Some of baseball’s best hitters are accusing pitchers of using illegal, sticky substances to make pitches harder to hit

An MLB umpire is handed baseballs
MLB is trying to crack down on pitchers using sticky substances to grip baseballs. Kathryn Riley/Getty Images
  • MLB has seen a rise in strikeouts and a dramatic reduction in offense this season.
  • Some MLB players have accused pitchers of using banned substances to better grip the ball to improve their pitching.
  • MLB is trying to crack down on pitchers using sticky substances.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

MLB is on pace for a record number of strikeouts this year, and some players have alleged that pitchers are using banned substances for enhanced grip on the ball.

Substances like sunscreen, pine tar, and Spider Tack have been used to help pitchers improve their grip when applied to the ball. That improved grip enables pitchers to make the ball spin and move more, making it harder for opposing batters to hit it.

MLB prohibits players from altering the ball in any way.

Investigators presented evidence that the substances were being used “very prevalently” this season at an MLB owner’s meeting on June 3, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. In response, the league introduced measures to stop the use of sticky substances and harsher penalties for pitchers caught using them.

Big-name sluggers are venting their frustrations publicly

Some of baseball’s top hitters have openly called out pitchers over the issue.

San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. said on the “Dan Patrick Show” that he’s seen pitches this year that he had never seen before.

“I’ve seen pitches this year that I’ve never seen in my life,” Tatis said. “If they allow that, they better expect less from hitters … It’s just harder, man. Pitchers are better, they have better mechanics, they have better throwing arms, and now with this sticky sh– they have a better spin rate.”

-Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) June 9, 2021

New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton said on Wednesday after beating the Minnesota Twins that he’s had his suspicions because of the unusual movement of pitches.

“We understand, we know how pitches should move,” Stanton said in a postgame press conference. “I’ve seen professional pitching for 13-14 years now. I know how balls are supposed to move, and you face guys, some guys, for that long as well. So, when you’re getting older and your balls moving more and having more life to it, you know, usually something’s up there.”

Before facing the Yankees, Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson had suggested that Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole had been using foreign substances to better grip the ball. Donaldson referenced four minor league pitchers who were suspended for using sticky substances as part of MLB’s crackdown on the issue.

“Is it coincidence that Gerrit Cole’s spin rate numbers went down (Thursday) after four minor-leaguers got suspended for 10 games?” Donaldson told reporters. “Is that possible? I don’t know. Maybe. At the same time, with this situation, they’ve let guys do it.”

Donaldson also said on Twitter that he planned to release a video showing pitchers using banned substances.

-Josh Donaldson (@BringerOfRain20) May 27, 2021

These allegations are not new – players have said for years that MLB was too lenient on the issue, failing to consistently police pitchers doctoring the balls.

However, with MLB now cracking down on the issue, batters are openly voicing their concerns.

One slugger sided with pitchers for safety’s sake

New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso took an opposite stance. He said he thinks pitchers should be allowed to use whatever substance they need to improve their command, as it will limit the risk of hitters getting hit by pitches accidentally.

“Whether they’re using pine tar, rosin, bull frog, sunscreen and rosin, or whatever they want to use to control the ball, let them use it,” Alonso said. “I see guys throwing harder and harder every day and I don’t want 99 [miles-per-hour pitches] slipping out of someone’s hand because they didn’t have enough feel for it.”

Alonso’s teammate Kevin Pillar suffered a nose injury after he was hit in the face with a 151km/h fastball on May 17.

-FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) June 9, 2021

Alonso did take issue with MLB changing the baseballs themselves (which have some have linked to the increases and decreases in offense).

“If they didn’t change the ball every year then they wouldn’t need to use as much sticky stuff,” Alonso said. “For it to change every single year, that’s not fair to the people who are using it every single day and throwing it.”