• Jack Morris Thinks Clay Buchholz Throws A Spitter

    Posted by on May 3rd, 2013 · Comments (6)

    Via ESPN -

    Jack Morris, a former World Series hero and a current Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster, said Thursday that he watched video after Wednesday night’s game between the Jays and Red Sox and came away convinced Boston pitcher Clay Buchholz was throwing a spitball.

    Morris said he didn’t notice it during Wednesday’s telecast.

    “I found out because the guys on the video camera showed it to me right after the game,” he said. “I didn’t see it during the game. They showed it to me and said, ‘What do you think of this?’ and I said, ‘Well, he’s throwing a spitter. Cause that’s what it is.”

    Morris’s accusation was vigorously disputed by the Red Sox, including manager John Farrell and Buchholz, who said it’s the first time he’s been accused of throwing a spitball.

    “Loading up with what, rosin?” Buchholz said. “I get wet from my hair. Are they talking about the stains on my shirt? There probably are stains on my shirt, because I’ve been wearing the same shirt for the last three years.

    “I’m doing the same thing right now as I did in 2008, when I was sent down to Double-A. But I guess something’s got to be wrong, right?’”

    Video of Buchholz rubbing his pitching hand on his left forearm was shown on the Jays’ pregame show Thursday night.

    “He’s got rosin on his arm,” said Farrell, visibly annoyed. “He’s not loading up; he’s got rosin on his arm. As soon as someone pitches well or does well, they’re cheating.”

    Buchholz has won each of his first six starts, including Wednesday’s when he held the Jays to two hits in seven scoreless innings. Buchholz, who has a 1.01 ERA, was named American League Pitcher of the Month on Thursday.

    Morris said he went to Farrell and told him of his suspicions. He said he saw Buchholz repeatedly going to his left forearm, which he said was clearly smeared with a substance that Buchholz was rubbing onto the ball.

    “It was all over his forearm, all over the lower part of his T-shirt, it’s all in his hair,” Morris said. “I can’t prove anything. I can’t prove anything.

    “Funny thing, the way the game is played today. In our generation, every player, every coach would have seen it, the umpire would have gone out and made him change, made him stop and that changes everything. Or else they throw him out of the game. So what kind of bugs all of us is nothing is done here.”

    That last comment could be construed as criticism of Toronto manager John Gibbons and the rest of the Blue Jays, none of whom raised any issues with plate umpire Bruce Dreckman.

    If Buchholz was doing this, wouldn’t batters be complaining about the unnatural movement of his pitches? To me, that’s always the best indicator. Bobby Murcer used to throw fits over Gaylord Perry.

    Comments on Jack Morris Thinks Clay Buchholz Throws A Spitter

    1. MJ Recanati
      May 3rd, 2013 | 12:59 pm

      In doing a side-by-side comparison of the Pitch F/X data from 2012 and the first month of 2013, the only place where there is a significant difference in the behavior of a pitch is in Buchholz’s cutter this year.

      In 2012, his cutter had 1.80 inches of horizontal break. In 2013, the same pitch now has 3.07 inches of horizontal break. That’s the only fishy thing I see here but, despite that, the whiff rate on that pitch has barely chnaged (7.2% in 2012; 7.4% in 2013).

      I’m inclined to say that while Morris may have circumstantial evidence — all the stains on Buchholz’s shirt/forearm, the fact that he might touch his hair, shirt or arm and then rub up the baseball between pitches — but the data and whiff results don’t show much to support Morris’s claim (besides the greater movement on one of his four primary pitches).

      2012: http://pitchfx.texasleaguers.com/pitcher/453329/?batters=A&count=AA&pitches=AA&from=4%2F1%2F2012&to=10%2F31%2F2012

      2013: http://pitchfx.texasleaguers.com/pitcher/453329/?batters=A&count=AA&pitches=AA&from=4%2F1%2F2013&to=5%2F2%2F2013

    2. SteveF
      May 4th, 2013 | 4:05 am

      Notice the change in velocity. His average cutter speed is down by 1.6 mph this year. What this might suggest is that PitchF/X has gotten better at distinguishing cutters from 2 seam fastballs.

      One plausible theory is that in previous years some 2 seam fastballs got mislabeled as cutters. If that was less the case this year, you’d expect to see both a drop in velocity on pitches labeled cutter and an increase in horizontal movement.

      Obviously this is not even remotely a definitive explanation, but it is a possible one to explain some of the difference in movement.

    3. SteveF
      May 4th, 2013 | 4:21 am

      You know, looking deeper into the matter, it doesn’t appear that is a likely plausible explanation.

      You’d expect them to apply whatever algorithms they use to classify pitches from the velocity/spin rate/spin angle across every year equally. So any change in pitch classification algorithms would probably be reflected in past years’ data as well, right?

      At least, that’s what I’d expect them to do.

    4. May 4th, 2013 | 7:11 am

      Tom Verducci goes right after this –

      Thanks to accusations from Toronto broadcasters and former pitchers Dirk Hayhurst and Jack Morris, Boston pitcher Clay Buchholz has reignited an ageless debate about what constitutes “cheating” in baseball. Buchholz’s defense about whether he is putting an illegal substance on his fingers to improve his grip only inflamed the debate.

      It’s unclear exactly what Buchholz is doing, so for now let’s put aside accusations (and gullibility) and stick to the facts. At MLB Network I was able to review in close detail plenty of video of Buchholz from the past two years, including his start in question in Toronto on Wednesday [watch here]. This is what I found to be true:

      • Buchholz’s left forearm glistens this year with some kind of substance that is not rosin or perspiration. As the righthander admitted, he does keep water on his uniform and in his hair and does pat the rosin bag on his left forearm — all apparently legal. But rosin is white and has a matte finish. Something wet and mostly clear glistens from Buchholz’s left wrist to his elbow, the moisture of which darkens the edge of his left undershirt sleeve.

      • This is not perspiration on his left forearm. His right forearm is dry. There is no darkening on the edge of his right undershirt sleeve.

      • He regularly rakes his right index and middle fingers across his left forearm, being careful to keep his other fingers raised.

      • Buchholz’s two-seam fastball (thrown with the index and middle fingers on the seams) is much improved with more movement this year; I wrote about this key improvement in his game weeks ago.

      Buchholz’s answers to questions from reporters about the accusations from Hayhurst and Morris only confuse the issue. “Are they talking about the stains on my shirt?” he said. “There probably are stains on my shirt, because I’ve been wearing the same shirt for the last three years.”

      It was Buchholz who brought up the stains on his shirt. I’m not sure even what it means. (The Red Sox don’t launder it?) But I looked at video from last year and found that there are no stains on his left sleeve. There is no glistening on his left forearm. Buchholz is doing something this year with his left forearm that he was not doing last year.

      Know this: Most pitchers, not all, use something to improve their grip. There are many “homemade recipes” to go about getting the right kind of tackiness on your index and middle fingers to make the ball spin faster. Rosin by itself doesn’t cut it. You need some moisture and tackiness mixed with rosin and water or saliva. I have seen and heard pitchers use pine tar (usually kept on the cap or uniform), sunblock lotion, an aerosol sticky spray and various other lotions as the binding agent with rosin and water or saliva.

      It has become fairly common in the past five to 10 years for pitchers swipe or rub the forearm of their non-throwing arm between pitches. Notice that none of the uniformed Blue Jays complained about Buchholz. The complaints came from retired pitchers. The “secret society” among the knowing reminds me of the story when the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner called manager Lou Piniella during a game to get him to have the umpires check the opposing pitcher for scuffing the baseball. “But George,” Piniella said, “our guy is cheating, too!”

      The irony is that nobody wrote a better “how-to” explanation of using foreign substances than Hayhurst. In his book Out of My League, Hayhurst wrote about what’s inside those backpacks pitchers carry to the bullpen. He wrote when describing the unpacking of the bag: “Then the real supplies came out: various goops and stick ‘ems that some morally sensitive fans would call the use of cheating, while we in the business simply called having an edge.” Those substances, Hayhurst wrote, include something called “Firm Grip . . . a knockoff of pine tar,” shaving cream (“specifically the gel stuff”) and sunscreen.

      “When rubbed into the skin and mixed with sweat and rosin,” Hayhurst wrote, “this stuff actually forms an SPF-40 caliber Fixodent, which a crafty pitcher can mix on the fly. A touch to the wrist slightly below the mitt for some [sun] screen, a wipe of the back of the neck for some sweat, a pat of the rosin bag for the third component, and you’ll have enough tack to make the ball hang from your fingertips.”

      Is it legal? By definition, no. Rule 8.02 bars the use of any “foreign substance” on the baseball. But pitchers have come to rationalize the use of these substances not as throwing a doctored pitch or “spitball,” but as the more benign sounding tactic of “improving my grip.” As pitching continues to dominate the game, it is based mostly on pitchers adopting the cutter/sinker combination to get late movement on both sides of the plate. Grip has become important to establish high spin rates on such higher-velocity pitches.

      Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/news/20130503/clay-buchholz-spitball-red-sox-blue-jays-joey-votto-matt-harvey/#ixzz2SJyytJtN

    5. Raf
      May 4th, 2013 | 8:38 am

      ‘Foreign? It’s made here in the USA’

      This article made me think of this clip
      http://youtu.be/Pdjgdb-OxY8

    6. Evan3457
      May 5th, 2013 | 1:30 am

      Raf wrote:

      ‘Foreign? It’s made here in the USA’
      This article made me think of this clip
      http://youtu.be/Pdjgdb-OxY8

      Or this clip, especially starting at 2:30. Though the rest of it is great, too.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-S-eeInJVk

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