MLB recently issued a memo explaining that it was planning to crack down on the use of foreign substances by pitchers.
The use of foreign substances is an issue that has sort of been swept under the rug for years, but that seems to be ending here.
What are the three biggest reasons MLB has decided to do this?
3. Banning Foreign Substances Sends A Message That The League Is Serious About Enforcing Its Rules
Let’s be honest: MLB has a plethora of unenforced rules.
We’ve got rules stating that pitchers have just 12 seconds to throw a pitch, that batters are required to stay in the box at all times, and that a catcher can be called for a balk if he leaves the catcher’s box before the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand.
Rules like these are rarely—if ever—actually put into effect in games.
The foreign substance rule used to fit that description, but not anymore.
The league is now making it abundantly clear that it’s serious about (some of) its rules.
Now, to be fair, there are examples of the foreign substance rule being enforced before now.
If you recall, New York Yankees starter Michael Pineda was ejected and ultimately suspended for having pine tar on his neck in a game in 2014.
April 23, 2014
Michael Pineda is ejected for having pine tar on his neck pic.twitter.com/9kQR3WyI15
— NY Yankees Throwbacks (@yankeethrowback) June 10, 2020
We could see a lot more of that in the future.
2. Since Not Every Pitcher Does It, It’s Not A Level Playing Field
Each player has a unique view about the ethics of the game—that’s why some pitchers use foreign substances and others don’t.
That’s a very slippery slope, to say the least.
A pitcher who has no moral objection to using a foreign substance will indeed do so if the rule is not enforced.
And on average, it seems safe to say that a pitcher who uses a foreign substance will see more desirable results than a pitcher who morally refuses to do so.
As fans, we constantly debate about who the best arms in the game are.
We base our debates on the results that pitchers are able to produce thanks to their talent and work ethic.
But what if we learned that there was another variable at play?
The variable, of course, being that some pitchers use a foreign substance and others do not.
That variable should go away with the league’s recent announcement.
1. Offense Is Down Across The Board
Above all else, baseball has evolved to a point where pitching is dominating the game.
Team pitching staffs are averaging 8.98 strikeouts per game in 2021, which would mark the highest such number of all time if it holds.
On offense, the league-average batting clip is currently .237, which would equal the lowest number of all time.
Of course, both of the aforementioned stats have a lot to do with the all-or-nothing hitting approach that has taken baseball over in recent years.
Many batters are willing to exchange strikeouts and a low batting average for lofty power numbers and a handsome OPS.
The result is a brand of baseball that many find unappealing.
While every fan can go for the occasional pitcher’s duel, there’s nothing occasional about what’s going on right now.
As most readers know, there have been six no-hitters already this season.
— We Are Groot (@HenYay) May 21, 2021
Too much of anything is a bad thing, and that would be a prime example.
By eliminating foreign substances, the league hopes to remove any sort of edge that pitchers gain from it, and the hope is that, with time, offense will rise.