An inside look at MLB’s decision to examine tampered baseballs

MLB is planning more enforcement of the rules against pitchers handling baseballs, more or less.

In a memo sent Tuesday by Michael Hill, MLB’s new senior vice president of field operations, teams were informed that the league will collect baseballs to search for illegal foreign substances and will also dive into Statcast data to look for large changes in turning speed. especially when the use of foreign substances is suspected.

In addition, MLB plans to use compliance monitors that are already present in stadiums to try to discourage the theft of electronic signals, among other things, to also be alert regarding the presence of foreign substances in the baseballs of doctors inside. and around the clubhouse.

The memo said that MLB can punish players for infractions and that punishment can come for infractions “regardless of whether evidence of the infraction has been discovered during or after a game.”

However, MLB does not anticipate a series of penalties, including suspensions. It is hoped that a greater focus on the subject, among other elements, will serve as a deterrent not only in the majors, but also to teach how to use substances for profit in the minors, especially since the memorandum establishes that no member of an organization of the clubhouse goers. up can help improve balls by providing substances or techniques on how to do it. Those who participate in this way also face punishment.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred

Much like the survey steroid tests in 2003, MLB is using this as an educational tool to see how widespread the problem is before getting even more strict on the subject. MLB wants to determine what kind of sticky substances are being used and to what advantage. MLB would like to be armed with the information as it continues to work on a baseball that, like the one used in Japan, will have a stickier surface and perhaps deter the need to cheat.

The union received a courtesy phone call a few weeks ago to inform them that MLB would intensify its scrutiny in this area. But because the rule already exists that a ball cannot be tampered with, MLB did not need union approval to enforce the rule. However, the union maintains its right to challenge any player disciplined under the rule.

MLB also wanted so much information on baseball tampering in the face of collective bargaining. While it is not necessary to consult the union about pre-existing rules, you do need to approve new ones. And MLB wants to try to make adjustments to lessen the three ever-increasing real outcomes: home runs, strikeouts and walks. There is a strong belief that the increase in spin aided by sticky substances has led to more strikeouts, which has also led to more walks and home runs.

The Analytical Revolution verified that increased effects help ride straights and break curves and sliders. The pitchers learned that the use of sticky substances promoted a greater spin and a cottage industry emerged to devise concoctions that worked better and were difficult to detect on the body or uniform.

Despite the prevalence of foreign substances (in February 2020, Trevor Bauer assumed that three-quarters of pitchers were wearing something) teams did not challenge each other for fear that their pitchers would be challenged. So MLB is trying to take responsibility away from the clubs. However, it is possible that more scrutiny in this area will lead, say, to teams that believe they have fewer users to face challenges during the season.

For now, however, MLB seems more determined to deter and perhaps punish the worst offenders as it investigates what it faces. To that end, the league said it will remove balls that appear questionable and randomly select others to send to an outside laboratory for inspection for foreign substances. Additionally, Statcast data has been tracking speed, spin and movement for several years and MLB plans to compare the turn rates of especially suspicious pitchers to previous baselines to try to rule out evidence of cheating.


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