Michael Pineda and the mystery of the shiny dark spot

Last night Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda was tossed from a game against the Boston Red Sox after a sticky substance was found on his neck. In his previous start against the Red Sox, Pineda had caught some attention for a similar patch on his palm. After the last start, Major League Baseball even warned the Yankees who then in turn warned Pineda. Apparently it didn’t work. Perhaps surprising everyone was when Boston manager John Farrell actually requested the umpire check him, unlike last time.

Now media members and baseball writers will tell us all that breaking the rules and cheating are two different things, he’s just getting more grip and it’s not an advantage, and that everyone applies something and Pineda’s only crime is doing it blatantly. Pineda says he used it because he couldn’t feel the ball and didn’t want to hit anyone. Many will hold him up as a hero, protecting his fellow players.

But more grip is an advantage for a pitcher. More grip equals more spin. More spin equals a later and tighter breaking pitch. A later breaking pitch equals a harder to hit ball. A harder to hit ball means more strikeouts and more ground balls. More strikeouts and more ground balls mean more outs, which are what the pitcher is trying to get.

I find it funny that as more information comes out about this over the last year, I now watch pitchers perform their routine ticks on the mound to see if I can spot which trick they’re using and where they’re hiding the good stuff. On most pitchers you can spot it if you’re paying attention. And if you get caught, you deserve everything that you get (and probably more).

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