The Miami Marlins won last night, pulling out a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. But of course, in anything Marlins-related in 2013, there is always a downside. In yesterday night's case, it was what Alex Sanabia was doing to the ball right after he gave up a home run to Domonic Brown in the second inning. Here is the instance, courtesy of Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs.
It seems pretty clear here that Sanabia spit in the direction of the ball and then rubbed the ball up with his hand. In fact, it is almost all too difficult to deny that Sanabia did not at least attempt to put spit on the ball, and as Dave Cameron of FanGraps points out, "expectorating" on a ball is illegal as per these MLB rules.
The pitcher shall not —
(a) (1) Bring his pitching hand in contact with his mouth or lips while in the 18 foot circle surrounding the pitching rubber. EXCEPTION: Provided it is agreed to by both managers, the umpire prior to the start of a game played in cold weather, may permit the pitcher to blow on his hand.
PENALTY: For violation of this part of this rule the umpires shall immediately call a ball. However, if the pitch is made and a batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a hit batsman or otherwise, and no other runner is put out before advancing at least one base, the play shall proceed without reference to the violation. Repeated offenders shall be subject to a fine by the league president.
(2) expectorate on the ball, either hand or his glove;
(3) rub the ball on his glove, person or clothing;
(4) apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball;
(5) deface the ball in any manner; or
(6) deliver a ball altered in a manner prescribed by Rule 8.02(a)(2) through (5) or what is called the ?shine? ball, ?spit? ball, ?mud? ball or ?emery? ball. The pitcher is allowed to rub the ball between his bare hands.
Apparently, the punishment for such an action, if caught, is an immediate ejection and suspension, possibly for ten games. Sanabia obviously was not caught doing this during the game, as he threw that pitch and many others for the remaining five innings of his outing, but this video evidence feels almost irrefutable. A suspension may be in the works.
Major League Baseball has said nothing thus far about Sanabia's spitballing incident, but it seems difficult to believe that this will go unpunished. If the Marlins lose Sanabia for two starts, there is a very good chance Wade LeBlanc will make the starts in his stead, though Duane Below, who was just promoted, could also receive the call.
As for Sanabia, this may be a final straw for him if he is indeed suspended. Sanabia has a 4.56 ERA and 5.86 FIP this season, and he has looked awful all year long. He barely has more strikeouts than walks, and he has allowed a well above-average rate of home runs this year. If he gets shelved for a few games in the coming weeks, he may very well lose his starting spot. The one thing he does have going for him is that none of the Marlins' other young starters, and in particular Jacob Turner, are not ready for the majors as of right now. Turner has just a 4.47 ERA and 4.67 FIP in Triple-A New Orleans right now, so if LeBlanc or Below do not earn the spot, Sanabia should return to the rotation despite his loogey ball coating.