How MLB Foreign Substance Crackdown Will Impact Tigers Pitching Staff

Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday that they will begin stringent enforcement of the rules banning use of foreign substances on the baseball starting June 21. This in-season adjustment to umpire policing will definitely impact pitchers across the league. Here’s what you need to know as you think about sports betting on baseball games.

The young pitchers of the Detroit pitching staff could be impacted greatly by MLB’s decision to enforce the rules on the books.

Young Pitchers Are The Future For The Detroit Tigers

Ever since the Tigers front office decided to lose on purpose in order to get high draft picks and stockpile prospects, it’s been the young pitching that we’ve been told about. For a few years now, the young hot pitching prospects were the promise of the future.

Matt Manning, a tall right-handed power pitcher out of Loyola Marymount University, was drafted #9 overall in the 2016 MLB Draft. Mize was picked #1 overall in the 2018 MLB Draft after pitching in college for Auburn. Lefty Skubal was selected later in that draft out of Seattle University. The Tigers also have hopes that their 2017 first round selection, Alex Faedo, will be a force in the big leagues, but the right-hander is out the entire 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery.

24-year old Casey Mize is growing up in the majors, with a 3.49 ERA through 13 starts in 2021. With good command of all three of his primary pitches, his success gives him an opportunity to be named AL Rookie of the Year.

Also 24 years old and a rookie, Tarik Skubal has shown flashes of dominance for Detroit this season. He averages 11 strikeouts per nine innings, and while he has been prone to surrendering the home run, his K-to-BB ratio of 81-to-31 is an indication that he has a good future at this level.

The team called Manning up to make his debut on Thursday against the Angels. While the 6’6, 23-year old has struggled in his jump to Triple-A Toledo, he is considered the top pitching prospect in the organization.

The success of Mize, Skubal, and Manning this year and in coming seasons will decide whether the Tigers are going to be fun to watch or fun to mock.

How MLB’s Foreign Substance Crackdown Will Hurt Tiger Pitchers

What’s all the fuss about sticky stuff, you may ask? Well, pitchers have long argued that they need a tacky, adhesive substance to help them grip new baseballs, which are typically glossy and slippery. Even though the umpiring crew is supposed to rub the baseballs pre-game with mud from a river in Maryland, several factors have led to the ball becoming harder to grip in recent years.

First, baseballs are being used less in MLB games. The average game sees more than 100 baseballs used, and balls are typically tossed from action once they get even a small scrape, scratch, or discoloring. Secondly, the manufacture of baseballs has changed in the last ten years with the introduction of technological advances in the process. Every spring it seems like pitchers are complaining that the ball feels different, whether it’s raised seems, lower seems, slicker finish, tighter winding, or even a larger or smaller circumference. For a game that relies so much on tradition, the baseball itself is altered more than one would expect.

Umpires are now being told to actively enforce Rule 3.01 and Rule 6.01(c) of the MLB rulebook. Those rules ban any use of a substance on the baseball to deface or change the performance of the ball. For decades, MLB has looked the other way as pitchers have used pine tar and rosin and combinations of sticky substances to help them grip the baseball. But in recent years crafty pitching coaches and pitchers have realized that sticky can also lead to better grip for the purpose of increasing spin rate. The more the baseball spins, then harder it is to hit. Pitchers are now spinning the baseball so much that strikeout rates are at record highs, and the league is on pace to set a record for lowest batting average in history. All those whiffs and bad contact at-bats makes for boring baseball. Finally, as critics have grew louder and louder, MLB was forced to take action.

Mize, Skubal, and Manning are all just learning to pitch at the major league level. Manning has yet to even toss a pitch in the big leagues, and given the timing of his debut, he won’t be using a tacky substance to improve his spin rate. Mize and Skubal will have to make adjustments in-season.

How MLB Enforcement Will Impact Pitchers

  • Expect more contact from hitters, which leads to more baserunners and more runs.
  • Strikeouts will decrease from their current rate, which is about 25 percent of all plate appearances.
  • Pitchers who rely on pitches that are most effective with high spin rates (four-seam fastball, slider) will have to make the biggest adjustments. Skubal is a four-seam, slider guy. Mize has more pitches in his arsenal. Manning and many of the others on the Detroit staff are two-seam fastballers who might not see as much drop in their K rates.
  • Single-pitch relief pitchers like Gregory Soto and Kyle Funkhouser will be challenged to come up with alternative pitch strategies, since they won’t be able to ramp up spin rate on their signature pitches. TO put it plainly: many “throwers” will need to be learn how to become pitchers.
  • Pitchers who use a larger repertoire of pitches, like Detroit’s Mize and left-handed reliever Daniel Norris, as well as quasi-closer Micheal Fullmer, may see better results.
  • Expect starting pitchers to pitch fewer innings on average, and bullpens will need to take a larger load of the work. Teams with a good bullpen will benefit. The Tigers currently rank 22nd in MLB in bullpen ERA and 19th in expected ERA, so this may not bode well for them.
About the Author

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes has written three books about sports. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He enjoys writing, running, and lemon bars. He lives near Lake Michigan with his daughters and usually has an orange cream soda nearby.