The last two weeks have been nothing short of tumultuous for Major League Baseball, following news umpires would be conducting 8 to 10 random checks per game of pitchers for foreign substances.
“Quite honestly, this is long overdue,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said via the Athletic.
ESPN MLB insider Buster Olney reported the following on June 5:
The New York Times is reporting that the league has collected thousands of balls after games since April; laboratory testing concluding most balls have been doctored with a foreign substance applied presumably from pitchers looking for an edge.
The sport is already facing concerns about the pace of play, so as many as 10 checks per game of pitchers as they walk off the field sounds counterintuitive.
The MLB issued a press release, announcing pitchers found using a foreign substance will be suspended 10 games.
According to KMGH-TV in Denver, as of today, the collective batting average among all league hitters is .237, which is the second-lowest average on record.
WKYC in Cleveland reports fastball spin rates have sharply declined while the league batting average clocked in at .247 for the week of June 6.
“The data is clear that foreign substances are having an impact on the game,” MLB consultant Theo Epstein said via the New York Times. “As the prevalence and sophistication of the substances have grown, we are seeing more strikeouts, less contact, less balls in play, and an imbalance between the pitcher and hitter.
Predictably, pitchers are none too happy about the news of a crackdown from the MLB.
The Tampa Bay Rays’ ace Tyler Glasnow suffered a potentially season-ending injury when he left Monday night’s win over the Chicago White Sox in the fourth inning.
Glasnow partially tore the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow of his throwing arm, which may require surgery. The 27-year-old right-hander shared how he went without sunscreen and rosin in his last two starts:
Glasnow said he experienced soreness in his elbow without the use of sunscreen and rosin to help with his grip on the ball.
In the following clip, Glasnow denies using foreign substances like Spider Tack to enhance the spin rate on his pitches:
The Rays appear to be one of the best teams in the American League, sitting atop the standings in the AL East with 43 wins and 24 losses. The Boston Red Sox trail by three games.
Without Glasnow in the rotation, the Red Sox may close the gap on their division rivals.
The injured pitcher brought up a fair point during his presser, begging the question of why the MLB chose to implement these random checks at this point during the season.
Glasnow argues why players like himself could not be given an offseason to adjust without the use of something like sunscreen and rosin.
Other pitchers like St. Louis Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller told the Athletic, “It’s not uncommon for the unforeseen consequences to be bad when we’ve changed some of the things when the game is being played.”
Without a doubt, Major League Baseball’s crackdown on pitchers using foreign substances is having an effect on the game, whether it’s injuries among pitchers or an uptick in offense.
Yahoo News reports that “in the month of May, the average ERA per team was 4.19 in the American League and 3.93 in the National League. Thus far in June, league-wide ERA has risen by nearly half a run to 4.68 in the AL and by about one-third of a run in the NL to 4.22. In May, the collective batting average in the AL was .242 and .237 in the NL. It has risen to .256 in the AL and .238 in the NL in June.”
The data and Glasnow’s injury put the MLB in a tricky position. In the eyes of league officials, which is more important: the health of the players or making the sport more entertaining for fans?