June 7, 2021

Amid MLB's Looming Crackdown On Pitchers Using Illegal Substances, Josh Donaldson Implies Yankees Ace Gerrit Cole Has Been Cheating (Aaron Boone's Defense? His Pitchers "Are Mostly Above Board")

MLB has been talking about taking steps to ban the use of "foreign substances" by pitchers, and Josh Donaldson of the Twins strongly implied recently that Yankee ace Gerrit Cole, currently in the second year of a mammoth nine-year/$324 million deal, has been cheating. Donaldson is not the first player to level that accusation against Cole.

Donaldson noted the odd coincidence of MLB suspending four minor-leaguers for using illegal substances and then two day slater, Cole having one of his worst starts of the season (five runs allowed in five innings), with reduced spin rates on all of his pitches.

Donaldson spoke with The Athletic's Dan Hayes:

If you want to clean the game up — because to me, this is going to be the next steroids of baseball ordeal, because it is cheating and it is performance-enhancing — the only way they get it through and to get it out of the game is if they get checked every half-inning. If a new pitcher comes out, they get checked immediately by the umpire. Once they start doing that, it'll be gone, and you're going to start seeing offense come back into the game. . . .

What these guys are doing now (is) performance-enhancing, to where it is an actual superglue-type of ordeal. It's not about command. Now, it's about who's throwing the nastiest pitches, the more unhittable pitches. It's proven.

Donaldson says he has seen an increase in recent seasons in the way pitches move. And those subjective observations are backed up with data from Statcast.

When something is different, we pick that up. It would be like sending a counterfeit $20 bill to a bank teller that's had 20 years of experience. That person's going to know that's not real. So, as a hitter, in the experience I've developed over the years, I know when a fastball should not be moving like that or a slider should not be doing that.

One recently retired pitcher estimated that "80% to 90%" of pitchers are cheating in some way.

When it comes to Cole, Donaldson pointed out the decline in spin rate in Cole's start last Thursday. Baseball Savant reported a 125-RPM decrease in Cole's four-seam fastball, a 78-RPM dip on his knuckle curve, a 77-RPM drop on his changeup, and a 48-RPM loss on his slider.

Is it coincidence that Gerrit Cole's spin rate numbers went down (Thursday) after four minor leaguers got suspended for 10 games? Is that possible? I don't know. Maybe. 

Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post noted that Trevor Bauer of the Dodgers "has raised a cloud of suspicion around Cole, regarding sticky substances, in the past". Bauer and Cole were teammates at UCLA.

On Sunday, before his team was swept by the Red Sox, MFY manager Aaron Boone said he believes his pitchers (including Cole) "are mostly above board". . . . Mostly?

Dunleavy writes that Cole will "address the accusations" before his next start, against Donaldson's Twins on Tuesday in Minnesota. That could be an entertaining game!

Dunleavy also reports that Cole "was linked to a since-dismissed lawsuit by a former Angels clubhouse employee, having allegedly sent a text to the employee looking for a substance the employee provided to pitchers from both the Angels and opposing teams".

Cole in 2021:

First 8 starts:  1.37 ERA   3 BB  78 K
Last 4 starts:   4.30 ERA   8 BB  26 K


betterthanthealternative said...

Yes please, for Cole to become a mediocre pitcher and the MFY to be stuck with that contract.

GK said...

There you go, a "Lump of Cole" for an early Christmas present to the hated team.