Has the Ban on “Sticky-Stuff” Increased Offensive Production?

Published: 8/26/2021
 Updated: 8/26/2021

Author: Mick Ismert

As most probably know, starting back on June 21st the MLB began a crackdown on pitchers using foreign substances, or “sticky-stuff,” to enhance their grip on the ball. There have been extensive write ups on how this has affected individual pitcher’s performance, spin rates, etc. What we want to know here at Onlyhomers.com though is how this has affected batters, which leads to our question: what players have had the most improvement on offense since that fateful Monday back in June?

To start my analysis I wanted to look into several different categories and look at the splits Pre-crackdown and Post-crackdown. Being the website that we are I specifically wanted to dig into the power stats but also combine that with overall offense contributions and improvements. I decided on 6 categories to analyze- 3 for power and 3 for overall offense - and those are Isolated Power (ISO), Homerun % (HR/PA), Homerun to Flyball ratio (HR/FB), Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA), Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), and finally good ol’ fashion Strikeout % (K%).

Now it’s important to note that I’m not posting this analysis and saying it is a direct correlation to the foreign substance ban as that would ignore all other factors and variables that go into a player's increased or decreased production rates. Sometimes players have nagging injuries that cause them to slump for a long period, other times it might be luck or lack thereof. Other times it’s just an unexplainable streaky pattern that some players seem to exhibit, the list goes on and on. Rather I just thought it would be a fun experiment to look at the numbers in the same way pitcher’s have been analyzed over this summer. With that said, below is the Top 10 improved players for each category:

Isolated Power:

NameTeamIso PreISO postIso Diff
Bryce HarperPHI0.1900.3640.174
Joey Gallo- - -0.1880.3610.173
Brandon LoweTBR0.1980.3610.163
Joey VottoCIN0.2010.3570.156
Jake CronenworthSDP0.1520.2960.144
Hunter RenfroeBOS0.1730.2990.126
Juan SotoWSN0.1560.2820.126
C.J. CronCOL0.2040.3080.104
Trevor StoryCOL0.1650.2650.100
Kyle FarmerCIN0.1040.1960.092
Home Runs per PA:
NameTeamHR% PreHR% PostHR% diff
Joey Gallo- - -4.3%8.7%4.4%
Hunter RenfroeBOS3.4%7.1%3.7%
Joey VottoCIN4.7%8.3%3.5%
Yordan AlvarezHOU3.7%7.1%3.5%
Brandon LoweTBR4.6%8.1%3.4%
Jorge Soler- - -2.4%5.4%3.1%
Bryce HarperPHI3.8%6.8%3.0%
Kyle SeagerSEA4.3%7.3%3.0%
Trevor StoryCOL2.4%5.3%3.0%
Max KeplerMIN3.0%5.7%2.6%
Home Run to Flyball ratio:
NameTeamHR/FB PreHR/FB PostHR/FB Diff
Joey Gallo- - -20.7%38.6%17.9%
Juan SotoWSN19.5%32.4%12.9%
Yordan AlvarezHOU16.1%28.3%12.2%
Hunter RenfroeBOS12.9%24.6%11.7%
Jake CronenworthSDP9.2%20.8%11.6%
Bryce HarperPHI17.0%28.6%11.6%
Jonathan IndiaCIN12.8%23.3%10.5%
Willy AdamesMIL14.8%25.0%10.2%
Max KeplerMIN10.2%20.4%10.2%
Jorge Soler- - -9.1%19.2%10.1%
NameTeamwOBA PrewOBA PostwOBA diff
Brandon LoweTBR0.3040.4320.128
Joey VottoCIN0.3310.4480.117
Willy AdamesMIL0.3090.4220.113
Avisail GarciaMIL0.3160.4170.101
Juan SotoWSN0.3630.460.097
Bryce HarperPHI0.3660.4570.091
Freddie FreemanATL0.3480.4390.091
Kyle FarmerCIN0.2760.3640.088
Hunter DozierKCR0.2440.3280.084
Enrique HernandezBOS0.3000.3830.083
NameTeamwRC+ prewRC+ postwRC+ diff
Brandon LoweTBR9618488
Joey VottoCIN10317976
Willy AdamesMIL9516469
Avisail GarciaMIL9616064
Juan SotoWSN12418763
Bryce HarperPHI12818759
Freddie FreemanATL11517459
Kyle FarmerCIN6812557
Hunter DozierKCR5010757
Miguel SanoMIN8113857
Strikeout rate:
NameTeamK% preK% postK% Diff
Michael A. TaylorKCR35%18%-17%
Josh BellWSN26%14%-12%
Miguel SanoMIN39%28%-11%
Austin MeadowsTBR26%15%-11%
Andrew VaughnCHW27%17%-10%
Nick AhmedARI25%15%-10%
Rafael DeversBOS26%17%-9%
Jeimer CandelarioDET26%17%-9%
Brandon LoweTBR32%23%-9%
Avisail GarciaMIL26%18%-8%
There is a total of 28 guys on these above 6 lists, all of which have improved their bats over the last 2 months one way or another. But we all love a good ranking so my Top 5 most improved since the sticky ban:
  1. Brandon Lowe
  2. Bryce Harper
  3. Joey Votto
  4. Juan Soto
  5. Avisail Garcia
Both Brandon Lowe and Bryce Harper show up on 5 of the 6 lists, while Votto, Soto, and Garcia each show up on 4 lists respectively.

The spotlight however has got to go to Brandon Lowe, he has been on an absolute tear with the bat this summer showing improvements in basically any category you can run on him. In the 45 games he’s played in since June 21st Lowe is slashing .284/.398/.645 with 15 ding dong dingers and 38rbis. His split in wRC+ from 96 (which means 4% below league average) to 184 (84% above) is the best in the league among qualified hitters and it’s no coincidence his wOBA is too going from a poor .304 to an excellent .432. His overall power has jumped tremendously as well, improving his HR rate by 3.4% and his ISO by .163 points as well. What looked to be a very much down year for the 27 year old could very well turn into his best if he can keep this pace. It’s worth noting that he’s never played in a full season either so it’s good to see these improvements. I also have no doubts that he would agree that the MLB should continue it’s monitoring and enforcement on that sticky-icky.

Overall, it goes without saying that a substance ban of any kind will change the game one way or another. Whether it actually is leading to true offensive improvement is hard to say, but it certainly is worth keeping an eye on for the season’s to come.