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90 percent of pitchers are using spray-on sunscreen, Buchholz-style

May 8, 2013, 3:30 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox Buchholz pitches to Toronto Blue Jays during their MLB baseball game in Toronto

Jeff Passan picks up the thread Dirk Hayhurst and Jack Morris pulled last week regarding Clay Buchholz‘s start against the Jays and accusations that he was doctoring the ball:

Two veteran pitchers and one source close to the Red Sox told Yahoo! Sports that about 90 percent of major league pitchers use some form of spray-on sunscreen – almost always BullFrog brand – that when combined with powdered rosin gives them a far superior grip on the ball … one source close to the Red Sox confirmed the team’s pitchers almost all rely on sunscreen for better grip on finicky balls, particularly in cold, bad weather.

It seems almost certain, based on what Passan’s sources are telling him, that yes, Buchholz was applying a foreign substance to the ball last week.  But it also seems certain, based on what Passan’s sources are telling him, that almost all pitchers do it and, really, no one cares.

Which I think does matter when talk about the nature of all of this. How much it matters I don’t know. If the Blue Jays were willing to look the other way — and they were, probably because their pitchers do the same damn thing — I’m not sure where the mandate to start inspecting every pitcher’s arm comes from, even if applying Bull Frog to the ball is a violation of a clear rule.

Of course, I’ve been trying to tell people for years that, while against the rules, players using PEDs was maybe something more complex than anti-PED gang was willing to admit given its pervasive and open use.  Doesn’t make it right. Doesn’t make it legal. But does provide some context with which reasonable people should maybe use in order to filter their outrage and with which to determine just how sharp those pitchforks should be.

So: any of those folks willing to take the “I don’t care if everyone is doing it and it’s ‘just part of the game,’ Buchholz is a cheating cheater who cheats” tack here?  I’m not gonna hold my breath for it, but please, let me know if you feel that way.

  1. Kevin S. - May 8, 2013 at 3:39 PM

    Sure, he is. And I’m breaking the law when I do 78 in a 65. I fully expect the cop to ignore me when everybody else on the road is doing it, too.

    • blabidibla - May 8, 2013 at 3:47 PM

      as long as you accept the punishment when you are pulled over.

    • Francisco (FC) - May 8, 2013 at 3:53 PM

      That depends on how they’re doing on their quota. If they need to make up some tickets, they’ll put a speed trap on a known exit/ramp where folks go up to 10 over and just pull to the curb 10 to 15 cars.

  2. GoneYickitty - May 8, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    My son had a coach some years back who had just retired from his minor league pitching gig. One of the things he taught the staff was how to use sunscreen. He had been doing it for years and his experience was that no umpire would ever have an issue with it unless it was literally dripping off your arm. Still, he taught them to be a bit more subtle than Buchholz because you really don’t want to rub it in anyone’s face.

  3. Max Power - May 8, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    If it influences the flight of the ball, it’s bad.

    If all it does is give the pitcher a better grip, who cares.

    As some of the balls that come up and in really did get away from the pitcher, I’d imagine batters would prefer they have a better grip too.

    • paperlions - May 8, 2013 at 4:26 PM

      Exactly. Using something to get a better grip is not the same as applying a foreign substance. Guys that use pine tar don’t put it on the ball to get movement, they just touch it with their fingers to get a better grip…the stuff doesn’t come off on the ball. Still, rules are rules, so if using this kind of thing for a better grip is against the rules they should either change the rules or put an end the practice.

    • tommyshih - May 8, 2013 at 4:58 PM

      Also, the sunscreen+rosin combo does the opposite of what vaseline or other substances used to throw spitters did, which is reduce friction, leading to reduced rotation causing unnatural movement. So, Morris’ claims of “Well he’s throwing a spitter because that’s what it is,” and “It’s not my first rodeo,” are…ridiculous.

      • baseballisboring - May 8, 2013 at 6:51 PM

        Yeah, ol’ “‘pitch to the score” Jack Morris probably needs to stop talking.

        And FWIW, coming from a Sox fan who’s obviously seen Buchholz a lot, his 2 seamer has had serious movement from day one.

    • bigharold - May 8, 2013 at 7:59 PM

      “If it influences the flight of the ball, it’s bad. If all it does is give the pitcher a better grip, who cares.”

      The whole purpose IS to influence the flight of the ball, .. by providing grip that he would otherwise not have either due to weather or slippery baseballs or whatever excuse a pitch might feel obliged to muster. So your statement is illogical.

      If the point that you are attempting to make is that it doesn’t abnormally influence the flight of the ball. That it merely provides a pitcher the same grip he would have under ideal conditions. Well fine, except if he need sunscreen, or pine tar or any other “foreign substance” the problem is it’s patently against the rules.

      Cheating is cheating.

    • tommyshih - May 9, 2013 at 1:07 AM

      From a grip and ball getting away perspective, Carlos Quentin probably would have charged the mound long before this year if pitchers weren’t mixing sunblock/rosin cocktails on their forearms.

  4. kjericho43 - May 8, 2013 at 3:54 PM

    Question is: How will any pitcher, if accused, justify their “shiny arms” in a night game or a game with the roof closed?

    • dondada10 - May 8, 2013 at 4:40 PM

      Devil’s advocate: They claim to be superstitious.

  5. evanwins - May 8, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    On only 1 arm? At night? in a dome?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 8, 2013 at 4:34 PM

      What is, the worst guess in the history of Clue?

  6. tycobbfromfangraphs - May 8, 2013 at 4:03 PM

    Even when pitching in Toronto with a roof over their head…

  7. thomas844 - May 8, 2013 at 4:06 PM

    If the era of the early 2000s where hitters dominated is known as the Steroid Era, does this mean that the last few years of pitching dominance are known as the Sunscreen Era?

    • dondada10 - May 8, 2013 at 4:42 PM

  8. DelawarePhilliesFan - May 8, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    Okay – so let’s say sunscreen and PED’s both create an unleveled playing field. That says that if you are a minor leaguer, there is pressure on you to use sunscreen and PED’s. That means if you are a stellar High Schooler who wants to be drafted, there is pressure on you to use sunscreen and PED’s. That means if you want to play for a top tier H.S. program, there is pressure on you to use sunscreen and PED’s

    Name me one person who has died from using suncreen, and you have a point.

  9. turdfurgerson68 - May 8, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    Someone better warn A-Roid before he tries to inject sunscreen…

  10. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 8, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    Ban Buchholz for life! It is the only reasonable solution.

  11. randygnyc - May 8, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    Doesn’t matter to whom? And where’s the proof that 90% of pitchers are cheating? BULLSHIT!!

  12. turdfurgerson68 - May 8, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    I think this story is complete rubbish.

    If all of the Red Sox pitchers use the sunscreen how do you explain their stats from 2012 (just awful) to 2013 (top 5 in the league)???

    What, did they just use more sunscreen?

    • wendell7 - May 8, 2013 at 5:14 PM

      2012 (Bobby Valentine) – 2013 (John Farrell)

      • proudlycanadian - May 8, 2013 at 5:36 PM

        Quite possibly, since Bobby was a hitter he did not approve of pitchers doctoring baseballs. When checking out Eckersley’s denial of Red Sox cheating, I did find a reference to Bobby V. accusing Eckersley of scuffing a baseball back in 1988.

        Video evidence of Buchholz in 2011 indicates that he was not using sunscreen then.

    • turdfurgerson68 - May 8, 2013 at 6:54 PM


      Video evidence of Buchholz in 2011 indicates that he was not using sunscreen then.


      100% untrue. What video evidence from 2011 are you referencing?

      I’ve seen Butcholz pitch in both AAA and the majors. He was always touching his arm, his hair, between pitchs.

      Was he always using the alleged sunscreen? Don’t know.

      • proudlycanadian - May 8, 2013 at 7:08 PM

        I am referring to Tom Verducchi story on It is rather damming regarding Buchholz.

      • turdfurgerson68 - May 8, 2013 at 7:56 PM

        Verducchi is a clown figure.

      • proudlycanadian - May 9, 2013 at 8:13 AM

        Why do some Red Sox fans resort to the old “blame the messenger” response?

      • turdfurgerson68 - May 9, 2013 at 4:53 PM

        Because the truth is an absolute defense.

        In this case its a defense to pure speculation by clown figure Verducchi.

  13. drewzducks - May 8, 2013 at 5:03 PM

    It would help to explain Buchholz’s pasty white complexion.

  14. 13arod - May 8, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    actually using sandpaper would get you a better grip on the ball and pitchers aren’t allowed to use that so sunscreen should be banned too

    • proudlycanadian - May 8, 2013 at 5:38 PM

      Back in the good old days, Eckersley used an Emory board to scuff baseballs.

    • bigharold - May 8, 2013 at 8:32 PM

      “sunscreen should be banned too”

      The way it’s been suggested to have been used is already against the rules.

      I’ve no idea if Buchholz is actually using sunscreen to gain an advantage. I don’t know is 90%,% or 10% of all pitchers are using it to gain advantage. Whatever the the actual number is, .. those pitchers are breaking the rules and measured should be taken to stop it.

  15. hitdog042 - May 8, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    Craig. Yankee and PED fan. Wishing Clay cheats. Too bad sunscreen is legal. So is Rosin. You are out of luck. Too bad. Too sad.

    • rigatonikid - May 8, 2013 at 7:06 PM

      Actually, the rosin is for the hands only. It cannot be placed on any other part of the body or uniform. (Although they all do it).

  16. hitdog042 - May 8, 2013 at 6:21 PM

    The entire notion is so stupid. Sun screen dries in seconds. This is so stupid I can’t believe you published it.

  17. indianbob - May 8, 2013 at 10:10 PM

    So What!!!

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