MLB has announced new measures to be implemented next Monday in an effort to crack down on what is perceived as widespread use of foreign substances on pitches.
Pitchers caught possessing or applying a foreign substance will be ejected and could face up to a 10-game suspension without pay. The judgment is not subject to review. Players who refuse to cooperate will be presumed to have violated the rules. Teams will not be allowed to replace a pitcher on the roster who is suspended for using foreign substances.
Umpires will check starting pitchers multiple times a game, and relievers will be checked once they conclude an inning or are removed from a game, whichever comes first. Catchers and position players will also be subjected to search. Pitchers will be held responsible for foreign substances found on position players and catchers. Minor leaguers umpired will be conducting similar checks at lower levels.
Club employees can also be fined and discipline for assisting players with foreign substances. Pitchers can still use rosin bags, but cannot combine it with other substances. Pitchers are discouraged from using sunscreen at night or indoor stadiums.
Baseball has long forbidden the practice of applying substances on the ball. Rule 6.02 states “No pitcher shall...expectorate on the ball, either hand or his glove”, “apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball”, or “have on his person, or in his possession, any foreign substance.” Foreign substances have come under fire recently because of their widespread use, causing strikeout rates to increase and batting averages to plummet. Using sticky substances allows pitchers to put greater spin on the ball, which can add velocity and movement. Pitchers have been using rosin mixtures and other adhesives to gain an edge.
Just the added scrutiny has already had an effect, according to Jeff Passan at ESPN:
Some teams already have asked pitchers who relied heavily on foreign substances to throw bullpen sessions without any grip enhancers to prepare for the future, two players and an official told ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Teams recently received reports from the league of pitchers on their team who had been caught using substances, two general managers told Passan.
That sort of preparation portends a change that already has taken root. Multiple pitchers, who asked for anonymity to avoid any punishment from the league, told Passan they either have stopped using foreign substances altogether or shifted from Spider Tack to pine tar — from a relatively new and controversial product to one whose place in baseball dates back decades.
However, the effect so far seems to be limited to a few pitchers.
11 pitchers are down big, driving the overall spin rate numbers down and making the effect seem more universal. Only 44 pitchers are down even one standard deviation. https://t.co/q6d4951P33— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) June 15, 2021
Offensive numbers have also gone up slightly, although that is not unusual for summer months.
The slash line for all MLB hitters— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 14, 2021
April 1-June 4: .236/.312/.395
On June 5, details emerged about how umpires will conduct foreign substance checks, and how MLB has compiled foreign substance scouting reports on some pitchers.
MLB hitters June 5-June 13: .247/.319/.417
As for the Royals, the effect has been quite minimal.
I looked at each of the #Royals four starters who pitched both before and the sticky stuff enforcement rumors came out. Here are some fastball spin rates before and after:— David Lesky (@DBLesky) June 15, 2021
Minor - 2565/2513
Keller - 2192/2183
Singer - 2263/2285
Bubic - 2077/1926
What do you think of these new measures? Can baseball do an effective job policing the use of the sticky stuff?