Thursday, June 23, 2011
Why’s pitching so good? Look at a 2010 rule changePosted by Mat Kovach
Aren't we talking about 2010 and 2011 being Years of Pitchers? I find this interesting for many reasons.
- It would seem perfectly reasonable to argue that the effects of PEDs and greenies being out the game is hurting the batter.
- Perhaps the ball has changed slightly, giving the advantage to the pitcher.
- There has has been enough time for teams to develop a newer crop of younger pitchers, much better equipped to handle today's modern batter.
- Also, we could just be having a regression of sorts.
- Perhaps pitching might be catching up to batting.
Not like a rule change may have helped, right?
Okay, it was termed a clarification more than a rule change, but it just might surprise you.
Rule 8.02(a)(1) was clarified:
The pitcher shall not:
While in the 18-foot circle surrounding the pitcher’s plate, touch the ball after touching his mouth or lips, or touch his mouth or lips while he is in contact with the pitcher’s plate. The pitcher must clearly wipe the fingers of his pitching hand dry before touching the ball or the pitcher’s plate. EXCEPTION: Provided it is agreed to by both managers, the umpire prior to the start of a game played in cold weather, may permit the pitcher to blow on his hand.
Now in 2009 it read:
(a) (1) Bring his pitching hand in contact with his mouth or lips while in the 18 foot circle surrounding the pitching rubber. EXCEPTION: Provided it is agreed to by both managers, the umpire prior to the start of a game played in cold weather, may permit the pitcher to blow on his hand.
Yes, it was clarified that a pitcher can be on the mound and touch his hand to his mouth but he just has to clearly whip his hand dry.
Now, I have touched on the possible reason for the rise and fall of the spitball previously and while the pitch has slowly been losing favor* it is not completely out of the game.
Remember the rule clarification again: The pitcher is allowed to bring his pitching hand to his mouth while on the mound*.
* Wink, just make sure you dry your hands before stepping on the rubber.
I wasn't surprised by the rule change at the start of the 2010 season. Mariano Rivera had his "spitball'' spotted during the playoffs. While Rivera does not throw a spitball** and the controversy was because of the angle of the video, this change can help head off any unneeded issues.
**The spitball is a very difficult pitch to control while Rivera's control is just too pinpoint. Also his wrist snap, so vital for the spin needed for his cutter, requires a grip that would make throwing a spitter next to impossible.
BUT, we did have a rule change that would make it very easy load up a pitch. Before you argue that modern video wizardry would make it impossible, ask a magician to show you a sleight of hand trick. Videotape it. You'll have limited success, if any, of seeing something you know is happening. If you get lucky, you might learn the trick. Videotape yourself. See if you can catch yourself.
Now in reality, this rule change would help players who may try to throw what I call a loaded spitball. Instead of attempting to shoot the ball out from between their thumb and fingers like a watermelon seed, they would load up one side of the ball. This would cause the ball to break more than usual***.
*** I am greatly reducing the complexity of this. I'm trying to not include math on this post.
There lies the larger issue when searching for an increasing in spitballs.
Spitballs are not a mythical powerful, paralyzing, perfect, pachydermous, percussion pitch handed down from Bugs Bunny. They are a fastball thrown with little or no spin, much like an R.A. Dickey knuckleball if thrown conventionally. If the pitcher is just loading the side, it will look much like a slider.
This makes it incredibly difficult to search for spitters via PITCHf/x.
But, we have to wonder. Did Major League Baseball make it easier for a pitcher to add to his arsenal and could it be contributing to the past few Years of the Pitchers?
Indians fan, member of the Duane Kuiper Fan Club, Spitball Researcher, Contact me on twitter, @siddfinch, via email or avian carrier