what does pine tar do for pitchers?

I was at the Nats’ game last night when Tampa Bay’s relief pitcher was ejected for having pine tar in his glove. What advantage is pine tar supposed to convey to pitchers? I assume the pitcher puts it on the ball, but to what end and is it really an advantage?

Any disruption in the surface of the ball (a cut, a scuff, a blob of pine tar) changes the flight pattern of the pitch. The goal is to make it harder to predict.



As the Wiki article on the spitball notes, any foreign substance on the ball can alter the flight of the ball, and is illegal.

There aren’t many (if any) pitchers anymore who try to make a spitball part of their repertoire; Gaylord Perry was probably the last one (he typically used Vaseline), and he’s been retired for decades.

However, according to just about every guy on the radio this morning, many pitchers in baseball use a little pine tar to add a bit of grip to their hand. Yes, rosin is available for this, but that mostly just dries your hand of sweat. From those reports, nearly everyone is aware of the practice, but no one objects because it prevents a good deal of wild pitches (many of which could end up in your ear, as a batter).

Thanks for the replies. The whole thing seems kind of old timey, like they found out his handlebar mustache was a clip-on.

There was photographic evidence that Kenny Rogers had a significant amount of pine tar on his hand during some of his games in the 2006 playoffs. This does happen from time to time.

Pine tar is for grip, per this article by a pitching coach. In the article, they tell how Larussa handled it in the game against Rogers, with some class that Johnson might learn from.

Apparently the Nationals knew to look because Peralta used to pitch for Washington.

Yeah, there was a lot of discussion in DC about whether or not Johnson should have ratted him out. Some of Peralta’s friends still on the Nats were upset by the incident.

One thing to keep in mind is that pine tar is as black as night. If someone were using it to truly doctor the ball to get movement, you’d have to use enough that would be extremely noticeable. There are plenty of other substances out there you’d use way before you’d resort to pinetar.

Baseball is more fun when there are all these little ‘cheats’ that allow the cat ‘n’ mouse game to go on. It’s charming to me.

But yeah, anything the pitcher can do to grab the ball or mark the ball alters the result.

Thus why balls are constantly replaced in the course of a game.

That’s kind of a hilarious article. He says (more or less) “Nobody uses vaseline to get a spitter, oh, no! that would be frowned upon. Now, shampoo or sunscreen lotion, that’s a different story, everybody uses that. Um, but only to get a better feel for the ball. Really.”

Now I guess I buy that pine tar is really used for better grip – why add something black to a white ball if you don’t want to be caught? But it’s kind of hard to see how shampoo or sunscreen lotion is substantially different from vaseline.

Sunscreen I can see - it gets tacky, and no one cares when they see you putting it on. But shampoo? That’s just weird.