San Francisco Chronicle
Giants’, A’s spin rates fall, but results unexpected
Spin rates can be enough to make your head spin.
Two months after baseball began investigating pitchers’ alleged usage of gripenhancing sticky substances and a month after the league ramped up its enforcement against the illegal products, spin rates are down. But the results aren’t necessarily consistent with what Major League Baseball had in mind.
The local teams are prime examples, as starting pitchers from both the Giants and A’s have seen dramatic dropoffs in spin rates since June 3 without a corresponding acrosstheboard decline in effectiveness.
The past month’s awkward inspections of pitchers’ hats, gloves and belts for foreign substances in between innings and the threat of being ejected and suspended 10 days without pay can be simplified into baseball wanting to get spin rates under control — and thus more balls put into play.
Pitchers used sticky substances to get a better grip, allowing them to create more spin that makes fourseam fastballs appear to rise, increase the darting action of breaking balls and cause more swing and miss — and less offense.
Over the two weeks immediately after MLB started its enforcement, the strikeout rate dropped 23% across the league. But the results have been inconsistent in many places, especially in the Bay Area.
Alex Wood has experienced the largest spin rate drop among the Giants’ rotation members, falling 120 revolutions per minute, according to Baseball Savant. But the lefty’s strikeout rate has increased from 9.1 to 10.7 per nine innings from June 3 to Thursday.
While Logan Webb’s spin rate has dropped 102 rpms, the 24yearold starter has seen his ERA drop from 3.85 beforehand to 2.25 in that span.
Righthander Kevin Gausman’s spin rate has dipped 80 rpms, but his rising ERA appears to have more to do with him struggling to find a feel for his splitter than anything. Immediately after baseball brought up sticky substances, the AllStar responded June 5 with 10 strikeouts in seven innings, during which he didn’t allow an earned run against the Cubs.
Johnny Cueto (2,039 to 2,029 rpms) and Anthony DeSclafani (2,126 to 2,086) have barely been impacted.
The A’s are in a similar situation, with Sean Manaea (1,834 to 1,830) and Cole Irvin (1,860 to 1,855) almost maintaining their spin rates, while James Kaprielian and Frankie Montas have experienced radical drops.
Kaprielian, on Saturday placed on the injured list with a shoulder impingement, has one of baseball’s biggest discrepancies with a spin rate that dropped from 220 rpms from June 3 to Thursday. But the 26yearold righthander’s ERA didn’t jump by even a halfrun pre to postcrackdown (2.95 to 3.35), and his strikeout rate increased from 9.4 to 10.1 per nine innings.
Montas, down to 2,137 rpms from 2,345, has somehow been even better with less lively pitches. Before the crackdown, he had a 4.44 ERA with 9.67 strikeouts per nine innings. After the attention turned to sticky substances, his numbers have been 3.73 and 10.29.
The improved numbers even include his worst start of the season, when Montas allowed eight earned runs in 52⁄3 innings to the lastplace Rangers on June 21. After the outing in Arlington, Texas, the righthander said humidity might have been a factor.
Seems like a fair spin on the situation.