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Spider Tack became a hot topic in baseball during the 2021 season. Until then, it was one of the sport’s best-kept secrets. Pitchers knew all about it and used it regularly, but fans had no idea how prevalent this sticky substance was throughout the game. Therefore, you might be wondering what Spider Tack is and why it caused so much controversy in baseball. Read this article to learn everything you need to know.
Spider Tack is a sticky substance that baseball pitchers can use to increase their grip on the ball. It is a waxy, glue-like product that is easy to conceal under the brim of a hat or the inside of a glove. It is against the rules of Major League Baseball for pitchers to use Spider Tack.
Technically, pitchers are not allowed to use any substance other than rosin to improve their grip. However, it slowly became apparent during the late 2010s that pitchers were using all sorts of illegal products (including Spider Tack) for exactly that purpose. The league made new rules to address this controversy in June 2021, and Spider Tack suddenly became a major topic of conversation amongst players, fans, and the media.
Why Do Pitchers Use Spider Tack?
Pitchers use Spider Tack to improve their grasp on the baseball. Human hands are naturally soft and oily, so it can be difficult to grip a small object like a ball as tightly and carefully as we would like to. It can be even harder to get a good grip on a hot, sweaty day or in wet, rainy conditions. Thus, pitchers use sticky substances to help them hold and control the baseball exactly how they want to.
With better grip, pitchers have more control over where they throw their pitches, and – most importantly – they can throw pitches that spin more as they travel through the air. In other words, pitchers are better at their job when they have a better grip on the ball.
While there are many sticky substances pitchers could have used for this purpose, Spider Tack became one of the most popular. It is far stickier and works much better than pine tar or sunscreen, and it is more effective than other grip-enhancing products.
Do MLB Pitchers Use Spider Tack?
Major League Baseball players used Spider Tack as recently as the 2021 season, when the league began enforcing stricter rules about the use of so-called “sticky” substances. As of June 2021, umpires perform regular hand and cap inspections throughout each game to ensure pitchers are not using Spider Tack or another illegal product.
The checks are performed at the end of each inning, when the pitcher must approach the umpire and put out his hands and sometimes his cap for inspection. Managers can also request that checks be performed on the opposing pitcher’s hands, cap, or uniform during an inning if the manager has reason to suspect foul play.
Thanks to this new inspection policy, it is much harder for MLB pitchers to get away with using products like Spider Tack during games. That does not mean it is impossible, however, so there may still be some pitchers finding ways to get around the rules and use a little bit of Spider Tack on occasion.
Which MLB Players Have Used Spider Tack?
While few players have ever admitted to using Spider Tack, it is widely believed that most pitchers were using it (or a similar substance) throughout the 2010s.
Gerrit Cole, a star pitcher for the New York Yankees, was asked if he used Spider Tack during a Zoom press conference in 2021. He avoided the question and refused to offer a clear answer. Many took this as an indirect admission of guilt. Cole, however, claimed he just did not want to discuss the topic over Zoom.
Jameson Taillon, a former teammate of Cole’s, is one of a small handful of pitchers who have directly admitted to using Spider Tack. That being said, Taillon claims he only used it while rehabbing from a serious elbow injury, and that he ultimately gave it up because he did not find it helpful.
Has A Pitcher Ever Been Ejected for Using Spider Tack?
As of the end of the 2022 season, no pitcher has been caught using Spider Tack during a game. However, two pitchers have been ejected for using illegal substances on the ball.
Hector Santiago of the Seattle Mariners and Caleb Smith of the Arizona Diamondbacks were both caught using sticky substances on the mound. Both pitchers claim they were only using rosin, a legal substance, but they were suspended for ten days each nonetheless.
What Is Spin Rate in Baseball?
Spin rate refers to how many revolutions per minute (RPM) a ball makes while it is flying toward the plate. This tells you how quickly the ball is spinning as it moves.
Major League Baseball uses radar technology and Statcast cameras to measure RPM. This data is available on Baseball Savant, the MLB website dedicated to advanced statistics.
Why Is Spin Rate Important for Pitchers?
Spin has always been an important part of pitching. As a general rule, balls with more spin are harder to hit. Batters have more trouble seeing these pitches and predicting where they will end up.
Therefore, pitches with higher spin rate are more likely to lead to swings-and-misses or weak contact. Accordingly, pitchers who throw with more spin are able to record more strikeouts and induce more ground ball outs.
In recent years, the technology has been invented to measure exact RPM. In other words, pitchers always knew spin rate was important, but they could only guess how much spin they had on each of their pitches. Now that baseball teams have this technology at their disposal, pitchers and coaches pay more attention to spin rate than ever before.
Does Spider Tack Help Pitchers Throw Faster?
Spider Tack does not directly make pitchers throw faster. It helps to enhance their RPM, not their velocity. A faster spin rate does not mean a faster pitch.
That being said, it is plausible such a substance could have an indirect impact on pitch speed. Some pitchers might feel more confident throwing the ball harder if they do not have to worry so much about maintaining good grip. Spider Tack improves a pitcher’s control, so without it, a pitcher might have to throw slower to maintain the same level of pitch command.
What Was Spider Tack Originally Used For?
Spider Tack was invented to be used by weight-lifters and competitive strongmen to help them grip the heavy objects they had to lift into the air. The product began to catch on with other athletes, including wheelchair rugby players and competitors in the Scottish Highland Games. Substances like Spider Tack are legal in all these sports.
Spider Tack was not intended to be used for baseball. Indeed, the creators have said they were quite surprised when they realized baseball players were suddenly buying so much of their product.
Who Invented Spider Tack?
Spider Tack was invented by former strongman and Ph.D. candidate Mike Caruso. He began selling it alongside another strongman James Deffinbaugh, and the product soon became popular in the world of powerlifting.
Powerlifters used Spider Tack to help them hold onto large round stones called Atlas Stones. It is perfectly legal in the world of powerlifting, since its primary purpose is to increase safety rather than provide a competitive advantage.
Why Did MLB Stop Players From Using Spider Tack?
For many years, Major League Baseball chose to turn a blind eye to the use of sticky substances in the sport. The use of Spider Tack was something of an open secret – the league knew players were doctoring baseballs, but they never addressed it or tried to stop it.
Ahead of the 2021 season, however, the league decided to finally crack down and enforce the rules. Batters were getting fewer and fewer hits, and pitchers were racking up strikeouts and throwing more no-hitters than ever before. MLB officials decided they needed to do something to even the playing field and increase offense.
Why Did the “Sticky-Stuff Crackdown” Cause So Much Controversy?
While most hitters and coaches seemed to be in favor of the new rules, many pitchers were upset. They felt they had not been given enough time and warning to adjust to such a drastic change. By this point, they were all accustomed to pitching with grip-enhancing substances.
Some pitchers argued that the new rules would lead to an increase in injuries. Hitters could get hurt because pitchers were more likely to throw wild pitches, and pitchers could hurt their arms by trying to adjust to new rules mid-season.
Washington Nationals batter Austin Voth was hit by a pitch and broke his nose shortly after the new rules went into effect. His manager argued that it might not have happened if the opposing pitcher had been allowed to use a grip-enhancing substance (like Spider Tack).
Similarly, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Tyler Glasnow suffered an elbow injury after the crackdown and blamed it on the abrupt rule changes. Glasnow claims he did not use Spider Tack, but that he relied on a tacky mixture of sunscreen and rosin to improve his grip.
What Other Substances Are Similar to Spider Tack?
While Spider Tack became the most famous illicit substance during the “sticky stuff” crackdown of 2021, pitchers have been known to use many other products for a similar effect. This includes pine tar, Pelican Grip Dip, Tyrus Sticky Grip, Grip Boost, Cramer Firm Grip, Monkey Hands, various types of glue, and even a mixture of sunscreen and rosin.
What Sticky Substance Are Pitchers Allowed to Use for Grip?
The one substance pitchers are still allowed to use on the mound is a sticky powder called rosin. This comes in the form of a canvas bag full of rosin that pitchers keep on the back of the mound. Pitchers will pick up the rosin bag and toss it around in their hands between pitches. This helps them to dry their hands from sweat and rain.
Interestingly, rosin is actually one of the primary ingredients in Spider Tack and other similar substances. The full recipe, however, remains a secret known only to the creators.
How Else Can Baseball Pitchers Tamper With the Ball?
Before pitchers were using substances like Spider Tack, they found other ways to alter their grip on the baseball. In the early twentieth century, pitchers often threw spitballs – pitches lubricated with saliva or another similar substance, like vaseline. Spitballs were banned in 1920.
Another method of illegally altering baseballs involves purposefully scuffing up the leather using an emery board or a piece of sandpaper. This type of pitch, called the emeryball, was banned in 1914.