The commissioner’s office, responding to record strikeouts and a league batting average of over half a century, said on Tuesday that major and minor league umpires would begin regular checks of all pitchers, even if the opposing managers do not ask for inspections.
Repeat offenders will receive progressive discipline, and club teams and employees will be disciplined for non-compliance.
“After a thorough process of repeated ineffective warnings, gathering information from current and former players and other players in the sport, two months of comprehensive data collection, listening to our fans and thoughtful deliberation , I have determined that re-application of the foreign substances is necessary. to level the playing field, ”Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement.
“I understand that there is a history of using foreign substances on the ball, but what we are seeing today is objectively very different, with much stickier substances being used more frequently than ever before. It became clear that the use of foreign substances generally turned from trying to get a better grip on the ball into something else – an unfair competitive advantage that creates a lack of action and a breeding ground. uneven play.
The perception of increased foreign substance use, linked to a drop in offenses, is considered the biggest case of widespread cheating in baseball since the rise of steroids, which resulted in the adoption of random drug testing with penalties before the 2004 season.
Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, singled out by Minnesota Josh Donaldson for lower turnover in a June 3 start, last week dodged questions about whether he had ever used a Spider Tack, a sticky substance designed for use by Strongman’s competitors.
“I’m not quite sure how to answer that, to be honest,” Cole said. “There are customs and practices that have been passed down from older players to younger players, from the latest generation of players to this generation of players, and I think there are some things that are certainly off limits at this. respect. “
MLB told teams on March 23 that it would increase surveillance and launched measures that included collecting balls removed from play for each team and analyzing Statcast turnover rate data.
“Based on the information gathered during the first two months of the season – including numerous complaints from positional players, pitchers, referees, coaches and managers – there is a prevalence of substance use. by pitchers in Major League Baseball and in the minor leagues, ”said MLB.
“Many baseballs collected have dark, amber-colored markings that are sticky to the touch. The MLB recently completed extensive testing, including testing by third-party researchers, to determine whether the use of foreign substances has a significant impact on performance. This research concluded that foreign substances dramatically increase the rotational speed and movement of baseball, giving pitchers who use these substances an unfair competitive advantage over batters and pitchers who do not use foreign substances, and results in by less action on the ground.
“Plus, the use of foreign substances appears to contribute to a style of pitching where pitchers sacrifice location in favor of spin and speed, especially when it comes to high fastballs. Evidence does not suggest a correlation between improved hitter safety and the use of foreign substances.
The anticipated crackdown already seems to have had an impact.
Fastball’s turnover rates averaged 2,306 to 2,329 rpm each week from the start of the season through June 5, according to MLB Statcast data.
Following a June 3 owners meeting in which discussions of a crackdown emerged, the average fell to 2,282 during the week of June 6 and fell to 2,226 on Sunday.
The major league batting average was 0.232 through April, down from 0.252 two years ago and below the 0.237 record set in 1968, and it was 0.236 through May, its lowest since 1968.
The average rose to 0.247 during the week of June 6, bringing the season average to 0.238.
The strikeout percentage since June 3 is 23.4 percent, down from 24.2 percent so far, and the walk percentage is 8.4 percent, down from 8.9 percent.
“It is not about an individual player or club, nor to blame,” Manfred said. “This is a collective change that changed the game and needs to be addressed. We have a responsibility to our fans and the generational talents competing on the field to eliminate these substances and improve the game. ”
While Bill Miller, president of the Major League Umpires Association, has been cited as supporting the announcement, there has been no similar statement from the Major League Baseball Players Association. The players’ union said it was reviewing the rating and had no immediate comment.
Players suspended for violations will not be replaced on the active roster.
Bags of rosin will continue to be allowed, but rosin cannot be combined with sunscreen or other substances, and pitchers are advised not to use sunscreen after sunset in outdoor stadiums and not to use it at all in indoor stadiums. The referees will inspect the rosin bags before games to ensure they are standard.
As part of the initiative, the referees will check all starters multiple times and all relievers either at the end of his first inning or when they are retired, whichever comes first. Caps, gloves and fingertips will be checked. Umps can also check when they notice sticky balls or when they perceive a pitcher moving towards their glove, cap, belt, uniform, or body in a way that can be to recover or apply a substance. .
Receivers will be subject to routine inspections and positional players may be searched.
Throwers will be responsible for foreign substances found on receivers and position players. A positional player will not be sent off for possession of a foreign substance unless the referee determines that the player was applying it to a ball to assist a pitcher.
Violators are subject to expulsion and decisions are not subject to proofreading. Refusal to allow the inspection will be presumed to have broken the rules and will be rejected. Club employees who help players use or mask foreign substances or who refuse to cooperate or fail to report violations will be subject to fines and suspensions.