If you thought #AwardsSZN ended with things like Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP, you should consider thinking again. Or maybe you prefer to avoid thinking much in the first place, a practice I’ve sworn by for years. Anyway, there was a very prestigious award handed out to a pair of Cubs Tuesday morning, though you probably missed it while deleting all those Black Friday emails you got last night.
Rob Friedman, proprietor of the infamous(ly awesome) PitchingNinja Twitter account, named Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini winners of this year’s Least Conspicuous Signs award. Though the video evidence seen below came from a camera in center field, it’s pretty clear none of that was relayed to the batter. Guess Carlos Beltrán was hired a few months too late.
This particular sign was laid down, literally, in the bottom of the 8th inning of the Cubs’ win over the Mets in New York on August 27, one of many Darvish gems down the stretch. The big righty had cruised through 7.1 innings with five hits allowed, giving up just one run on a Pete Alonso homer to lead off the 4th. Apropos of nothing other than proving how online I am, that Polar Bear dinger gave the home team a 69.9% win expectancy.
Two-run homers by Addison Russell and Javy Báez in each of the subsequent innings had flipped things back in the Cubs’ favor and Darvish was cruising through opponents as he was wont to do in the second half. Which brings us to McNeil’s final at-bat of the game, a hapless effort made even more so by his weak whiff at a curveball that Caratini practically screamed at Darvish to bury.
After going foul, swinging strike, foul on the first three pitches, Caratini knew McNeil was susceptible to the hook. It had become Darvish’s favorite put-away pitch ever since he’d learned it from Craig Kimbrel just about a week prior to his start against the Mets, and McNeil had already missed it completely earlier in the at-bat.
Caratini flashed two fingers with his right hand, then treated the ground to his left like a trash can in the Astros’ dugout as he banged it with his glove to show Darvish he wanted the pitch in the dirt. And then, as if he hadn’t been clear enough, the catcher tapped his glove on the ground between his legs while pointing downward emphatically with his right index finger.
Despite all that, McNeil stood no chance.
2019 PitchingNinja Award for Least Inconspicuous Signs. 🏆
Darvish & Caratini: "Curveball in the Dirt"[Cue the Astros jokes in 3, 2, 1…] pic.twitter.com/Q5ijs4p5Gi
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) November 26, 2019
I’m not sure whether these guys each get an award or if they just have to share it, but it really seems like this belongs more to Caratini than Darvish. Sure, the pitcher had to execute on the pitch that was called, but I’m not sure you could be more transparent about what was coming if you did anything short of telling the batter what he was about to get.
Heck, Caratini pretty much did tell McNeil what he was about to see and ol’ dude still just waved at it. Not bad.
Ed. note: As PitchingNinja brought to my attention following the initial publication of this post, Darvish had actually taken home another award earlier in the month. His Deadliest Pitch nod was earned back on April 15, when he performed an impromptu vasectomy on Lewis Brinson, taking out Willson Contreras and home plate umpire Brian O’Nora in the process
2019 PitchingNinja Award for Deadliest Pitch. 🏆☠️☠️☠️
Yu Darvish. Triple Kill. [With Audio] pic.twitter.com/ba5hciJKqj
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) November 5, 2019