Pittsburgh Pirates: Former Pitcher Accused of Cheating

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

One of the Pittsburgh Pirates former starting pitchers has been accused of cheating to a certain degree this season. The claim is he has applied a foreign substance to the ball.

Often times when players see a bump in their performance, the first thing that comes to a fan’s mind is “how are they cheating?”.  More often than not, players who are caught “cheating” are usually taking some sort of Performance Enhancing Drug, or PED, to better themselves.  These types of drugs often lead to muscle gain, helping with focus, or recover from injury at a faster rate.  However, there are other types of cheating that go on in baseball as well, and a former Pittsburgh Pirates player has been accused of it.

Gerrit Cole is having the best start to his career this season with the Houston Astros. So far the former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher has been about the best pitcher in the American League.  Through his first five starts he is 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA.  He is leading the American League in strikeouts with 49 through 35 innings.  This gives him a rate of 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings, which is 3.6 higher than any other season in his career.


So what is the issue?  Well first it was somewhat brought up a few weeks ago by Travis Sawchik.  Sawchik made a note that Cole’s spin rate on his fastball significantly increased compared to the previous seasons.  Sawchik tweeted that his RPMs went from about 2100 per fastball to 2300.  He explained that this could be why Cole is seeing a jump in his numbers.  Could it be because he is pitching in a more friendly climate early in the season?  Or is there something else?

The controversy really took flight when Sawchik received a reply to his original tweet.  Kyle Boddy, who studies pitching, decided to throw out a potential accusation.  Boddy claimed that he believes Cole is using a foreign substance to increase his RPMs.  He tweeted that it’s either pine tar or something called Firm Grip.  He says that if a pitcher uses them he will see an increase on his fastball and slider’s RPMs. He is not saying that he knows for a fact that Cole uses it, but does suggest that it would take something like that for Cole’s RPMs to take a jump like that.

Former Teammate

It did not just stop there however.  One of Gerrit Cole’s former teammates also somewhat backed up Boddy’s theory.  Trevor Bauer, who was taken two picks after Cole, was the first person to respond to Boddy’s tweet.  Bauer said that the rules should be enforced as written and that using a foreign substance is just as, if not more, of a competitive advantage than PEDs.  Bauer went on to share how adding a RPMs to his pitches could effect his stats.  Click here for the tweet. The former UCLA Bruin continued to discuss the scenario on twitter yesterday.  Meanwhile, the conversation carried over to MLB Network’s crew yesterday.

Next: A Look at the Team Stats

What to make of all this?

Now the main issue here is there is no real evidence of this.  There has yet to be a camera shot, an opposing player or manager point it out post game, or any signs of Cole applying it.  Also, one has to take into account that Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole were a dominant one-two punch at UCLA, but did not get along.  So is this just a rival of Cole’s trying to tarnish his success?  Kyle Boddy did not make an accusation, but rather just spit balling a possibility.  Maybe it is what it is, maybe Cole has just developed into a different pitcher since going to Houston.  Regardless, it is very interesting to see how this will play out going forward for the former Pittsburgh Pirates ace.