Ted White

Cheating in Baseball: Reflections on Electronic Sign-Stealing

The Green Bag Second Series


ON SEPTEMBER 22, 2016, an intern in the Houston Astros’ organization, Derek Vigoa, showed the Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow a PowerPoint presentation about of an Excelbased application. The application was programmed with an algorithm which could detect the pitch signs opposing catchers were flashing to pitchers. Since 2014, when video replays of action on the field were made available to major league baseball teams in order to help them challenge certain calls made by umpires, teams had access, in so-called video rooms, usually located close to dugouts, to television and computer monitors receiving live feeds of television broadcasts of games. The broadcasts fed to teams typically made use of centerfield cameras, which often offered the best look at pitches as they were delivered to batters. The cameras captured the hand signals catchers flashed to pitchers in order to suggest a particular pitch, as well as the sequences in which those signals were flashed. The application program allowed someone watching the live feed to log an opposing catcher’s sequence of hand signals, and the actual signals flashed, into a spreadsheet, along with the pitches thrown which corresponded to those signs...


G. Edward White, Cheating in Baseball: Reflections on Electronic Sign-Stealing, 23 The Green Bag Second Series, 131–143 (2020).