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Data from Astros fan shows Marwin Gonzalez benefitted from 2017 cheating scheme

A whole lot of garbage can-banging reportedly happened during his at-bats.
Marwin Gonzalez

If the Astros were banging trash cans to tip pitches to hitters during home games in 2017, how much did it help Marwin Gonzalez?

Now a super utility player for the Twins, Gonzalez put up more impressive numbers on the road in 2017 than he did at home, which raises some questions considering the banging scheme wasn't in place on the road, according to Major League Baseball's investigation.  

  • Home 2017: .282/.339/.543, 15 HR, 16 2B, 20 BB, 61 SO, 234 AB
  • Road 2017: .326/.416/.516, 8 HR, 8 2B, 29 BB, 38 SO, 221 AB

In theory, every time the Astros banged on a trash can, Gonzalez, assuming he heard the bang, knew a fastball was coming. Vice versa, when he didn't hear a bang, he would be aware that an off-speed pitch, like a slider or curveball, was about to be delivered. 

According to Tony Adams, an Astros fan who tracked every trash can bang he could hear on replays of 58 home games that were available in 2017, there was a bang on 18.9 percent of all pitches Gonzalez saw in those 58 home games.

It was a higher percentage than any other Houston batter in the games tracked by Adams. 

The garbage can scheme was found to be Houston's preferred method of cheating after initially using whistling and clapping to tip pitches to batters, according to the findings of the investigation. 

Since the cheating only happened during Astros home games, it's odd to see Gonzalez put up better offensive numbers on the road. He struck out once every 3.8 at-bats at home and just once every 5.8 at-bats on the road. He also walked nearly twice as many times on the road than he did at home despite fewer plate appearances. 

Perhaps a more damning statistic against Gonzalez is that his chase rate "on junk outside the zone dropped sharply" in 2017 compared to every other year in his career, according to Twins Daily

Adams included a solo graphic for the number of bangs during Gonzalez's plate appearances in the 58 games he reviewed. You can see that Gonzalez saw a good number of bangs, indicating fastballs were coming, when the Astros hosted the Twins July 14-16. 

The Astros took two of three games that series, including roughing up Twins pitchers Jose Berrios and Phil Hughes with an 8-run second inning on July 14, the first game after the All-Star break. In that inning, Gonzalez hit a Berrios fastball for an RBI single and in the next inning he took a 90 mph fastball from Hughes deep for a homer

Media has yet to get an opportunity to talk to Gonzalez about the sign-stealing scheme. He didn't attend TwinsFest because, according to the Star Tribune, he was doing daily rehab after a minor knee procedure in October. 

The veteran utility player will definitely be answering questions about his role in the alleged cheating when Twins position players report to Fort Myers, Florida, for spring training on Feb. 16. 

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