While wading through all the junk that’s orbiting around the Houston Astros scandal, there’s been some incredible detective work done by some internet baseball gumshoes. We’ve had the initial videos from Jomboy Media, and then the sleuthing from r/baseball, but the biggest trove of evidence from the amateur private eyes came in the form of http://signstealingscandal.com.
Created by Astros fan Tony Adams, the site notates every bang from every Astros game in the 2017 season. It’s a mountain of information laid out in an easy and simplified manner. It’s a masterpiece that came out of Adams’ “attempt to understand the scope of the cheating and the players involved.”
The major thing that’s come out of his work has been the lesser-known players affected by the scandal. That’s what we’re talking about today. Specifically, one inning pitched by Toronto Blue Jays reliever, Mike Bolsinger.
The last Major League outing of his career.
Bolsinger was originally drafted in the 15th round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 451st pick. Picked after Bolsinger were such names as Cody Allen (480th), Adam Eaton (571st), Adam Liberatore (641st) and Kevin Kiermaier (941st). Also taken after Bolsinger was former 2017 Houston Astros 1B/DH, Evan Gattis.
Bolsinger made his first MLB appearance for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Mets on April 14th, 2014. He pitched the 5th, 6th and 7th innings, giving up 2 earned runs on 6 hits over those 3 innings. He would then go on to make 9 more starts – finishing the year with a 1-6 record, a 1.586 WHIP, and a 5.50 ERA over 52.1 innings. In the offseason, Bolsinger’s contract would be purchased by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
For the Dodgers in 2015, Bolsinger pitched his best season in the majors. He started 21 games and posted a 3.62 ERA, a 1.363 WHIP and an ERA+ of 102, just above league average. It should be clear to you by now that Mike Bolsinger is not an incredible pitcher. He’s league average at best. However, on the 2015 Dodgers, Bolsinger was the third-best arm behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. That’s not too bad.
What was too bad for the Dodgers was Bolsinger’s performance in 2016, which sent our hero packing after 6 games in the majors, followed a tough stint with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in the Pacific Coast League. His next and final landing spot was Toronto.
And that’s what we’re going to talk about: Bolsinger’s final year and then his final inning.
In Spring Training, Bolsinger failed to impress. In his 13.0 innings of work, our hero posted a 6.23 ERA, 2.080 WHIP, while striking out 16, but walking 9. Those numbers were not good enough to make the MLB roster, and Bolsinger was sent to Buffalo to start the season. Thus begins his ping-pong like 2017 between the majors and the minors.
In April for Buffalo, Bolsinger tossed 12.1 innings, allowing 2 earned runs on 11 hits, good enough for a 1.135 WHIP and a stellar 1.46 ERA. Obviously taking note of the hot start to the season, the Blue Jays brought him up to the show for May.
In May, Bolsinger’s big-league woes continued. In his 25.2 innings over five starts for the Blue Jays in the second month of the season, he got absolutely rocked to the tune of 16 earned runs off 27 hits and 19 walks. With his ERA and WHIP ballooning to 5.61 and 1.792, Bolsinger was sent back to Buffalo…
… where he once again showed up and showed out. In his June campaign, Bolsinger pitched incredibly well over 21.1 innings of work. Over that span, he surrendered 20 hits, but only 4 earned runs and a lone walk. After finishing the month with a 1.69 ERA and a 0.984 WHIP, it was back to Toronto we go!
Welcome to July, where things go exactly as you think they do: poorly again. Nine earned runs over 15.1 innings, with a 5.28 ERA and a 1.435 WHIP, does not a solid pitcher make. But he remained on the team heading into August. So maybe things could turn around for him?
The fourth inning began with Cesar Valdez taking the mound with the Blue Jays trailing 2-3 against a surging Astros squad. Carlos Beltran led off with single, followed by Brian McCann, who drew a walk. The third batter of the inning, Tyler White, would smash the second pitch he saw to left. As it one-hopped the wall and careened over the head of Steve Pearce, Beltran would score and McCann would head to second. Jake Marisnick would then strikeout and Valdez would be relieved of his duties, leaving runners on second and third.
Coming in to relieve Valdez was Matt Dermody, who got Derek Fisher to ground out to second, but allowed McCann to score and White to advance to third. The next batter was Alex Bregman, who took Dermody deep. After a Josh Reddick single, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons took the ball from Dermody. The score was 7-2, as Bolsinger trotted in from the bullpen.
Already in this inning, the Astros have heard 9 bangs of the trash can. The Bregman home run? That came after two breaking balls, both accompanied by bangs.
And now, Mike Bolsinger’s Final MLB Inning
The first batter to step in against Bolsinger was Yuli Gurriel, who was hitting .290 for the season. The at-bat goes as follows:
- 1st Pitch: Cutter – Ball 1
- 2nd Pitch: Curveball – Ball 2 – BANG
- 3rd Pitch: Curveball – Strike 1 – BANG
- 4th Pitch: Curveball – Ball 3 – BANG
- 5th Pitch: Cutter – Ball 4.
Gurriel walks, Reddick moves to second. Five pitches, three trash can bangs. In a 7-2 game. Next up is Marwin Gonzalez who is hitting .307 on the year with 61 RBIs, and 19 home runs. His at-bat goes like this:
- 1st Pitch: Curveball – Ball 1
- 2nd Pitch: Curveball – Ball 2
- 3rd Pitch: Cutter- Three Run Home Run.
Marwin Gonzalez absolutely smashes this ball to the right-field seats for his 20th home run of the season, giving the Astros a 10-2 lead.
Bolsinger regroups and leans in to face the next hitter, Carlos Beltran. The Houston Astros have now batted around in the fourth. Beltran’s at-bat doesn’t last long as he hits a Bolsinger 4-seam fastball to center.
Now there are two outs in this inning, and Blue Jays CF Ezequiel Carrera knew that. Seeing an opportunity to close out the inning, and stop the bleeding, Carrera absolutely sells out to snag the sinking shot from Beltran. He comes up empty, very empty. The ball skips to the wall as Beltran rounds first, eventually stopping at second.
Next up is Brian McCann who already has walked and scored a run in this inning. The following at-bat is the longest of the night for Bolsinger, totaling eight pitches. Those eight are as follows:
- 1st Pitch: Curveball – Ball 1 – BANG
- 2nd Pitch: Slider – Swinging Strike 1
- 3rd Pitch: Cutter – Called Strike 2
- 4th Pitch: Slider – Ball in the Dirt 2
- 5th Pitch: Slider – Ball 3 – BANG
- 6th Pitch: Slider – Foul – BANG
- 7th Pitch: Cutter – Foul
- 8th Pitch: Curveball – Ball 4 – BANG
An eight-pitch walk. Two on, two outs, and Tyler White coming to the plate. At this point, Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker pays a visit to the mound, more than likely to tell Bolsinger to hunker down or get this guy or keep it low or something helpful.
Tyler White’s at-bat: Two. Pitches. Two. Bangs.
- 1st Pitch: Cutter – Called Strike – BANG
- 2nd Pitch: Curveball – Single – BANG
White pushes a single through the right side of the infield as Beltran comes around to score from second. It’s now 11-2 and Bolsinger’s beginning to unravel. Jake Marisnick is the next up.
- 1st Pitch: Cutter – Foul
- 2nd Pitch: Cutter – Ball 1
- 3rd Pitch: Cutter- Ball 2 – BANG
- 4th Pitch: Curveball – Single – BANG
Marisnick lines a curveball into left field, far enough to bring in the less than speedy McCann in from second. 12-2 Astros, with two outs and two on. It’s a merry-go-round at this point.
Derek Fisher steps in. This at-bat, like the Marwin Gonzalez at-bat, is the only other to not include any audible or reported bangs on the trash can. That at-bat looks like this:
- 1st Pitch: 4-Seam Fastball – Called Strike 1
- 2nd Pitch: Cutter – Ball 1
- 3rd Pitch: Cutter – Ball 2
- 4th Pitch: Slider – Ball 3
- 5th Pitch: Cutter – Ball 4
Bases loaded. Two outs for the billionth time. Bolsinger now faces Alex Bregman.
Bregman sees one pitch, a curveball, and goes after it. He smashes a massive fly ball, even pimping his swing as he makes his way down the first base line. Bregman also heard a bang on his first pitch.
The ball Bregman hit, with the bases loaded in a 12-2 game, went all the way to the wall in left-center. Steve Pearce, who has seen so much action this inning, has his back up against the wall in order to make the inning-ending grab.
In an inning where three pitchers have been used, nine runs have scored and the Astros a few batters away from going through the lineup for a second time, Alex Bregman attempts to tee off on a Bolsinger pitch, whose type he’s been alerted to. Bregman has already homered in this inning, and is looking for more. That’s some selfish, brazen nonsense.
Of all the games in which the Astros used their sign-stealing system, this game on August 4th used more bangs than any other, totaling 54. Of those 54 bangs, 12 came against Bolsinger. That’s some serious targeting of a guy with everything to lose from a team with nothing to gain.
Mike Bolsinger would leave the field, head to the locker room and never pitch in the majors again.
After that game, Bolsinger returned to the success he had found in the minors. Over 14 innings back in Buffalo, he posted a 1.93 ERA and a 1.071 WHIP. But it was too late. The struggles had been crystallized in one inning against the Astros. A career minor leaguer. Not an MLB-caliber arm.
Bolsinger would then go on to pitch for two seasons in Japan where he saw a modicum of success. Over two seasons for the Chiba Lotte Marines, Bolsinger posted an 18-8 record, a 3.87 ERA, a 1.362 WHIP over 232.2 innings, which happens to be two more innings than his MLB career.
After that, Bolsinger was out of professional baseball for good.
When it comes to the Astros Sign Stealing, it’s not just the fans who were robbed and cheated. I know we’ve talked about this every damn day of this offseason, but that’s because this scandal didn’t just effect games.When pundits and MLB officials discuss the scope of the scandal, it’s not just how long they were using the system, or how many games they won by stealing signs. It’s the players on the other side of the diamond who were often affected the most. And guys like Mike Bolsinger don’t have anyone looking out for them except stupid bloggers like me and twitter eggs. That’s a problem, that’s a big problem.
So to Mike Bolsinger, wherever you are, know that we have your back. That this wasn’t your fault. And that despite a short career, you still achieved something a very small percentage of people can say they did. You played the greatest game in the world at the highest professional level, and you did it honestly.