Francisco Rodriguez doctoring the ball

4-2-2007, against the Rangers, K-Rod put something on the ball repeatedly during the 9th inning, and wasn’t even subtle about it. First, I’m going to admit these are bad pictures. Patches welcome, as they say in the open source world. Or suggestions on how to get better stills — but any set of stills isn’t going to be as good as watching it yourself: if you’ve got mlb.tv, it’s worth checking out.

Pitches:
to Wilkerson
1: wipes brim of cap during long walk around mound, ball
2: video cuts back to him too late to see. 94, ball
3: grabs, rubs brim of cap, (2:48:28 on the mlb.tv feed)brings hand down, touches back of hand to back of jersey, rubs hand on jersey leg. 95.

4: nothing, 94, strike
5: grabs, rubs brim of cap (~2:49:15, same deal, running thumb inside) quick jersey touch. 95, strike.

6: video cuts back to him too late to see, fouled
7: good thumb work while walking back to the mound, 94, fly to center

to Laird
8: walking back to the mound at ~2:50:20, he crabs the brim and works the thumb for a couple seconds. Ridiculously blatant. Ball.

9: no camera, 94, strike
10: late camera, ground to 2b. Touches cap brim, thumb thing.

to Kinsler
11: no camera, 95, ball
12: no camera, 94, strike
13: crowd shots, 94, foul
14: ~2:52:47, off the rubber, he does the cap brim thing again, touching jersey before and after. Ball goes into the dirt, Napoli swings, ball’s picked off the ground and he’s tagged out

Compare the movement on those pitches to the movement on the fastballs where he clearly doesn’t go to the hat brim.

Also, watching the video, it’s a lot more striking than stills convey — it’s clearly not a cap adjustment, but something else entirely. He grabs the front of the cap and then rubs his thumb on the underside of the cap, picking whatever it us up. On the video, it’s quite striking.

Update: check out this still, where he’s tilting his head, courtesy of Sal Baxamusa

Update: from today’s game, you can repeatedly see that there’s a glop of something white on the underside of his brim on the right side. Here are two shots. First, the straight still:

And then, adjusting the levels to make that a little brighter

In the 4-3-07 game, there isn’t the kind of totally blatant grab-the-brim-then-rub-thumb repeatedly, but it’s even more clear that there’s something on his hat brim and he’s putting his thumb right on it.

Selected timings of shots of K-Rod’s brim, for your own reference:
2:45:49
2:46:07 (good)
2:46:18 (good)
2:47 (good)
2:52:30 – decent shot of the brim
2:54:50 – decent shot of the brim
2:56:48 – decent shot of the brim
2:57:50 – nice shot of the brim followed by K-Rod putting his thumb right in it

Update: MLB’s looking into it. The Rangers have denied complaining to the league, which is what I’d heard when I was told about the Opening Day inning.

Update: The story’s on ESPN, including some fine video footage and highlights of what was under his brim. I have yet to receive apologies from everyone who accused me of faking it in Photoshop. :p

69 comments ↓

#1 David J Corcoran on 04.03.07 at 7:03 pm

There’s nothing gooda bout those angles.

#2 Typical Idiot Fan on 04.03.07 at 10:09 pm

LOL!!!

This idea might be better then anything USS Mariner. Keep this up!

#3 rd on 04.03.07 at 11:21 pm

You’ve gotta get this information to Jose Guillen. That will make things interesting in a couple of weeks.

#4 Joe Mitchell on 04.03.07 at 11:29 pm

Do you find yourself examining different aspects of the game after writing the book? DId you always watch pitchers for this kind of stuff or is it just something you notice more now?

#5 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 12:42 am

In this case, I was tipped to go look at the footage. But yeah, after spending a couple years writing the book I’m a lot more aware of this stuff.

#6 brl on 04.04.07 at 2:01 am

this is great stuff. i have a deal: you post more of this and i promise i’ll go out and buy your book.

#7 MGF on 04.04.07 at 2:08 am

DMZ

I believe that’s Wilkerson, Laird and Kinsler.

#8 ASUBoyd on 04.04.07 at 2:09 am

Any chance anyone in MLB gets a hint about this? This really bugs me, especially since the M’s will be facing this guy 20 times probably.

#9 Trev on 04.04.07 at 3:26 am

That Brendan Donnelly guy is sure a great teacher.

#10 Tim on 04.04.07 at 5:22 am

Good stuff. I think your next entry should be about how the Angels were cheating by having Kotchman and Napoli pinch hit for the Rangers.

#11 LantermanC on 04.04.07 at 6:48 am

Thats cool, awesome work. Anyone on the Mariners’ ever cheat like that, or you would suspect of cheating?
I just got your book, and was reading the back cover part about you, and when I read that you were awarded the title “World’s smartest human being in 2004″ I thought, wow, that’s impressive, wonder what society or publication gives out that award. But then I read the the rest of the author bio. Pretty Funny.

#12 Ian on 04.04.07 at 7:03 am

by kotchman and napoli, i think you mean wilkerson and kinsler.

#13 Dan W on 04.04.07 at 8:37 am

I was at the Angel game last night, ready to scrutinize and, if needed, heckle K-Rod mercilessly for his dastardly tactics. Unfortunately, after about a thousand Halo seeing-eye groundballs and some pathetic hacking by what I thought was a good Ranger lineup, Rodriguez’s services were not required (though just about every other reliever on both teams did make an appearance, for some reason).

#14 Jeff Myers on 04.04.07 at 8:58 am

SUre looks suspicious. But I suspect he wasn’t pitching to Kotchman or Napoli (except in the sense that Napoli is his catcher).

#15 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 9:43 am

I’m sure the Rangers complained to the Commissioner about this.

#16 g.anpar on 04.04.07 at 12:36 pm

I was watching that game thinking the same exact thing. I noticed it in the bullpen, and I swear I saw a shiny substance under the bill of his cap, but who knows. Is it too much to ask for the broadcast guys to pick up on this stuff?

#17 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 1:10 pm

The Rangers guys, yeah. There’s no way the Angels broadcasters are going to offer that up.

In fact, while I was watching the video, I was struck by how amazingly bad the commentary was – Hudler’s talking about how there’s a visual confrontation between closer and batter, and I thought “maybe they’re nervous they’ll say something about how blatant this cheating is” and then I realized that’s just Hudler for you.

#18 dp on 04.04.07 at 1:54 pm

Wednesday’s game has several close-ups while pitching to Michael Young that definitely shows some white substance under his brim. The close-ups are very revealing.

#19 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 1:58 pm

To MLB.tv! Stupid game’s not available yet. Rrr.

#20 Jim on 04.04.07 at 2:25 pm

Take this image in microsoft paint and invert the colors. It makes it blatantly obvious.

#21 Blarg on 04.04.07 at 2:35 pm

Aint photoshop a wonderful tool. Speaking of tools, the guy posting this thread neglected a little detail. If Frankie is going from a foriegn substance under his cap to his shirt, where is the residue stain on his bright white shirt?

You can’t play baseball without getting dirt on your hands. You can’t wipe greasy fingers on a clean shirt without some obvious stain appearing.

The guy posting this thread and the A’s fan with the photoshoped pics are probably in the basement of their Mom’s house right now with their foil beenies on.

#22 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 2:54 pm

Ladies and gentlemen, comment of the day.

Quick, guess where he’s from.

#23 franklinburns on 04.04.07 at 2:59 pm

Uh, if any of you have seen Frankie as much as I have the last 4+ years you would know the guy is a creature of habit, and he adjusts his hat multiple times before every single pitch. The white stuff is powder from the rosin bag from his thumb on the new black bill on the new official MLB hat. Think about it, white rosin, sweaty hat, touched a bunch of times will show up.

#24 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 3:05 pm

I’m not talking about a cap adjustment. He puts the hand up there and then rubs the thumb under the brim to pick up whatever he’s picking up.

#25 HereNorThere on 04.04.07 at 3:07 pm

C’mon… do you think you’re better detectives than the teams themselves? If it were so obvious why didn’t Washington ask that his cap be inspected? I’ll start believing as soon as opponents start complaining.

Of course, it could also all be staged to make it appear he’s using something just to get into the minds of his opponents. Just as reasonable I guess.

#26 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 3:10 pm

Again, I’ve been told the Rangers complained to the Commish after Opening Day. I’m not out in the wilderness here.

#27 franklinburns on 04.04.07 at 3:12 pm

WHITE POWDER ON BLACK HAT! Wake up people! DMZ if you watch the whole game you’ll see he touches his cap every single pitch!

#28 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 3:13 pm

Uh huh. Again, he doesn’t reach up, grab the tip, and rub his thumb along the underside every pitch. That’s what I’m talking about.

#29 Blarg on 04.04.07 at 3:17 pm

“DMZ | 04-Apr-07 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

I’m not talking about a cap adjustment. He puts the hand up there and then rubs the thumb under the brim to pick up whatever he’s picking up.”

After every win he points up to the heavens which is an obvious sign that he is thanking the mother ship for assistance.

Never take off the foil beenies, never!

#30 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 3:18 pm

Thanks for stopping by.

#31 franklinburns on 04.04.07 at 3:20 pm

DMZ you at the games? I’ve been at all but 12 home games for the last 8 years. Do you have some special camera that only you can see that shows him NOT touching his cap on every pitch??

#32 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 3:24 pm

Yes. I have a special camera. How did you guess? You get it for missing fewer than 12 home games in 8 years. Sorry.

#33 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 3:28 pm

That was too snarky. Look, I’ve got a huge moderation queue of people telling me I suck dick, which is always awesome to see, so I’m little gruff at this point.

Angels fans: I know you’re skeptical. That’s cool. That doesn’t mean everyone who sees something weird here is crazy. Thanks.

#34 franklinburns on 04.04.07 at 3:57 pm

Yes, I understand your skeptisism but watching the game in hi-def right now and notice that the rangers pitcher Okinori Otsuka has the same white stuff on the upper side of the bill, the blue side. I’ve also noticed that several players have discoloration on their inside bills.

#35 franklinburns on 04.04.07 at 4:07 pm

Okay, I’ve watched the entire game in hi def and you are right, there is a foreign substance on the underside of Frankie’s cap bill. It is rosin. It is obvious. If you would like I can send you super high resolution pictures. Guy goes to the rosin bag every pitch, and then he goes to the cap.

#36 Jeff on 04.04.07 at 4:09 pm

“Look, I’ve got a huge moderation queue of people telling me I suck dick, which is always awesome to see, so I’m little gruff at this point.”

Those Angels fans were bitter about the 2005 ALCS too :)

#37 What? on 04.04.07 at 4:33 pm

Pine tar doesn’t leave white residue on the bill of the cap, nor does vaseline or any common ball-doctoring substances. The pictures of K-Rod only prove that he’s transferring rosin (from the rosin bag lying behind the mound)from his hand to his bill. The only thing foreign about K-Rod is the nastiness of his slider. Get used to it; he’s not going anywhere.

#38 Orlandu on 04.04.07 at 5:07 pm

Good stuff. Anyway, what do you think K-Rod was using?

#39 PhilF on 04.04.07 at 5:30 pm

If it is rosin, wouldn’t there be some on top of the hat brim? It’s not like he only touches the rosin bag with his thumb…

#40 AEM on 04.04.07 at 5:34 pm

As a Cubs fan, I beg you…please do NOT investigate Carlos Zambrano.

#41 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 5:44 pm

Here’s the thing — if it’s rosin coming off the rosin bag which he touches after every pitch (and I don’t see that in the video, but Fox is ADD-compliant) I don’t understand how it’s forming that nice white spot on the underside of his hat brim like that, and there’s no other evidence of rosin on his hat.

#42 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 5:49 pm

And if you have the chance to check out that video, totally do it – he was working it on the 2nd in a whole blatant way he wasn’t today, even though you could see today there was something on the cap.

#43 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 5:52 pm

Also, someone mentioned Donnelly in a comment I accidentally toasted as it came in the middle of a series of fellatio-related ones. So sorry about that, and yes — another Angel pitcher, Brendan Donnelly, has been caught using pine tar in a game. I actually talk about that in the book, which everyone should order.

#44 mojorisin on 04.04.07 at 6:12 pm

First, I’m an Angel fan. He’s pitched like this since 2002 and it’s seems hard to believe no one has caught on in 4 plus years. If the substance was that visible, he would have been undressed by now by other Managers, especially for the A’s, Rangers, and Mariners. Also, why file a complaint? If the Rangers were so concerned about him that they actually filed a complaint with the commissioners office why didn’t they just send an umpire out to inspect his cap and catch him in the act. Frankie or the Angels can’t hide the evidence out in the middle of the field with a dozen cameras filming at every angle. Why would Ron Washington let Frankie and the Angels beat his team again, for a road sweep, and not do anything about it if they suspecting something as early as Monday Night even as a tactic to mess with Frankie’s head (he’s known to be quite fiery, if you couldn’t tell). I doubt Ron has the same mutual respect for Scioscia, that, say, LaRussa had for Leyland during the WS, that would prevent him from employing such an option.

#45 Justin on 04.04.07 at 6:20 pm

Wow. Fascinating.

A guy who has a book to sell comes up with a “bombshell” about a premier closer doctoring his stuff at the very beginning of the year.

For all you know he could be doing this out of an OCD like impulse. He’s ALWAYS grabbed at the brim of his cap.

Yeah, there’s no financial objective here. Sell them books like hotcakes, Derek.

#46 rangersrock on 04.04.07 at 7:01 pm

just another reason to hate those damn angels

#47 Marty Winn on 04.04.07 at 7:07 pm

I think there is a good posibility that this is sweat. If you have ever gotten really sweaty in a shirt or hat and then let it dry you will get salt rings where the sweat was. Do that over and over again in a hat and you can get a lot of salt there. Also the sweat would tend to radiate out from the head meaning the wet/dark area would be closest to the head and the dry salt would remain near the edge. I’m just saying that it is a possible solution.

#48 Chris V on 04.04.07 at 7:12 pm

A player who’s been in the league since 2002 with a career 1.04 WHIP and 11.97 K/9 rate is all of a sudden going to start cheating so obviously? Possible, but color me doubtful.

I tend to agree with Franklin Burns about the rosin. So he happened to rub his hat. Players tend to rub things. They rub their hats, their nuts, Don Zimmer’s head, etc. I’ve seen hats that look worse than that. Some players smear pine tar on their batting helmets and rub the helmet after every pitch; it wouldn’t be that much different for a pitcher to do the same with rosin and his cap.

#49 Durpe on 04.04.07 at 7:14 pm

Seems to me that he backed off of touching the brim of the cap as the inning progressed. He was having some control problems, so that makes sense to back off on putting movement enducing gunk on the ball.

#50 Cwolf on 04.04.07 at 7:14 pm

Yeah… That white substance would be from the powder behind the mound…

also, out of K-Rod’s 14 pitches that outting, 13 of those were fastballs, so no, he wasn’t fixing his pitches.

You can check out the pitching log from MLB if you want, all the pitches broke the same amount.

#51 Cwolf on 04.04.07 at 7:19 pm

Here is a link with better pics of the first two of yours…

http://www.athleticsnation.com/comments/2007/4/3/11050/07236/150#c150

In the second one his hand clearly has white powder all over it…

#52 MWS on 04.04.07 at 7:23 pm

Personally, I believe that the white area you see is simply sweat. K-Rod always tips his hat with his hand and after a while I’m sure that sweat turns the color of the cap a different color, especially the area where you rub it all of the time.

#53 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 7:45 pm

In rough order: pitchers doctor fastballs.

I resent the implication that after having the book reviewed in the New York Times and all over the place that I’d make something up. Besides which, you can clearly see the pictures yourself at other sources, so I’m not sure what the implication is here.

But whatever. If you don’t want to believe the pictures, that’s your choice.

You can in tonight’s game see that the white substance is well-established early in the inning before, as anyone argues, he starts hitting the rosin bag. I don’t understand how the cap picks up that kind of buildup that fast.

On sweat: I don’t understand how sweat would appear that way. When pitchers sweat through dark-colored hats, it appears darker, not as a white discoloration.

#54 Zu Long on 04.04.07 at 7:46 pm

On mlb.com there’s this thing called Gameday. This year, they started using sensors around the ballpark to determine pitch speed, placement and break, with a pretty high degree of accuracy.

mlb.mlb.com/news/boxscore.jsp?gid=2007_04_02_texmlb_anamlb_1

You can reach gameday for the 4-2-07 game from there. When you open it up, in the lower left hand corner there’s an archive of all the pitches thrown that inning (it’ll already be on the top of the 9th). With the lone exception of his last pitch to Kinsler, ALL his pitches in that game were fastballs, and they were all recorded as having the approximately the same break (between 2.0 and 3.0 inches).

Also, look at the top of his brim in the video. You can easily see a white mark where he touches his hat. It’s clearly rosin coming off his fingers, which also clearly have rosin.

Conclusion: There was no cheating. It was rosin. Adjusting his hat is just a nervous habit.

#55 Zu Long on 04.04.07 at 7:50 pm

Who says the hat in today’s game was a different hat from before? Players tend to be supersticious about trading out equipment, especially when the team is on a winning streak. It’s probably the same hat, in which case, the rosin from two nights ago would still be there.

#56 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 7:52 pm

So Opening Day, when he was flashing the same under-cap action, you would argue that’s a cap from… last year?

#57 mojorisin on 04.04.07 at 7:56 pm

“But whatever. If you don’t want to believe the pictures, that’s your choice.”

Believe what? All you have is a picture of something white on the bill of his cap. You have no idea what the substance is, but you call him a cheater. Sounds fair…

Again, apparently the Rangers didn’t care enough to stop the game today.

#58 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 8:00 pm

It doesn’t matter if it’s rosin, soap, or pixie dust. You can’t put a foreign substance on the ball, and in the 4/2 game, it’s clear on several occasions he’s working his thumb in whatever’s on the underside of the brim before he delivers a pitch.

You can’t do that. If you want to argue it’s rosin and that’s accepted, and that he didn’t get any advantage from it, there’s a debate there.

#59 Zu Long on 04.04.07 at 8:01 pm

I would argue it could be the same cap he was using in spring training. I would argue that there’s a rosin bag in the bullpen for use while pitchers warm up.

#60 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 8:03 pm

Nope, they had different spring training caps. And I find it hard to believe that K-Rod managed to load his hat up that severely with rosin that there was a visible white build up under the brim during one warmup session that night.

#61 Zu Long on 04.04.07 at 8:05 pm

It’s clear that he’s rubbing his thumb on the brim of his cap. What if he’s just wiping off rosin from his thumb, because for whatever reason, he doesn’t want that much on it? What if, as I mentioned earlier, it’s just a nervous habit he’s displayed his entire career?

#62 Richard on 04.04.07 at 8:07 pm

I’m confused. Are you suggesting Rodriguez holding his cap that way is new? Cause if you are, and since you clearly have MLB.tv, go watch the Angels game from Sept. 30th of last year. That’s been part of Rodriguez’s setup on the mound for a long time now. It’s not something different he just started doing.

#63 mojorisin on 04.04.07 at 8:07 pm

Then maybe the Rangers, Mariners, A’s, and other baseball teams don’t call him on it because their pitchers are doing it as well.

#64 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 8:11 pm

Seriously, go re-read the original post. To re-state:

In the 4/2 game, K-Rod comes out and has a white… something… under the edge of the right hand side of the hat brim. During the inning, he repeatedly grabs the hat and rubs his thumb back and forth where that something is. This could be him loading something up on his thumb, it certainly doesn’t look like he’s wiping rosin off to me.

Some here argue that he didn’t then get unusual movement on pitches after he did that, I think he did.

That’s all. There’s no argument that he doesn’t ever touch his hat, or use a rosin bag, or whatever you want.

#65 DMZ on 04.04.07 at 8:13 pm

And with that, I’m calling it a night. This has, as you’d suspect, gone from something I thought was interesting and wrote up into something of an energy sink today.

To the more reasonable of you, thanks for the discussion.