The San Francisco Giants have hit the third most home runs in baseball so far this season, highlighted by a seven dinger output against the Chicago White Sox one week ago — the most by the franchise in a single game in over two decades.
The Giants were mashing so well that day, it looked like they knew what was coming. As it turned out, there’s a good chance they did.
A viral six-minute video released on Sunday night by baseball-internet personality and famed lip reader “Jomboy” uncovered that White Sox pitcher Michael Kopech was tipping his pitches in his start vs. the Giants on April 5 — baseball vernacular meaning he unintentionally was giving away what type of pitch he was throwing before he threw the ball.
Kopech’s tell was specifically glaring in the fifth inning, when the Giants hit four of their seven home runs, the most they’ve hit in a game since 2002 and most in a single inning since 2011.
According to Jomboy — who said he was tipped off about the tipping by former major league baseball player Trevor Plouffe — Kopech, right before delivering a pitch, was lifting his thumb on his glove when he was throwing a curveball. Meanwhile, if his thumb was flat, he was not throwing a curveball.
He had only thrown two curveballs in the first four innings, but went to the pitch much more in the fifth, which ended up being his undoing.
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Michael Conforto, who hit the first home run of the inning, can clearly be seen throughout his at bat staring at Kopech’s glove when he came set, before eventually blasting a high fastball into the right field stands.
The pitch tipping was most obvious against Mike Yastrzemski, who launched a down and away curveball over the right field fence, not generally an easy location for a hitter to pull out of the park, unless, as appeared to be the case in Chicago, the batter is expecting the pitch.
After it became obvious the Giants were destroying Kopech’s curveball, White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz spoke to Kopech during the inning, and Jomboy speculated Katz told him not to throw his curveball anymore. Sure enough, the next batter, David Villar, only saw fastballs and, possibly because he knew that's all Kopech was going to throw, slammed one into the left field bleachers.
Thairo Estrada hit the inning’s other home run, though his came off of a slider and it's not unclear whether Kopech’s alleged pitch tipping helped him at all.
Even though Kopech’s glove movement was subtle, Plouffe told Jomboy that that type of tell is easy for hitters to pick up.
Kopech admitted afterwards that he and the team suspected the Giants noticed that he was tipping pitches.
“There’s suspicion of it,” Kopech said. “I don’t know if there’s anything to pinpoint or we can know for sure, but we looked at some things. We did work on trying to clean that stuff up.”