have access to this kind of detailed splits, and when you slice data that finely, it’s often hard to see patterns for the noise.

We may also see, assuming the Phillies had a system and shut it down, the home field advantage narrow.

It’s also interesting that they traded Russ Branyan to the Cardinals a few days ago. Branyan would know if the Phillies had a system in place, but there’s no incentive for him to spill the beans, since the two teams don’t play each other in September.

Having said all that, if I were a team in the Phillies’ situation, I’d totally say things like that to screw with opponents. If they think you’re stealing signs and they go to a more complicated system, the chances they’ll cross up pitches and give up a wild pitch increase, and that’s a free advantage.


#1 Valerian on 09.03.07 at 12:26 am

I wonder why you only look at batting. Is that the best evidence for sign-stealing? Success in pitch-outs or stealing baserunners or defending against bunts might be evidence as well.

#2 DMZ on 09.04.07 at 3:03 pm

Well, the accusation is that they’re peeking at the catcher’s signs and giving them to the batter. That’s entirely different than taking offensive signs off the coaches, which hasn’t been mentioned.