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The Sticky on the Sticky: Substance Used for Grip By Pitchers

Gerrit Cole looked incredibly distraught about the MLB's new sticky substance policy after the Blue Jays game last night.

This looks like the face of a man whose livelihood has been taken away. Now we know Cole isn't the only one, many pitchers have been complaining. Trevor Bauer has a great video if you have time to watch it.


How did we get in this place where pitchers are so dependant on a practice that is supposed to be cheating?

Pitching is a very unique position in sports, a lot of it requires intense knowledge of the position and learned skills rather than just pure athleticism. If you look online there are thousands of youtube videos, instructional programs, and pitching-specific programming that young pitchers are ravenous to consume. From multiple anonymous sources in D1 and minor league baseball, it seems the flow of knowledge amongst pitchers spreads like wildfire. Because the position is so unique, if one guy finds something that works, like icing your arm or a certain workout to up the speed of your fastball, it will get around their team, their league, and the whole sport of baseball by the end of the season. Think about steroids, their use was a pandemic across the sport. This knowledge doesn't start in the Major Leagues, it starts in summer ball leagues the summers before college or travel ball teams in high school. These practices get entrenched in baseball at ground floor levels before it ever is utilized in the pros. The nature of the farm system drives innovation and resourcefulness. Desperation in the minor leagues drives many to whatever means necessary.

Of course, it is not a recent phenomenon either.

Since the beginning of baseball, spitballs, altering the ball have all been used to make more movement or raise spin rates and give pitchers an advantage. 

Now from what I have gathered these are the main substances used currently.

Sunscreen and Rosin

Nuccio DiNuzzo. Getty Images.

Sunscreen and rosin are two very common substances at pitchers' disposal. Combined they create a stickier mixture that allows better grip on the ball. Besides sweat, spit or other bodily fluids, Sunscreen and Rosin have been the most commonplace substance used because of the plausible deniability of having two common substances on pitchers. Rosin is on the pitcher's mound and having a summer season is a perfect excuse.

Pine Tar

Rich Schultz. Getty Images.


The biggest historical culprit in the public's eye. Can easily be found in hardware stores and used by batters to help grip their bats. It is easier to spot because of its dark color of nature in contrast to uniforms or gloves. 

Pelican Wax

An easy-to-access sticky substance that is commonplace in dugouts due to usage by batters for bat grip. Honestly think this stuff is purposefully marketed for dual purpose because of how commonplace sticky substance use is by pitchers. 

Spider Tack

Now this substance was originally developed by strongman powerlifters to lift Atlas stones, giant round slippery stones you may see guys like Eddie Hall or the Mountain lift. These stones are so heavy getting a grip is needed. It is a cheap extremely sticky resin that gets its name from the way the stuff stretches apart and looks like a spider web. It is so sticky it makes pine tar look like lube. This stuff is the substance of choice because a very small amount can be concealed easily and provide enough grip and stick. Other substances require larger amounts that can be seen easier on hats, gloves, back of the neck, etc. 


Here is a great video on how each substance affects spin rates and velocity.

The MLB wants to ban any sort of sticky substance, which is quite difficult because then you would have to define what sticky actually is. If you have seen the videos of people thinking the vaccine makes magnetically magically stick to them you would understand it could cause confusion.

It is hypocritical as well.

Commonplace in all major and minor league games, the umpire rubs special "Mississippi Mud" on the balls to help the moisture and grip, which pitchers argue gets dried out over the course of a game. 

The truth is that sticky substances are too entrenched in the game, and the reason it is getting cracked down upon now might have something to do with hitters having historically low batting averages. I think this more has something to do with the Astros cheating scandal and how more teams may have been guilty of sign stealing and filming pitchers and catchers. 

If you check out this Twitter thread you will understand hitters before the crackdown were getting an advantage, and if you check out the numbers this season vs. last season batting averages are down. The MLB is mad balls are not getting in play, so why not crack down on age-old perceived advantage pitchers were using. 

The MLB shouldn't ban all substances, it's too much gray area and blowing out guys' arms. They should regulate it. Make whatever substance they choose as typical as rosin. Maybe no Spider tack but something less sticky but manageable. Fuck it Elmer's glue only may be the answer.

Giphy Images.