THE LONG BALL IS BACK
Astros’ Justin Verlander calls out MLB on balls
Now that Major League Baseball has done their best to take “the juice” out of the players, have they essentially injected it into the baseballs?
Based on a new study by FiveThirtyEight.com, MLB executed obvious changes to the baseball that have resulted in a record number of home runs, despite the fact the league continues to deny it has changed the balls and that they all fall within the acceptable ranges for baseballs.
Astros’ star Justin Verlander is calling baseball’s bluff.
“All I’m saying is I don’t care if balls are juiced (seriously). We’re all using the same ball so it’s a fair field. My issue is I don’t like being lied to. I knew something was different. Century old records are being broken and numbers are skewed.”
This was tweeted by Verlander on his personal account Thursday evening, and he followed it with a graph depicting Home Run tendencies based on exit velocity and launch angle. The graph showed a significant spike in home runs from 2014 to 2017 with similar numbers in each regard. You can see the graph in his tweet below.
During the 2017 World Series, several pitchers remarked how the ball felt ‘slicker’, making it harder for them to get a grip on the ball and more difficult to throw breaking pitches. Other noticed factors to baseballs have been that the ball’s seams are lower and tighter, and that the ball is bouncier than in the past.
MLB has maintained the baseballs fall within normal ranges, but the fact is those ranges are quite substantial and baseball closely guards what those ranges are.
Rob Arthur and Tim Dix of FiveThirtyEight.com had baseballs examined by scientists from the University of Southern California and Kent State University. The balls were also X-Rayed.
What they learned is that the cores of the new balls weighed less and had a lower density. Alone, those changes wouldn’t equate the home run surge. However when you combine this information with previous research conducted by TheRinger.com with The Baseball Research Center at UMass Lowell, and Washington State University, which show lower seams, as well as differences in circumference, all these changes together have combined to create a ball that travels further than its predecessors used before the All Star Break in 2015. (You can see their research here: https://www.theringer.com/2017/6/14/16044264/2017-mlb-home-run-spike-juiced-ball-testing-reveal-155cd21108bc)
So 2017 saw the most home runs hit, ever. It blew the old record, set in 2000, out of the water. While top power hitters aren’t hitting insane numbers of home runs, guys who aren’t power hitters are hitting more home runs. This indicates that the power shift isn’t individual player related or something to be explained by certain big time hitters using some sort of performance enhancer to inflate home run totals.
While MLB continues to stonewall everyone with the idea the balls are within their allowable range, and act like there isn’t a difference that would create an environment where home runs would surge, ace pitchers like Verlander who handle these baseballs incessantly know and feel the difference.
Thursday, Verlander called MLB out. It’s time for many more players to do the same, and force the league to adopt far stricter models for its baseballs to maintain the game’s integrity.
Patrick Creighton is the host of “Nate & Creight” heard weekdays 1-3pm on SportsMap 94.1FM, as well as the host of “Sports & Shenanigans” Sundays 12-5p on SB Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @pcreighton1