In addition to Major League Baseball taking measures to eradicate electronic sign stealing, they are also beginning to examine baseballs used across the league in effort to crack down on the pitchers’ suspected use of banned substances.
MLB sent a memo to all teams prior to the season beginning that they would use Statcast data to analyze potential increases in spin rate. The amount of spin on a pitch changes its trajectory, and the same pitch thrown at the same velocity usually will end up in a different location depending on how much it rotates.
Pitchers with higher spin rates typically generate more swings and misses. Increasing spin rate can be as simple as changing mechanics or building strength, but MLB suspects there are some illegally altering game balls to get more movement on their pitches.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, MLB’s investigative efforts have involved the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Trevor Bauer:
The umpires in Bauer’s start against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday collected multiple balls he threw during the game, according to major-league sources. The balls had visible markings and were sticky, and were sent to the league offices for further inspection, the sources said.
That Bauer is an early focal point for MLB is hardly a surprise. His spin rate increased during a Cy Young Award season in 2020, and Bauer has regularly been critical of MLB and commissioner Rob Manfred.
Bauer has also strongly suggested the Houston Astros relied on foreign substances and other improper tactics to improve a pitcher’s spin rate.
Bauer reached 10 strikeouts in both of his two starts so far this season, doing so by relying on his entire pitch mix and a different approach in each outing.
If Bauer is found to have used a banned substance, MLB could fine or suspend him.
Roberts uncertain how MLB can police spin rate
When news of the MLB memo surfaced, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had his own questions but noted the team would comply with the rules.
“I think there’s a couple things. Obviously, is it performance-enhancing? Is it protect players as far as hitters, where pitchers have a better feel of the baseball?” Roberts began. “I really don’t know how they’re going to kind of monitor or manage and keep up with it.
“Obviously pitchers are using it. Not all pitchers. Fortunately, that’s not in my jurisdiction. I just know we’re going to adhere to whatever rules are set out by Major League Baseball.”
Have you subscribed to the Dodger Blue YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, participate in our shows and giveaways, and more!