Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer is struggling with his fastball, and it’s easy to see why given his decline in spin rate against the Atlanta Braves.
Bauer’s problem is a baseball issue, whether pitchers are willing to admit it or not. Now, I’m not suggesting pine tar is on the same level of a “performance-enhancing drug,” as Josh Donaldson has. However, it’s pretty clear that as MLB cracks down on so-called sticky substances for pitcher grip, it’s impacting some of the best hurlers this game has to offer.
Donaldson went as far as to compare the spin rate for some of Gerrit Cole’s pitches in his last start against the Rays (in which he gave up five earned runs), and his previous outings. Cole saw a 125 RPM decrease in his four-seam fastball, a 77-RPM decline in his changeup and a 48-RPM drop in his slider, as reported by Dan Hayes.
“Is it coincidence that Gerrit Cole’s spin rate numbers went down (Thursday) after four minor leaguers got suspended for 10 games?” Donaldson said, per The Athletic. “Is that possible? I don’t know. Maybe. At the same time, with this situation, they’ve let guys do it.”
Dodgers: Trevor Bauer also struggling with spin rate in latest start
It’s worth noting that four minor-league pitchers have been suspended this year for using sticky substances for grip.
We noted Cole’s drop of 125 RPM on his fastball. Bauer’s dropped by 222 RPM.
This isn’t a Gerrit Cole problem, or frankly a Trevor Bauer problem. As fun as it is for some fans to make them the face of banned pitching substances, it’s a universal enhancer across baseball. Manfred and the commissioners before him have let it go ungoverned for decades.
Eventually, pitchers will adjust. The very best always do. But shifting the competitive advantage once again is not to the benefit of the game itself. It’s about time MLB policed these issues as they were happening, not long after the fact.