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What will MLB’s crackdown on foreign substances mean for Giants pitchers?


Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports


Major League Baseball allegedly cracking down on substances pitchers can use to gain grip advantages would be welcomed by several around the Giants — if, indeed, that crackdown occurs.

The league sent out a memo last week pledging to randomly test balls for foreign substances, as well as using Statcast data that would highlight hikes in spin rate that would suggest something sticky is being used and abused. Disallowing the substances, which are used to gain a better feel of the ball, would cut down on spin rates and help more batters make contact, thus infusing the game with more action that MLB wants. In lieu of clubs policing one another, MLB is looking at new ways to do so.

But the on-field enforcement rules have not changed. Players found to have violated the rule would be subject to punishment by the commissioner’s office, but the follow-through is very much in question. The goal, for MLB, is more to get a feel for how many pitchers are using substances and dissuade newcomers from relying upon them.

Until actual punishments are handed out, several Giants pitchers virtually shrugged.

“We really don’t know what it’s going to be like,” Kevin Gausman said. “But I hope they regulate it, and I hope they can figure out some type of way to make sure that the guys that are really doing it to their advantage, that there’s some type of consequences.”

Anthony DeSclafani echoed the same sentiments.

“I’m just curious if they’re going to follow it,” the Giants righty said. “And we’re really not going to know until the season starts.”

The foreign substances have always been in the game, and hitters are not automatically against doctored balls; they want pitchers who throw 100 mph to know where the ball’s going, too. Trevor Bauer has estimated 70 percent of pitchers use balls that have been doctored in some way.

It’s the ones who use pine tar or other substances to skyrocket spin rate who MLB hopes to target. The league wants to eliminate “egregious activity,” a source said, that most people and players would view as an unfair competitive advantage.

“Obviously we don’t want any cheaters or anything in the game,” righty Nick Tropeano said. “It might be a little adjustment period for the guys who do do it, but it’s going to help in the long run.”

The Giants ensured their pitchers saw the memo, and of the few asked about it, none said this changes anything in their game. It’s unclear if this will change anything in MLB either, not without a meaningful deterrent.

“We just want them to be competing with the highest standards and character,” Gabe Kapler said of his own pitchers, who have seemed pessimistic this will be enforced much, at least immediately.

“I’d be shocked if within the first couple weeks [of the season] something happened,” Gausman said. “But we’ll see.”

 

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