On the Alex Sanabia Spitball Controversy

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Monday, May 27th, 2013

Alex Sanabia has a 4.88 ERA and 5.85 FIP in ten starts on the season.

Alex Sanabia has a 4.88 ERA and 5.85 FIP in ten starts on the season.

Sam Evans ( Baseball Writer and Marlins, Mariners Correspondent):

The Alex Sanabia spitball controversy has dominated the Miami baseball headlines over the last week. Video shows Sanabia clearly spitting on a ball after giving up a homer against the Phillies.

After the game, Sanabia said some hard to believe things that may come back to bite him. Sanabia has struggled all year in Miami, and he will need to pitch more like he did against the Phillies if he wants to keep his spot in the rotation when others get healthy.

After an odd, contentious outing, Alex Sanabia has become one of the most interesting players on the Marlins right now.

Marlins Pitcher Blatantly Spit on Baseball for Everyone to See

In 2012, Sanabia had a 4.06 ERA in 17 starts for Triple-A New Orleans.

In 2012, Sanabia had a 4.06 ERA in 17 starts for Triple-A New Orleans.

Although he seems much older than just 24 years old, Alex Sanabia has only been in the Marlins organization since 2006. After a promising rookie season in fifteen appearances in 2010, Sanabia spent 2011 and 2012 mostly in the minors, struggling to compete with his somewhat underwhelming arsenal.

Speaking of his arsenal, Sanabia throws a fastball in the high 80’s, as well as a slider, and a changeup. One could make an argument that not one of Sanabia’s pitches is above MLB average or has to the potential to one day be above average.

The main reason Sanabia has seen so many starts for the Marlins in 2013 has been the injuries that have plagued the Marlins young pitchers. So far in 2013, Alex Sanabia has a 5.87 FIP and he’s only striking out 4.91 batters per nine innings in nine starts.

Pitching May 20th against the Philadelphia Phillies, Sanabia had probably his best start of the season. Going 6 1/3 innings and allowing only one earned run, a homer to Domonic Brown, Sanabia appeared to be on top of his game.

However, news broke after the game that Sanabia had been seen doctoring his pitches by spitting one the ball in between pitches. Shortly after these rumors spread, this video showed clearly that Sanabia had spit directly on the ball at least once that night.

When asked about the spitball, Sanabia told the Associated Press that he didn’t know spitballs were against the rules and he was just trying to get more grip. Whether this seems believable or not, a true spitballer likely wouldn’t be going about doctoring the baseball in such an obvious fashion.

Sanabia seems to have learned his lesson and he likely won’t let it happen again. As Dave Cameron discovered with an investigation on Fangraphs, “it’s not completely obvious that Sanabia was throwing anything all that different from what he’s thrown all year.”

The general consensus around the internet seems to side with Cameron and the idea that Sanabia just made an honest mistake.

Whether or not Sanabia knew that spitting on the ball was illegal, the chances of him deliberately doctoring the ball for movement seem slim. It seems much more likely that Sanabia was just trying to get his grip on a dirty baseball or he was just trying something different out of frustration, after giving up the homer to Domonic Brown.

The Marlins need to get past this minor issue and concentrate on doing what they have struggled at the most this season, winning baseball games.

UPDATE: Alex Sanabia was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with a groin injury. Yet another blow to the weak Marlins pitching staff.

Sanabia was scheduled to pitch on Sunday against the White Sox. It will be interesting to see how he fares coming off of his best, but most controversial, start of the season – once he returns from the DL.

UPDATE: Sunday, Sanabia was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a groin injury.

UPDATE: Sunday, Sanabia was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a groin injury.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

A big thank-you goes out to our ‘Marlins and Mariners Correspondent’ Sam Evans for preparing today’s featured article. Sam is a high school student from the greater Seattle area.  He is a longtime Mariners fan, and has been an off-and-on season ticket holder for the last five years.

Sam enjoys interacting with readers and using statistical analysis to dig beneath the surface to find the truth in baseball.  Sam was our 2nd Intern who has graduated to the position of  Baseball Writer. For all of Sam’s archived articles – click here. You can follow Sam on Twitter: Sam Also writes for the Marlins website Fish Stripes.


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About samevans87

I love writing, talking, watching, and playing baseball. I am a baseball writer for MLB Reports and Fish Stripes. "No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined." -Paul Gallic

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