Understanding Sticky Stuff and Spin Rate

It’s interesting that “sticky stuff” is the hot topic in baseball right now. Pitchers messing with the ball is actually an old subject. The infamous spitball. Vaseline on the hat. Nail files being flung on network TV. The fact is, the MLB banned “doctoring” the ball all the way back in 1934. Back then, pitchers knew messing with the ball gave them an advantage, but they didn’t exactly know why. The reason, as we now know, is something called Spin Rate. 

Spin rate is the amount of spin that a pitched ball has on its way to home plate. It is measured in Revolutions Per Minute (RPM) and it’s immensely important to understand when developing a pitcher’s arsenal.

If you wanna know more, check out this video that explains Spin Rate in greater detail. 

So… yes… it makes sense that pitchers want to increase their spin rate. But what’s happening?

We’re now learning through the sports media, pitching experts, and the pitchers themselves, that it is likely the majority of big-league pitchers use some sort of substance when pitching to improve their performance. 

So, what is it? And why are they using i? The substance abusers are using “Sticky Stuff” or something like Spider Tack – A bodybuilder, competition-grade tacky, created for loading Atlas Stones – giving them, ironically enough, a better grip on the ball. 

Better grip is a concept that is easy to understand – but the unseen (until now) benefit is its ability to drastically increase a pitcher’s spin rate – as much as 500 rpm on pitches like the fastball! The extra RPMs also make off-speed pitches such as curveballs and sliders break more dramatically.

The ability of pitchers to add extra spin without having to increase their velocity creates pitches that move differently (better) to deceive hitters in multiple ways. It makes a pitcher’s stuff just plain NASTY.

All of this makes the pitcher better… but most people argue it’s not good for the game. Less hits, lower scoring games, etc. So, the MLB is going to crack down on pitchers who use foreign substances.

But here’s the thing. Every pitcher… from little league to the bigs… has a natural spin rate based on their grip, mechanics, arm strength, and overall throwing motion. Naturally, spin rate tends to increase in near linear fashion as velocity increases until it eventually peaks as a pitcher’s velocity tops out. It’s also important to know that spin rate varies by pitch type – mostly because the grip and release change – creating a different spin direction along with a change in RPMs. 

Pitchers who learn and understand their pitching metrics by pitch type can also learn to craft their pitches the right way and build their arsenal through hard work and focused effort on mechanics & delivery. 

And that’s where DK’s PitchTracker Smart Baseball comes in. Players at any and every level can track their velocity, spin rate, spin direction, horizontal & vertical break, and other key metrics. Young pitchers can learn how to master their pitch types by seeing the spin direction of each pitch and literally see the impact of different spin rates on fastballs, curveballs, sliders, or change-ups. PitchTracker helps you understand WHY a pitch is behaving a certain way and moving in a certain direction. The PitchTracker Smart Baseball helps pitchers THROW SMARTER and PITCH BETTER. 

What’s better, Diamond Kinetics tracks millions of throws every year and is able to provide metric averages by age group. This helps pitchers benchmark themselves against other players at their level. Below is a chart that shows Velocity and Spin Rate for both Fastballs and Curveballs across competition levels.

Because of the “Sticky Stuff” controversy, if you’re merely curious about a player’s spin rate – buy the ball and give a few throws. You’ll be able to see the spin rate, right there.

Or, if you’re somewhat serious about developing a pitcher – PitchTracker is a great way to track development over time, achieve consistency by pitch type, learn how different pitches become complementary to each other, and ultimately… to maximize a player’s potential on the mound. PitchTracker is a great tool to inform yourself about a player’s potential AND see how your training improves a player’s pitching skill set. 


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