In late March, Major League Baseball released a memo to its 30 teams detailing a plan to utilize Statcast data to analyze baseballs with an eye toward curbing the use of foreign substances from pitchers across the league. This comes as a result of the spin rate revolution, with part of the analysis focusing on changes from the career baselines of pitchers and how much they may change. With that as the backdrop, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer has been open about conducting “experiments” of his own, designed to increase spin rate, and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that Bauer is perhaps the player to be investigated by MLB following its March decree.
Rosenthal notes that Bauer’s last start, which took place against the Oakland A’s on Thursday, featured umpires taking “multiple balls he threw during the game” and sending them to the league office for “further inspection.” The reporting also indicates that “the ball had visible markings and were sticky,” though it makes sure to point out that “even if the balls Bauer threw are found to have contained foreign substances, it remains to be seen whether the league can prove he was responsible for their application, or whether any punishment imposed by commissioner Rob Manfred would stand.”
Part of the uncertainty is that Bauer’s potential issues are not directly tied to Statcast analysis of his spin rate, but rather that the baseball were “brought to the umpires’ attention.” It should be said that doctoring the baseball is already illegal under MLB rules, so it’s not as if Bauer is in the clear, but this is a layered situation.
Bauer was already a controversial figure before signing a new contract that pays him $40 million this season, but that only increases the spotlight on him, especially as he joins the reigning World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers. It will be quite interesting to see what this investigation uncovers and, on top of that, it seems to be well within the bounds of possibility that Bauer could publicly comment on the proceedings in a way that could draw even more attention.