Trevor Bauer engineered his way to a Cy Young Award in 2020. Interestingly, his average spin rate went up 415 rpm. Last year, his spring rate was around 2400 rpms and this year it was over 2800 rpms without an increase in pitch velocity. He wasn’t the only one to increase their spin rate as many other pitchers saw increases but most of their increases were in the 200 rpm range. He has claimed for years that the majority of pitchers were using foreign substances but he has to be doing something different than most.
What has Trevor done to engineer a 2X increase spin rate compared to others in the league?
Interestingly enough, I also increased the spin rate on my fastball by 400 rpm (up to 2100 rmp) the last few months without a major increase in velocity. Trevor may not be sharing all his secrets, but I’ll share what seems to have worked for me.
People talk about how sticky or tacky substances like pine tar increase spin rate. I’ve even witnessed an experiment where Bullfrog sun screen (this person tried other sun screens but Bullfrog performed the best) and rosin could increase spin rate significantly. There is chatter of other custom compounds being used as well for this. Eno Sarris wrote about how almost every MLB pitcher is using some form of grip substance.
The advantages of using grip substances are unmistakable.
“It’s better than steroids,” said one player development executive about the benefits, which have been demonstrated by major league pitchers in real time before. Trevor Bauer, after making some comments about how a pitcher could add spin rate and throwing some shade at Astros pitchers, ended up doing what can only be described as a public experiment when it appears he added spin rate to his fastball for one inning in 2018, when he was with Cleveland.
“For eight years I’ve been trying to figure out how to increase the spin on my fastball because I’d identified it way back then as such a massive advantage,” Bauer himself wrote in a piece for The Players’ Tribune. “I knew that if I could learn to increase it through training and technique, it would be huge. But eight years later, I haven’t found any other way except using foreign substances.”
It wasn’t for a lack of experimentation.
But what if you are not looking to use a foreign substance but want to try and increase your spin rate?
Professional pitcher and vlogger Robby Rowland recently put out a video where he shared his theory on what he thought helped him unlock additional spin rate from his fastball by gripping the ball by the seam and ripping down with his fingertips. He explains it more detail here:
This is interesting especially when you think about how slick professional baseballs are and wanting to find a way to get a better grip on the ball and create the friction to spin the ball of your fingers. The seams may be the only spot to create natural tack.
After having watched Pitching Ninja, Rob Friedman’s interview with Professor Barton Smith discussing Seamed Shift Wake, I wonder how much of the increase is in actual spin forced on the ball versus the change in seam orientation Robby is now experimenting with by where he places his fingers.
3 things I have done to naturally increase my spin rate
I don’t think I have the answers but I track my stuff pretty well. The first thing I did was increase the spin efficiency on my fastball. Years ago, my pitching coach Scott Lacey showed me with Rapsodo and video how I was cutting almost all my pitches. He had me focus on just throwing a four seam and slider and remove other pitches for now. Earlier this year, I did an experiment where I showed how using Clean Fuego before throwing a baseball helped increase my spin efficiency and total spin by over 200 rpm.
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Secondly, I have really started throwing a football regularly these past few weeks and feeling my body sequence better (while also using the Core Velocity Belt) and focusing on throwing cleaner spirals. I have been tracking the results of my sequencing with video and ProPlayAI.
Getting a Grip on Spin Rate
However, it is the third thing that has the most questions for me. During this time my grip strength has increased significantly to around 125. This is something I’ve been curious about for a while when I saw that grip strength could also correlate with bat speed.
I’ve had conversations with coaches like Austin Wasserman who shared how he has seen some of the healthiest throwers have the strongest grip strength compared to his average throwers. Cesar Garcia, owner of Indoorance Sports and Complete Game Gloves, had a similar discussion with Kevin Poppe about finger and grip strength. That grip strength may also help protect the UCL. Professional pitcher Tim Dillard told me he has been using Theraband hand exercise balls for years and he has had a 20 year pro career. He kept one in his bag, in his car, etc. I’ve been using it for the last couple of years and it is why it is one of the items listed on the best gifts for baseball players.
Bill Miller, author of Swing Fast, has also been looking at two different kinds of grip strength. Overall and immediate. How much grip strength do you have in an instant squeeze on a dynamometer. Does that extra grip strength or finger strength transfer more force to the ball by sticking to the index and middle fingers better?
What have you seen work on increasing spin rate? Have you tried these 3 ways yet?