• March 20, 2023

M.L.B. Says It Will Punish Ball Doctoring

The era of sticky baseballs and artificially high spin rates is coming to an end. Major League Baseball notified the pitchers Tuesday when it announced new guidelines to enforce the rules against the ban on placing Foreign matter on baseballs, a practice believed to improve pitching performance.

From June 21st, a thrower who is found to be carrying a foreign object or has placed it on a ball in play will be excluded from the game and blocked for 10 further games. Repeat offenders face increasing penalties, and team officials and staff can also face punishment for failing to ensure that the rules are followed.

Referees will conduct regular searches in games, MLB said.

“After an extensive process of repeated ineffective warnings, gathering information from current and former players and others from across the sport, two months of extensive data gathering, listening to our fans, and thoughtful deliberation, I have determined that a fresh enforcement of foreign substances is needed level the playing field, “Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.

MLB conducted a lengthy investigation into the matter and concluded that pitchers were secretly placing foreign matter on baseballs to improve their grip and thus increase the spin on their seats. The more spin the ball has, the more it moves and the harder it is to hit.

Research has also shown that increased spin helps fastballs defy their natural downward arc. MLB noted in its statement that these pitches have been particularly difficult to hit in recent years, which helps explain historically low hit averages and high strikeout rates. The league-wide batting average for Tuesday’s games was 0.238, the second lowest in MLB history (it was 0.237 in 1968 before the hill was lowered to support Batters), and that year there has been an average of 8.95 strikeouts per Team and game, the highest rate ever.

The sport has already favored pitchers over batters for the past several years, but the dominance has taken to extremes and MLB believes the use of foreign matter has become ubiquitous.

“The use of alien substances appears to be contributing to a style of pitching in which pitchers sacrifice position in favor of spin and speed, especially in relation to increased fastballs,” the MLB statement said.

In its statement, the MLB also rejected the idea that the substances were used as they have been for decades. Previously, pitchers claimed to have used various substances to help them control the ball and avoid accidentally hitting clubs with incorrect pitches.

“The evidence does not suggest a correlation between improved impact security and the use of foreign matter,” the statement said. “In fact, the hit rate has increased along with the prevalence of foreign substance use. Until May 31, the 2021 season has the highest hit-by-pitch rate of any season in the last 100 years. “

The MLB has begun suspending minor league pitchers for using foreign substances and this, coupled with recently released reports that new enforcement actions were on the way, could have caused the pitchers to eliminate the substances themselves. Statcast, MLB’s data collection source, found that the average spin rate dropped to its lowest level in the season last week.

On June 21st, it can fall even lower.

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