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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

MLB trends: How substance crackdown has impacted spin rates

An individual pitcher losing 50 rpm or so in a single game is nothing. That’s normal fluctuation. That’s like sitting 92.5 mph one start and 92.7 mph the next. No big deal. It’s the spin rate declines in the 200-plus rpm range that raise an eyebrow. Those indicate the pitcher was using foreign substances to enhance his spin rates (and thus performance).

Losing 50 rpm or so league-wide in a 10-day span is massive. We’re talking dozens of pitchers and thousands of pitches, and it can not be explained by random fluctuation. That large a decline suggests that yes, foreign substance use was widespread, and yes, it improved spin rates significantly. It’s still unclear how the spin rate decline has impacted offense, but the decline is happening….

The league strikeout rate is down a bit since the unofficial enforcement period began, and the hit by pitch rate hasn’t barely moved. There was concern the lack of foreign substances would lead to an increase in by hit batsmen, which seemed a little flimsy on the surface, and it hasn’t come to pass. At least not yet. The hit by pitch rate has held pretty steady under the new rules.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 30, 2021 at 09:52 PM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: foreign substances

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   1. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: July 01, 2021 at 10:16 AM (#6027190)
OPS:

May, 2019 - .743
June, 2019 - .753
Increase - 1.3%

May, 2021 - .712
June, 2021 - .737
Increase - 3.5%

I have been thinking "spin rate" is just a variation on a theme and like radar gun readings was just pretty numbers but didn't mean anything if the pitchers couldn't do anything with it. Very very very (etc...) limited data here but early returns suggest some impact. Some quick other raw numbers;

2018 - .730 to .720 (May to June)
2017 - .749 to .771
2016 - .733 to .760 (most recent increase larger than 3.5%)

(All numbers from BBRef all hail Chairman Sean etc...)
   2. shoelesjoe Posted: July 01, 2021 at 10:30 AM (#6027195)
I’d like to know which pitchers have seen the biggest drops in SR since MLB announced the crackdown. SSS I know, but starters going every five days should still have compiled enough innings and pitches for us to have a rough idea of who might have been using and who probably wasn’t.
   3. Rally Posted: July 01, 2021 at 11:22 AM (#6027205)
I'd caution against using June, since the enforcement starter on 6/21.

I'm sure someone will publish lists of spin rate differences by pitcher. The raw data are all there on Baseball Savant. You just need to download and process it a bit.

   4. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: July 01, 2021 at 11:30 AM (#6027207)
I'd caution against using June, since the enforcement starter on 6/21.


Yeah, not suggesting it's perfect but figured it was worth a check as a starting point.
   5. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 01, 2021 at 11:33 AM (#6027208)
But the announcement of the impending crackdown came on June 5, and it's clear that at least some pitchers started transitioning away from illegal substances at that point. Tyler Glasnow got hurt - and blamed it on not being able to cheat - on June 14.
   6. bobm Posted: July 01, 2021 at 01:57 PM (#6027235)
Great data in here:

SI: Verducci: Sticky Stuff Enforcement Is Already Making Baseball a Better, Fairer Game -- Baseball has seen a drastic decline in spin rates in just the first week it began enforcing the ban on pitchers doctoring.

• “Super-spin” four-seam fastballs (2,500 RPMs or more) plummeted 69% in the first week of enforcement compared to the rate before June 3, when the unofficial warning period began. An average of 17.2 super-spin fastballs per game fizzled to 5.3.

• The MLB batting average on June 3 was .236, lower than any season in history. Since then, it is .243 (but only .234 last week).

• After the average four-seam spin rate rose five consecutive regular season months, it fell by 61 RPMs in June to the lowest in a regular season month since August of 2018.

• Of the 35 pitchers with the highest four-seam spin rate on June 3, 33 of them saw a decline in spin rate since then—by a drop of 96 RPMs.

• Twenty-seven of the 30 teams saw their four-seam spin rate decline last week compared to June 3. Teams lost an average of 87 RPMs just last week. The biggest drops: Tigers (-224), Dodgers (-169), White Sox (-159), A’s (-158), Angels (-156) and Brewers (-152).


and

It’s important to remember that with sticky substances, like steroids, not all pitchers have been cheating. Among the top 25 four-seam spin rate pitchers on June 3, for example, Daniel Bard, Tanner Scott, Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Ryan Pressly last week maintained elite spin rates more than 2,500 RPMs. These pitchers from that group, however, did show a noticeable drop:

Four-Seam RPM Decline, Last Week Compared to June 3

(Among Top 25 Spin Rates June 3; min. 100 fastballs)

J.P. Feyereisen, Rays      -344
Corbin Burnes, Brewers*    -318
Lucas Sims, Reds           -307
Walker Buehler, Dodgers    -297
Dylan Cease, White Sox     -288
Garrett Richards, Red Sox  -282
Trevor Bauer, Dodgers      -233
Richard Rodriguez, Pirates -232
Gerrit Cole, Yankees       -204

*cut fastball


And

Consider this example. Let’s say I have an average fastball with a spin rate between 2,200 and 2,300. If I throw it right down the middle, hitters bat .329 against it. But if I boost my spin to 2,500 or more—same pitch, same location, just more spin—batters hit .292. That’s a 37-point reduction based entirely on using a grip aid to spin the ball faster. And the effect is even more pronounced if those fastballs are thrown to the upper third of the strike zone: a 51-point suppression of offense with the spin boost.

Fastballs that spin 2,500 RPMs or more are hard to hit. Batters hit just .218 against them, compared to .257 on pitches below that spin threshold. By reducing those super-spin fastballs from 17.2 per game with no enforcement to 5.3 per game last week, baseball should see an uptick in offense, fewer swings and misses and a game in which the guy with the best chemist doesn’t have an unfair advantage.


More great stuff at the link.
   7. bfan Posted: July 01, 2021 at 09:34 PM (#6027322)
So the goo was increasing spin rates, which was making it harder to hit baseballs, which was suppressing offense, and many pitchers were violating the rules in this regard. It is pretty clear now, yes?

And all those who feared a hall of fame purge on the likes of Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford, and sought other far fetched reasons to oppose this perfectly logical step, onto the next Luddite cause.
   8. bfan Posted: July 01, 2021 at 09:34 PM (#6027323)
So the goo was increasing spin rates, which was making it harder to hit baseballs, which was suppressing offense, and many pitchers were violating the rules in this regard. It is pretty clear now, yes?

And all those who feared a hall of fame purge on the likes of Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford, and sought other far fetched reasons to oppose this perfectly logical step, onto the next Luddite cause.
   9. Bhaakon Posted: July 03, 2021 at 12:19 AM (#6027514)
Sign stealing, ball doctoring, I'm hoping someone will get caught corking a bat soon, or maybe stuffing reinforcing it with an inanimate carbon rod. Old-timey cheating is kind of adorable compared to PED acrimony.
   10. Ron J Posted: July 03, 2021 at 07:12 AM (#6027519)
#7 That's a dishonest read of invoking Perry. Those invoking Perry/Sutton/Ford et al are simply saying that it works, not opposing the policing of the matter.

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