An interesting little story from Bill James on Red Sox history

Saw this at Bill James Online, from Bill James:

The Red Sox did win a Playoff series a few years ago because the catcher had a tell ... not sure whether that story is public knowledge or not, and of course you don't want to embarass the catcher, but he did have a tell and it did cost his team the playoff series. It was explained to me later; it was unbelievably subtle, but it was enough for the hitters to pick up.

Well ... I guess I can tell you what the tell was, although I can't tell you who the catcher was or what series it was. When there was a runner on first base (meaning that the catcher had to be prepared to make a throw) ... when there was a runner on first base, AND THE PITCH WAS A BREAKING PITCH, then the catcher would plant his left foot first, then his right foot, before he went into his crouch. But if the pitch was a fastball, he would plant his right foot first, then his left. It makes sense when you think about it. I always wonder who picked that up; probably Millsie, Brad Mills, but that is just a guess. Anyway ... when there was a runner on first our guys knew whether a fastball was coming or a breaking pitch. Makes a BIG difference.

Is it possible to figure out the series and catcher? Mills was Terry Francona's bench coach from 2004 to 2009, so that narrows the timeline. Here are the playoff series the Red Sox played those years:

2004: 3-0 over the Angels, 4-3 over Yankees, 4-0 over Cardinals

2005: lost to White Sox

2006: missed playoffs

2007: 3-0 over Angels, 4-3 over Indians, 4-0 over Rockies

2008: 3-1 over Angels, lost to Rays

2009: lost to Angels

That gives us seven possible series: Three in 2004, three in 2007 and one in 2008. Of course, the best story would be if it came in the 2004 ALCS, when the Red Sox pulled off the miracle of miracles, winning the final four games to beat the Yankees. If anyone wants to go through all the game action to see if Jorge Posada had the tell, go for it if you can find the complete games or saved your old videos/DVDs. David Ortiz's game-winning home run in the 12th inning in Game 4 did come with a man on first. Here's the home run, off a Paul Quantrill fastball (or maybe a sinker that didn't sink), since that's mostly what he threw. You can see Posada rocking to his right, but they were also trying to pitch Ortiz inside and it's hard to tell which foot he planted first. Plus, are you really that worried that Manny Ramirez would steal?

I wonder about the 2007 ALCS against the Indians, when the Red Sox rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win the final three games. They scored 30 runs and pounded out 40 hits the final three games. Did they discover Victor Martinez giving away pitches? Here's Dustin Pedroia hitting a two-run homer in Game 7 off a Rafael Betancourt fastball and you can see Martinez planting his right foot first and then his left foot, the supposed tell for a fastball. (Although the home run came with a runner on third, not first.)

That's certainly not enough evidence to indict Martinez. If there's a big Red Sox fan out there who wants to look into this, go for it. Drop a note in comment section or drop me a note on Twitter if you discover anything.