Responding to The Athletic about 9 released pitchers.

On December 6th, 2019, Molly Knight of The Athletic released an article speaking of 9 released pitchers during the 2017 season.  All 9 faced the Houston Astros at home during the alleged cheating scandal and the article explains that the following 9 pitchers were all reached out to.  1 declined comment, 4 couldn’t be reached and 4 spoke on the condition of anonymity. Let’s break down each of these pitchers and see what happened and what, if anything, the Athletic article may have uncovered.

1)  Chase DeJong – Article states 4/3/17, he pitches 0.2IP and 3ER in his debut.  Problem is, on 4/3/17, Houston won 3-0 against Seattle… but Felix Hernandez gave up 2 ER in 5IP.  DeJong instead gave up a 3R HR to Springer on 4/5/17 in the 13th inning to lose the game for the Mariners on a walk-off.  It was, in fact, his MLB debut.

The home run was a wall scraper into the Crawford Boxes.  I can’t find video of the game, only highlights. DeJong would be optioned back to the minors after the game, a logical move on the part of the Mariners after a 13 inning affair where they used 9 pitchers.  Their two best relievers that year, Diaz and Vincent, each pitched 2 innings and in DeJong’s place, activated Dillon Overton from the paternity list.  

DeJong was traded to Minnesota for Zach Duke in July of 2018.  He returned to the majors in September of 2018. Then designated for Assignment in January when the Twins signed Martin Perez.  He returned to the majors for the Twins in April of 2019 where he gave up 4ER in 1IP The Twins won 14-8 in a slugfest and DeJong came in for the 9th inning where the Twins were up 10 runs. 

Ultimately, DeJong wasn’t very good at the MLB level.  12 appearances, 8 starts, 1-4, 5.94 ERA, on 47IP in his lifetime.  The one start against Houston was his debut, but there isn’t much there to determine whether this would be the trend for his career.

2)  Matt  Strahm – Article states he threw 0.2IP, walked 3 and gave up an ER for KC on April 9, 2017 vs Houston.  This is accurate. He took the loss in this game, coming into the game in the 12th inning of a 4-4 tie.  

I found the game.  It was a condensed version of the game only showing the key pitches in the AB’s and the new pitchers.  The first pitch shown from Strahm is an off-speed curveball to George Springer. It’s the first pitch of the AB.  Springer breaks his bat (sounds like) and bounces it just out of Strahm’s reach. 2b Cheslor Cuthbert then boots the grounder allowing Springer to reach.  

Next pitch shown is a fastball to Bregman who sacrifices Springer to 2nd.  It is the 2nd pitch of the AB, but there is a loud whistle before the pitch, but not like the “Charge” whistle as people have said.  More like a bird call whistle.
Intentional Walk to Jose Altuve (which is one of the 3 BB’s stated in the article)

Carlos Correa grounds out to Moustakas but only gets the force at 2nd, making it 1st

and 3rd with 2 out.  The pitch was an off-speed curveball that Correa was out in front of.  No noise was made in the background that was remarkable.

Brian McCann works a 10 pitch AB and walks on a fastball up above his eyes.  I’d LOVE to have the full at-bat here to break down, but they only show two pitches of it, one where he is late on a fastball and loses the bat over the dugout, and then the 10th pitch where he walks.  Since both are fastballs, we don’t hear anything abnormal.

Evan Gattis is the final batter, works a 6 pitch walk from Strahm to force home Springer and win the game.  Another fastball, high and in, no noise is heard in the background. Another AB, though, that I’d like the full video of.  

Strahm is NOT released at any point during his tenure with the KC Royals. He was sent down but returned just 11 days later.  Then, he is traded in July to the SD Padres where he remains to this day. After that return on 4/21: 33.1IP, 3.78 ERA, 16BB, 37K.  He threw 22 pitches in that outing which, again was 12 innings long. The Royals needed some fresh arms in the pen after using 6 pitchers and with Strahm having options left, it probably made sense that he get sent down after a long affair.

3)  Anthony Bass – Article states he threw 2.2IP, 3 ER on 5/3/17.  This is accurate. However, it should be noted that it was the final 8 outs of the game, a game that Nick Martinez had already given up 7 runs, 6 earned over 5.1IP to this same Astros lineup.  Charlie Morton was DEALING on the other side so the game was 6-1 upon Bass’s entry into the game.  

Found the game.  Again, condensed version.  

First batter is Springer, who doubles off a 3-2 fastball at 93mph.  No noise in the background can be heard. The inherited runner of Aoki scores, Springer advances to 3rd and now it’s all on Bass from here on out.  

Next hitter is Reddick.  Sac fly on a change up. The throw would’ve beaten Springer had Lucroy been able to come up with it cleanly.  ER off Bass.

Altuve pops out in foul territory without being shown on the replay.  He ends this frame, 0.2IP, 1ER, 1H.

Bottom 7, Bass gets through the inning in 5 batters, one of which is a 7 pitch AB to Carlos Beltran where he reaches on an error by Odor.  Off-speed pitch hit hard to Odor, but he can’t handle the transfer after a sliding stop. Nobody scores, however. Nothing abnormal is heard during the key pitches either.

Bottom 8, Bass gets Aoki to fly out on the first pitch.  Marisnick singles on a fastball, nothing heard. Reddick next.  The video is too quick into the pitch to hear anything in the background, but it’s a change-up, 85mph.  Although, admittedly, it’s middle-middle and Reddick crushes it for a 2 run homer. I think Bass just missed his spot there.  Altuve grounds out on the first pitch and he finishes the inning striking out Correa on 5 pitches. 10-1 Astros. Pair this outing with the last outing he had on April 25th where he gave up 6ER, 10 hits over 3IP and his ERA was now 14.29.  He was sent down and did not appear again in the 2017 season.

4)  Tyler Wilson – Article states he threw 1.1IP, 3 hits and 1 ER on May 27, 2017.  Article states he was optioned the day after this start, had one more appearance and now is in the KBO.

Found game.  Condensed Version again. 

Wilson pitched the 6th inning.  The Orioles were already down 4-1 at the time.  

First batter is Bregman, lines out on 2 pitches.  No video is shown.
Marisnick is next, hit by pitch on 4th pitch of the AB.  It was an off-speed pitch that hit him in the wrist. No noise heard.  Marisnick would steal second.

Springer then lines out to third on the 4th pitch of his AB and Marisnick would be doubled off second.  Inning over, clean.

Wilson returned for the 7th.  Game is now 4-2 Astros as the Orioles scored on a wild pitch in the 7th. 

First hitter is Altuve.  He singles on an 80mph change.  No noise heard. Altuve steals second on the first pitch to Correa.

Correa has an 8 pitch AB I’d like to see the full video of, but he ends up singling up the middle on a 90mph fastball.  Rickard boots it in center to allow Altuve to score.
Gattis is next.  He doubles on a fastball on the first pitch he sees.  2nd and 3rd, nobody out.

Wilson is then replaced by Richard Bleier who shuts down the rally.

There’s a quote in the Athletic from an unnamed pitcher that says:  “That option was well-deserved before I even landed in Houston for that series, so whether Houston cheated or not I didn’t help myself.”  I attribute this to Wilson as he came into the game with 7 appearances, a 2-2 record, a 7.30 ERA and a 6/4 K/BB ratio. Tell yourself that a 28-year-old reliever with those numbers deserve to be up for this game and you’re dreaming.  Ultimately, this kid didn’t have the stuff to be in the MLB. His 4seam fastball topped out at 91, his slider was 80, his change was 83 and his sinker was 90. That is not going to get it done at this level.

5)  Dillon Gee – Article states Gee’s line – 3IP, 4H, BB on 6/14/17.  They conveniently leave out the 2 ER that came along with this line.  Thing is, Gee was the best pitcher on this day from the Rangers.  

Found the game, a condensed version.  

Gee enters the game with a mess of a 6th inning thanks to Tony Barnette and Jeremy Jeffress.  Barnette had already given up 3ER without recording an out. Jeffress gave up back-to-back home runs to lead off the inning.  The score was 10-1. Runners were at 1st and 2nd for Yuli Gurriel. He entered with a 3.60 ERA, a 1.80 WHIP, a 7/5 K/BB ratio and a .310 BAA.

First batter, Yuli Gurriel.  GIDP. As good as you can ask for.
Derek Fisher singles to score Marwin Gonzalez (not his runner) on a change up.  No noise is heard, but it’s very late into the wind that the video cuts to it.

Marisnick is HBP on the 6th pitch of the AB.  

Springer next, doubles to score both Fisher and Marisnick on center-cut fastball at 91mph.  You could’ve set this thing on a tee and it wouldn’t have been better than this pitch.

Bregman grounds out to end the inning.   

Gee pitched the 8th and 9th without incident, only giving up 2 singles and a walk in the process.  Even shutting down the Astros in order on 16 pitches in the 8th with two strike outs. He was, without question, the best pitcher on the Rangers that day.  

Gee was, factually, designated for assignment on 6/16… but I doubt that had anything to do with the start and more to do with the fact that they signed Peter O’Brien from the Dodgers off Waivers that same day and needed to make room on the 40 man roster.  Gee went on to pitch in Minnesota for the rest of the 2017 season as he was picked up just two days later and he was on the Twins MLB roster five days after being released. In 2018 he pitched in Japan and retired in January 2019.  

6)  Sam Gaviglio – Article reports his line: 6IP, 5ER on 7/18/17.  That is accurate. He gave up 8 hits, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts, 2 homers and took the loss.  He was optioned back to the minors two days later and then designated for assignment in August.  The article states he never pitched for the Mariners again…. But doesn’t mention that he was placed on waivers in August, picked up by KC and continued to pitch that year for them.  Nor does it mention that the possible reason for the demotion was a trade that came through for the Mariners sending Tyler O’Neill to STL for Marco Gonzales. Gonzales would take Gaviglio’s place in the rotation.  I don’t think I need to breakdown a mediocre start by a guy that ended up being a decent bullpen piece for Toronto this year when the other circumstances surrounding his release and demotion are so obvious.

7)  Chase Whitley – Article reports his line:  3IP, 3ER on 7/31/17. This is accurate. 4 hits, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 1 homer.  The article states he was optioned on 8/1…. But doesn’t mention that he was back up with the Rays on 8/14 (the minimum amount of time he could spend after being optioned) and pitched another 10 appearances to a rather dismal 6.97 ERA over that period.  The Braves picked him up on waivers in December, he pitched one game and retired.  

8)  Matt Dermody – Article reports his line:  0.1IP, 2ER on 8/4/17. This is accurate.  2 hits and a home run. The article states he was optioned the next day, August 5th.  It does not mention that he returned to the Blue Jays on August 15th and pitched 18 games to a 1.96 ERA over the rest of the season.  It does not mention that he was only up from July 26th to August 5th and had a 4.91 ERA across that time. The article also states he was designated for assignment in March of 2018.  It doesn’t mention his TJ surgery in May of 2018. He’s currently a free agent and probably finishing rehab for that TJ surgery. It’ll be interesting to see if he catches on with a team this spring.  

Dermody entered this game in the bottom of the 4th inning with the game 4-2 after Cesar Valdez had struggled.  He entered only having played 3.2IP, a 12.27 ERA, 2.18 WHIP, .429 BAA. Runners were at 2nd and 3rd with 1 out.  He faced only 3 batters.  

Batter 1:  Derek Fisher.  On the 2nd pitch of the AB, Fisher topped a fastball over the mound and was a groundout victim scoring the runner from 3rd.  No abnormal noise heard.

Batter 2:  Alex Bregman.  4 pitch AB, Bregman drives a homer to RF.  Another absolutely MEATBALL of a 92 mph fastball, middle middle, that missed its target by about 4 inches.  No abnormal noise.

Batter 3:  Josh Reddick.  Single on the first pitch, an offspeed pitch left up in the zone that Reddick bounced up the middle.

9)  Mike Bolsinger – Article reports his line:  0.1IP, 4ER on 8/4/17. Same day as Dermody. This is accurate.  He actually relieved Dermody after the Reddick single. Bolsinger hasn’t returned to the majors after this game, which The Athletic correctly reports.  He was designated for assignment, elected free agency and signed in Japan where he’s been since. In this game, he faces 8 hitters. He enters with 41IP, 5.49 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, .282 BAA, and 39/24 K/BB.  

Batter 1:  Gurriel – Walks Gurriel on 5 pitches, missing the 5th inside on an 89mph cutter.  

Batter 2:  Marwin Gonzalez – Home Run on 3 pitches.  He missed the first two so Marwin was sitting on a strike with a 2-0 count.   Bolsinger missed his target (which was low and away) by throwing this cutter up at the belt and inside to Marwin who muscled it out to RF.  It’s now 10-2 Astros.

Batter 3:  Carlos Beltran – First pitch double.  Another cutter that misses the spot, this one up and over the plate.  Beltran lines it to center field where, Ezequiel Carrera inexplicably dives for the ball he’s nowhere near and it goes by him.  If Beltran were any more fleet of foot, he’d have been standing on third base as Carrera didn’t even get up to chase it. Instead, RF Jose Bautista throws it back in.

Batter 4:  Brian McCann – 8 pitch walk.  I would love to see this AB in its entirety, but we only see the final pitch, an 81mph curve that misses very high.  Nothing abnormal is heard before the pitch is thrown.

Batter 5:  Tyler White – Single on the 2nd pitch of the AB, but the condensed game doesn’t show it.  Beltran scores.

Batter 6:  Jake Marisnick – Single on the 4th pitch of the AB, on a 2-1 count.  Bolsinger again misses his spot (which was low and away) over the heart of the plate with a slider at 78mph.   Marisnick ropes it into left to score McCann

Batter 7:  Derek Fisher – 5 pitch walk.  The final pitch was an 89mph fastball that he missed his target by over two feet.  Target was low, he missed it around Fisher’s eyes.

Batter 8:  Alex Bregman – First pitch fly out to the LCF wall that Bregman JUST missed.  It was an 81mph curve that hung for a bit too long. LF Steve Pearce had to make a jumping grab to catch it.

Each of these players had bad performances against the Astros, that cannot be denied.  I found some AB’s that should be looked into further to see if there was cheating going on, but ultimately, there were many more outside circumstances going on to result in these transactions by the teams involved.