The Los Angeles Dodgers have an off day on Monday before they begin a three-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Coming off of two losses against the Atlanta Braves, they could use a little time to regroup.
Aside from two innings, one where they scored eight runs, and one where they scored three, they only scored four runs over the other 25 innings. That is not going to win many games, especially when the eight runs were scored mostly with the help of Atlanta’s lack of pitching and defense, and only three hits by the Dodgers.
Fans of the team were hoping that the offense might start to pick back up with Cody Bellinger and Zach McKinstry returning to the lineup, but that’s not quite the case yet, anyway. Only one homer was hit off a Dodger bat all weekend, by Albert Pujols in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game.
The Dodgers now find themselves three games out of first place behind the San Francisco Giants and one game behind the second-place San Diego Padres.
The biggest thing on the Dodgers’ radar is whether the crackdown on pitchers using foreign or banned substances on the ball will affect the pitching staff or not.
The Dodgers as a whole have the highest spin rate in the major leagues. Their rate increased significantly over the 2020-2021 season break. The main reason for that? The signing of Trevor Bauer.
After MLB announced it will be cracking down on pitchers for using foreign substances on baseballs, Bauer’s spin rate dropped. In Atlanta on Sunday, his fastball averaged 2,612 rpm. Entering the game, it was averaging 2,835 rpm. Only twice before in his last 28 games has it dropped below 2,700 rpm.
Asked about it after the game, Bauer didn’t give much of an explanation. “It was a hot, humid day in Atlanta,” he said.
“I just want to compete on a fair playing field,” Bauer said. “I’ll say it again. That’s been the point this entire time, that everyone can be on a fair playing field. So if you’re going to enforce it, enforce it. And if you’re not, then stop sweeping it under the rug, which is what they’ve done for four years now.”
Bauer has been very vocal about other pitchers using, and then seemingly set about using it himself to show how it could make him a better pitcher. In 2019, his average rpm on his four seam fastball was 2,410. In 2020, when he won the Cy Young Award, it was up to 2,779 rpm.
“For eight years I’ve been trying to figure out how to increase the spin on my fastball because I’d identified it way back then as such a massive advantage. I knew that if I could learn to increase it through training and technique, it would be huge. But eight years later, I haven’t found any other way except using foreign substances.” Bauer made this statement in February of 2020 in The Player Tribune in an article he wrote for the publication.
We all know what happened next, he won the Cy Young and signed his massive contract with the Dodgers.
However, as stated, the Dodgers have the highest spin rate in all the majors, so it’s not just Bauer. Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias and Kenley Jansen all saw their spin rate drop during the weekend series in Atlanta.
But, as Bauer has been the most outspoken about it, having an over 200 rpm decrease immediately after MLB’s announcement, there will be increased scrutiny on his and the entire staff’s pitching.
What will happens with all of this remains to be seen. If using a substance to help with this is truly a league-wide thing, then it should affect all pitching staffs—not just the Dodgers. Offense will most likely increase across the league, which is most likely what MLB’s intention is with the tighter enforcement of the rules. Altering the baseball itself did not have the intended effect of increasing offense and this ‘issue’ of foreign substances could be a different angle to increase runs scored.
Whether teams start to seriously police each other about the substance issue or if it just all kind of falls off as time goes on also remains to be seen. The next few weeks should be interesting to say the least.