Donaldson favors pitcher substance checks

Twins slugger cites increased spin rate as evidence

June 5th, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- Even before several media reports indicated that Major League Baseball is preparing to begin stricter enforcement against pitchers using foreign substances to increase spin rates on their pitches, Twins third baseman had been particularly vocal about his support for such measures.

In a Twitter conversation with former A's pitcher and current television analyst Dallas Braden, Donaldson claimed last Wednesday to have an "entire catalog of video of [pitchers] cheating" and indicated that he wanted to release his purported evidence to the public.

Donaldson elaborated on why he felt that to be important in a lengthy conversation with the media on Friday, in which he opined that this issue felt to him like a "next steroids of baseball ordeal."

"It is cheating and it is performance-enhancing," Donaldson said. "The only way they get it through and to get it out of the game is if they get checked every half-inning. If a new pitcher comes out, they get checked immediately by the umpire. Once they start doing that, it'll be gone."

Both Donaldson and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli have noted as part of this discussion that hitters aren't necessarily opposed to pitchers using some material to rub the ball up and improve their control for the safety of the batters.

"That is all, in my opinion and I think in most people’s opinion, certainly part of the game and probably necessary for our game to be played the right way," Baldelli said.

But for both, this issue goes beyond that.

"Hitters have never really cared about sunscreen, rosin and pine tar," Donaldson said. "We haven't cared about that because it's not a performance enhancement. What these guys are doing now are performance-enhancing, to where it is an actual superglue-type of deal, to where it's not about command anymore."

In addition to the video evidence Donaldson claimed to have accumulated through his study of spin rates over the years, he also cited spin-rate increases over the years -- with average fastball spin increasing every season since Statcast was introduced in 2015, except '16 -- and noted the argument for using such extra-sticky substances to improve pitchers' command is not supported by the data, as the MLB-wide walk rate this season (8.9 percent) is up from the last several full seasons.

Hit batters are also up, with MLB on pace for more than 2,000 over a full season, which would represent an all-time high.

Donaldson said that he and Nelson Cruz have shared their experiences and observations from their lengthy careers -- 11 seasons for Donaldson, 17 for Cruz -- and that they noticed more extreme movement in 2019 and felt it increase across the Majors this season.

This issue became more prominent in the larger baseball consciousness when umpire Joe West confiscated the cap of Cardinals right-hander Giovanny Gallegos and ejected manager Mike Shildt last Wednesday, and Donaldson hopes that addressing the problem will help address the downswing in MLB hitting numbers as well.

"You're going to start seeing offense come back into the game. You're going to see contact come back into the game.