The Science behind MLB's Sticky Stuff Scandal [Video] | BU Today – BU Today

The Science behind MLB’s Sticky Stuff Scandal
One of Major League Baseball’s worst kept secrets is that pitchers have always used foreign substances on the ball to gain an advantage over hitters—a practice that has been against the rules since the beginning, but was rarely enforced. First they used pine tar, which helped pitchers grip the ball harder and spin it faster. Later, they graduated to a combination of rosin (a sticky powder made from pine tree sap) and sunscreen, which produced a sticky layer on a pitcher’s fingers. Today, with the advent of computer tracking technology, baseball statistical programs can home in on exactly which substances, commonly referred to as “sticky stuff,” produce the most spin on the ball. Higher spin rates resulted in what was described as a “hitting crisis” in baseball: hits plummeted and strikeouts skyrocketed, causing MLB to introduce new foreign substance enforcement rules midseason, stating that any pitcher caught using them would face a 10-game suspension. (Early results showed steep drops in spin rates from pitchers and fewer strikeouts from hitters.)
With so much attention on spin rate, we were curious about why sticky stuff makes baseballs so much harder to hit. What is the science behind spin rate?
In this video, baseball physics and physiology expert Andy Andres explains the science behind sticky substances, as well as the history of ball-doctoring by pitchers. In addition to being a Boston University College of General Studies senior lecturer in natural sciences and mathematics, Andres is the creator of the online course for edX, Sabermetrics 101: Introduction to Baseball Analytics. He also works for Major League Baseball as a datacaster and digital scorekeeper at Fenway Park.
The Science behind MLB’s Sticky Stuff Scandal [Video]
Devin Hahn creates video content for BU TodayBostonia online, and The Brink. He is a producer, a cameraman, an editor, and, under duress, a writer. Profile
Cydney Scott has been a professional photographer since graduating from the Ohio University VisCom program in 1998. She spent 10 years shooting for newspapers, first in upstate New York, then Palm Beach County, Fla., before moving back to her home city of Boston and joining BU Photography. Profile
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