As some of us might recall there was a bit of controversy in the Cardinals win over the White Sox on Wednesday afternoon. “Controversy” might be a bit too dramatic of a word, but there was some, shall we say, hubbub. Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos had his hat confiscated because there was a suspicious spot on the bill. As we noted before the season began, Major League Baseball had announced its intention to crack down on doctoring baseballs with foreign substances. This appeared to be part of that crack down.
That or the umpires are just weirdos that stole a guy’s hat.
The post-game interviews seem to confirm it was because the crack down thing, though. Per Jeff Jones of the Belleville News Democrat:
I was the pool reporter who spoke to Joe West about the incident with Giovanny Gallegos’s cap which ended in Mike Shildt’s ejection. Here’s what he had to say: pic.twitter.com/ybryL3CBd1— Jeff Jones (@jmjones) May 26, 2021
“This is baseball’s dirty little secret, and it’s the wrong time and the wrong area to expose it,” Shildt said.— Jeff Jones (@jmjones) May 26, 2021
“I got a decent chance of getting fined, and my wife Michelle is gonna…gosh darn it, but it’s for the integrity of the game."
Here is Manager Mike Shildt’s full interview:
After donning a replacement cap, Gallegos went on to pitch a great game; he faced five batters, threw 16 pitches, struck out three batters and didn’t allow a hit. It seems like the new hat didn’t impact his pitching at all.
Or did it? Per Eno Sarris of The Athletic:
Gallegos’ four-seam spin rate was down 30 RPM in the game after he changed his hat, which is less than the impact we found from the better sticky substances, and might not be meaningful, but is still somewhat interesting. https://t.co/81FSAXRk3m— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) May 26, 2021
It is interesting, but without any context, we have no idea if that is meaningful. These could just be a normal variance for Gallegos, which Sarris goes on to explain in a reply to his tweet:
He threw 16, but spin rate is meaningful in small samples. That said, this could be normal or variation or consistent with sunscreen and rosin use as he and his manager claimed. There are other substances that are +200-300 RPM when you use them.— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) May 27, 2021
So I did what any normal person would do and queried all 435 pitches Gallegos has thrown so far this year and charted the spin rate. Here is what I found.
My first thought was to split everything up by pitch and just see what the distribution was. I quickly realized I didn’t know what I was doing, so I abandoned that idea, but I had already put the work in so here are the numbers before and after The Hat Confiscation:
(I would like to point out that Excel calculated this for me so if it wrong, I blame the computer.)
There are such little data after The Hat Confiscation though that this isn’t really telling us much, especially the variance and standard deviation. I thought that it would be nice to know though since Sarris pointed out that the fastball from Gallegos was 30 RPM less. Based on the data before The Hat Confiscation that does not appear to be an unusual amount. I put together some graphs and that I think will paint a clearer picture, though.
(I didn’t graph the changeup because he doesn’t throw it that often and it seemed like too many graphs.)
So what have we learned? To be totally honest I am not sure. I do not know enough about what the spin rate for a doctored baseball would look like or how much that would improve it and I think baseball is going to have a heckuva time trying to figure that out. What I do think we know from looking at these graphs is that it does not look like changing hats made a big difference in the pitches’ spin rates for Giovanny Gallegos. He’s just good. Ho hum.