Well, this certainly colors Yu Darvish’s free agent pursuit a little bit differently.
There were rumors after he was blown up twice by the Astros in the World Series, but now the team is confirming it: yes, they uncovered that Darvish was tipping his pitches.
You can see the full story here at Sports Illustrated, but the tip-off was not especially sophisticated: “According to a Houston player, the Astros often knew what Darvish was about to throw by the way he brought the ball into his glove in the set position. (Darvish pitches exclusively out of the stretch.) The player said it worked like this: Darvish holds the ball at his side when he gets the sign from the catcher. Whether he re-grips or not as he brings the ball into his glove was the tip-off whether he was going to throw a slider/cutter or a fastball.”
Changing grips in the glove after getting the sign is one of the more obvious ways to counteract something that hitters (and all the dudes in the dugout) are trained to study closely. I sort of can’t believe the tip-off was so simple and obvious, and that no one had picked it up before the World Series. In fact, I wonder if it was not necessarily a 100% thing, and maybe very hard to detect by the untrained eye. There has to be more to this story.
In any case, the relevance today is in the free agent market. There have been – thoughtful, in my opinion – debates about just how much impact a couple stinkers in the World Series would have on a pitcher’s free agent market. My view is that it wouldn’t crush the years or dollars or even take a team from a pursuer to a non-pursuer, but it could have a slight impact at the margins. It could be used as leverage.
With this pitch-tipping story out there and confirmed by the Astros, themselves, Darvish suddenly gets some of that leverage back, since he can, you know, just stop doing that (good timing for him, eh?).
The Cubs don’t figure to be among the biggest Darvish pursuers – they are still almost exclusively tied to Alex Cobb right now – but I don’t see why they wouldn’t linger at the periphery, not unlike what they’ll do with Jake Arrieta, to see how things shake out. You never know when a surprising opportunity will present itself.
Oh, and hey, at least now the Cubs don’t have to feel quite as bad about Darvish dominating them in the NLCS. I mean, except the part where they didn’t pick up the tipped pitches (unless he wasn’t tipping them in the NLCS!).