Sarris: There has to be a better way to check launchers for sticky stuff. let's find it (2023)

Here we are now: the referee holding the thrower's hand trying to decide what's in that hand and if that substance is too sticky and maybe even what the definition of "too sticky" is.

We swapped selectivity for subjectivity to remove nasty things from the game. Obviously there are still shortcomingsMLBkeeps in mind the ban on the use of foreign substances, even as the league seeks to expand this application.


Previously, the rules were applied selectively. Basically, the sport ignored the use of sticky substances most of the time, perhaps because the assumption was that pitchers were trying to control the ball and didn't want to hit the batter. So only the most egregious criminals:Pine tar stains on your neck maybe?— were singled out for punishment, and the rest of baseball looked the other way every other day.

But thenit became obviousthat there was a performance benefitthe extra twist the stickiest things can give a pitcher. pitcherscould reach up to 500 rpmand change the shape of his fastball to hittheir results in the field. In recent years, baseball has taken various policing measures to remove the stickiest substances from the game (withresults up and down), but in the end, even today's strictest sticky policy boils down to a highly subjective moment: the umpire, feeling the pitcher's hands, must decide what is sticky enough to require a handwash. hands and what is sticky. enough to eject the player.

The same launcher apparently doing the same things in both cases,This precarious decision has already been made on both sides.

The current situation seems unfair to the players, who must figure out how much rosin is too much rosin, and to the umpires, who must follow their instincts to find that line for themselves.

Is there any way that Major League Baseball could evolve?GoalField test that gives results almost instantly and eliminates that guessing game for umpires, pitchers, and baseball fans? MLB declined to comment on whether they are pursuing anything in that direction. But that doesn't mean we can't try to find a solution ourselves.

Trying to track down substances in the mound doesn't seem like the way to go. There might be a CSI-like solution there: take a sample out of your hand, put it in a solution, and when it turns a certain color you're stuck, but the unintended consequences would be weird. Imagine the arms race this would spark. "Sugar has been included in the list of banned substances," it said on a Friday. By Saturday, all jugs had been switched to stevia.


However, scientific testing of tack has some advantages as there are industrial solutions to tack testing problems. dr Dan Adams is runningWyoming-Testvorrichtungen, and have worked with two stickiness tests that may be relevant. It measures how far a ball rolls through a sticky substance, although this seems difficult to replicate on the pitch.

Another test, ASTM D6195 Tack, shows some promising results for baseball requirements.

"You press a cloth against your finger, then pull it back and see how much force it takes to pull it out," Adams said of D6195. "Basically, you could call it an adherence test."

See the D6195 in action!


"The handle is connected to a load cell that measures the force you apply," Adams explained. "Peeling requires some force."

This power worries us. Baseball could define a tack level that it would agree to, set that number on the machine, and the umpires would just have to read the machine. It would be so easy for them to notice that if the pitcher weighs more than six pounds per square inch, that's a red line and they're out of the game.

the machine costsup to $5,000 eachSo that's a hurdle. Also, it's quite big so the referee doesn't have to lug it all the way up the hill. Could this thing be modified for baseball, made smaller, or housed in the dugout? Possibly.

"It's going to take some thinking," Adams agreed. “You have to put the loop where you put the sticky substance on your finger, for example. Perhaps you could attach it along the entire length of the finger. You can calibrate the size of the band. You have a concept in your head and play with it.”

How about a simpler approach? Any measure of adhesion is simply the force required to separate two surfaces. The problem with using many established testing technologies is measuring this force. What would happen if gravity were used as a force? This is the same in all parks, with minimal differences even between parks at very different elevations. Gravity plus whatever weight baseball deems appropriate could make a consistent and objective test.


"It seems pretty easy to me," said Dr. Meredith Wills for doing thisExperience testing the differences on the MLB ballyear by year. "All you need is a normal-weight object (lighter than a baseball) and gravity. Let the jug take it in your hand and turn it over. If the thing just hangs there and doesn't fall off, your hand is too sticky. For consistency, it would be best if the object was the same size/shape as a baseball or similar leather case; The substance may not stick in the same way, for example to plastic, but that should do the trick.”

We know Spider Tack delivered too much stick. Pitchers could apply this substance, touch a ball and the ball would just stick to their hand without falling off. That's too much stickiness. Maybe we can make the jars so sticky that a flat sheet of paper will stick to your hand without falling off. That is too low a bar for these purposes.

But somewhere in between there is a perfect test. Perhaps a leather-wrapped wiffle ball or just a lightweight baseball like those used in weighted ball programs would do the trick. The referee brings the test ball to the thrower, holds it in his hand, and if it doesn't fall due to gravity, the thrower is trapped.

"The only thing is, if the person has a larger finger and a larger area, this test doesn't measure the amount of actual sticking, it measures the overall force," Adams said. "There's something to be said about the machine that controls the finger-attached surface."

Wants baseball a quicker and easier test like what lightball would offer? Or a more precise version that might be harder to play but more cumbersome to implement? It seems that previous decisions might suggest that proof of the ball would be more likely just because it's easier. Another benefit of the light ball test is that it doesn't require machines so it can be done at any time, whether on the hill or off, and this seems important as the risk of surprise reduces the chances of pitchers finding a path find it do it. clean in time for the machine. Teams could also leave a light ball in the dugout for pitchers to test before running to the mound.

Either way, there are two ways for the baseball rules committee to develop a better sticky stuff test than the current one. The best test might be to attach a ball of known weight to a hand covered in an unknown substance and wait for it to fall.

(Picture ofJustin Verlanderand Referee Lance Barksdale: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)


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