Pine tar chronicles: a professional pitcher’s perspective


Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Following Yankees’ pitcher Michael Pineda‘s ejection from Wednesday’s game at Fenway and subsequent 10-game suspension, BoSox Injection sets out to cover all sides of the issue: from those in favor of better enforcement to those in favor of letting them play, with views on doctoring the ball from someone who’s pitched at the professional level. This is BSI’s Pine Tar Chronicles. 

There are those on both sides of the argument. Some say pine tar and other foreign substances have a minute effect on the movement of the ball, and instead is used for grip purposes alone. Others believe cheating is cheating and doctoring the ball has a conspicuous impact on the flight and spin of the baseball. I am not a scientist, nor have I pitched past little league, so why would you take my word for it? Why would I take my own word for it? I wouldn’t, and that is why I’ve been researching to see what professional pitchers think of the influence of doctoring the baseball.

To start, I asked former minor-league pitcher and creator of the Miracle and Sensory Belt, Matt Bruback.

"There are always those guys looking for an edge in baseball. Pine tar is a super sticky substance used to help hitters grip their bats but occasionally pitchers would use it to get more movement on their pitches… especially if it happened to be dry out. Humidity helps a pitchers fingers grip the ball better which leads to more movement. There were times the Rosin I used to dry my fingers in a humid environment turned into a similar substance to pine tar on the tips of my fingers. This was not my intention but the extra grip didn’t hurt. Will Clark said I had the nastiest slider he had ever seen when he watched me pitch in New Orleans… slider was breaking three feet. Wonder why."

Next, I immersed myself in a Twitter conservation with Bill Bray and C.J. Nitkowski — both pitched in the major leagues.

Bill Bray was tweeting about the “scandal” and was rather lukewarm on the subject.

So, I responded to his tweet saying pitcher C.J. Nitkowski had a very different take on the subject and believes pine tar and other substances have an impact on the spin of the ball. Hence, how the conversation commenced.

Dwight Gooden also had strong comments about pine tar’s effect on different pitches.

Overall, the general consensus surmises pine tar and other foreign substances indeed sway the movement of the baseball. The extent may not be quantifiable, but it appears Major League Baseball was justified with their suspension for Michael Pineda.