Former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow made some strong comments about Major League Baseball’s crackdown on foreign substance usage
If you’ve been paying any attention to recent baseball news you know that, beginning June 21, Major League Baseball will be cracking down on foreign substance usage. This is something that will impact the Pittsburgh Pirates and all of baseball.
Major League Baseball has already been cracking down on it in the minors. In early June, four minor league pitchers were suspended 10 games after being caught using substances to doctor the baseball.
The whole new initiative to heavily enforce this rule has come with pitchers now completely overpowering batters. There have been over 9 strikeouts per 9 innings this year (9.19 to be exact). It would be the first time in MLB history that a full season was played and where at least a third of the outs in a 9 inning game (on average) were strikeouts.
Strikeout rates have been on a steep rise the last handful of seasons. Just for reference, 9 inning games on average in 2011 had just 7.17 strikeouts. This has led to batters making much less contact. The current league average batting average is just .238, which is the second lowest single season mark since 1968. League average OPS this season is just .711,the 76th lowest mark in baseball history, and the lowest mark since 2014. The league wide wOBA of .310 is another very low mark, ranking as the 32nd lowest.
The biggest advantage pitchers have when using such things like spider tack, or scientifically put together substances that they can use on the mound is increasing their spin rate. Spin rate has become one of the most important aspects of pitching since RPM started being recorded in 2015, the start of the Statcast era. It’s up there with velocity and mechanics as a main focus in developing, scouting, and evaluating/analyzing pitching. According to Jeff Zimmerman and Driveline Baseball in 2016, pitches that were thrown just 90 MPH with an RPM of 2600 had a higher swinging strike rate than pitches thrown at 97 MPH with 2300 RPM.
With that, MLB has recently announced that they will be implementing disciplinary actions to players who were caught using anything to doctor the ball and stricter checks for substances for players starting on June 21. A pitcher caught with a foreign substance will be suspended 10 games. Starters must be checked multiple times in a game. Meanwhile, relievers will be checked once they enter the game and then again once at the end of the inning, or when they are pulled.
With the drastic measures being taken, some pitchers have spoken out against this sudden enforcement. One of which is right-hander and former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow. Glasnow has recently been diagnosed with a partially torn UCL and flexor tendon strain, which could lead to the dreaded Tommy John surgery. However, Glasnow blames his injury on the sudden rule change and enforcement.
Glasnow, who claims he only used the classic mix of pine tar and sunscreen, stated in an interview that he had to change his fastball and curveball grip to the point where he was “choking the sh*t out of my pitches”. This was after he abandoned the use of sunscreen two starts ago. Once leaving the sunscreen behind, he started to feel discomfort in his first start and then felt a ‘pop’ in his arm during his most recent start against the Chicago White Sox. Glasnow had the following to say about MLB’s mid-season rule enforcement and newly added disciplinary actions:
"“Do it in the offseason, give us a chance to adjust to it. But I just threw 80-something, 70-whatever innings, and then you just told me I can’t use anything in the middle of the year? I had to change everything I’d been doing the entire season. Everything, out of the window, I had to start doing something completely new.”"
You can read and watch the full interview here, however Tyler is far from the only player so far this year who has spoken out about the punishments and reinforcement of the rule. White Sox lefty starting pitcher Carlos Rodon recently called out MLB and comissioner Rob Manfred for punishing pitchers for cheating for using sticky substances on the mound, but not handing out any discipline to any players on the Houston Astros’ 2017 World Series winning team for their involvement in a trash can cheating scandal themselves that was uncovered in the 2019-2020 off-season.
Washington National veteran ace Max Scherzer would like to see more player involvement in these kinds of big rule decisions. 2020 Mickey Mouse Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer (yes, that’s what Bauer himself calls his 2020 Cy Young award) has been one of the most outspoken players on the matter of MLB’s previous nearly non-existent efforts to cut down on foreign substance use on the mound, also made some comments on Twitter about what Glasnow said. Although Bauer has been one of the most suspected culprits in the use of sticky substances, he’s also been one of the reasons this whole ‘sticky situation’ came to light.
Now regardless of if you agree or disagree with Glasnow’s comments, the whole foreign substance situation could be one of baseball’s biggest scandals. Some pitchers have claimed it’s more effective than steroids. Whether or not Major League Baseball and Rob Manfred are taking the right approach is up to you.