Many pitchers believe that the baseball has been “juiced”
Earlier, Craig wrote about another study that concluded that the baseballs have, in fact, been altered which has increased the rate at which players have been hitting home runs. Major League Baseball has maintained that there have been no nefarious changes.
Pitchers sound pretty confident that the ball has indeed been altered. Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports spoke to some pitchers. Red Sox starter David Price said that the ball has been altered, “One hundred percent. We have all talked about it.”
Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen said, “I’m getting the same feedback” from pitchers. “It’s the balls,” he said. “They’re throwing harder with it, but they’re getting less movement, so they’re just hanging there.”
Marlins reliever Brad Ziegler said, “There’s just something different about the baseballs. I don’t have anything to quantify it, but the balls just don’t feel the same. It just feels different to me, a little harder, tighter than the past.”
According to Mets reliever Jerry Blevins, “It just feels like there’s been a lot of home runs being hit by guys who normally don’t hit them, or by guys who normally don’t him them where they hit them. I’ve seen so many home runs that just don’t look normal. Even at our place, (pitcher) Jake deGrom hit an opposite-field homer. I mean, he’s a good hitter, but oppo power at Citi Field? You normally don’t see that by anybody.”
Chris Archer brought some science into his explanation. “I’m staying away from my candid thoughts but I know this for a fact: Triple-A balls travel 30 less feet than the major league ball, with the same exit velocity and launch angle. It’s wound differently in the minor leagues, which has an effect on your breaking ball, the movement of your fastball, with how the ball carries off the bat. Bellinger, he didn’t showcase this kind of power (in the minor leagues) because a fly ball to the warning track is now a homer.”
There are plenty more quotes in Nightengale’s column.
The evidence certainly seems damning. However, it is important to note that pitchers, of course, are biased. It behooves pitchers to push the “juiced ball” theory for two reasons: it helps them explain poor performance without taking personal responsibility, and it could lead to the ball being altered back to being pitcher-friendly. A pitcher trying to secure a lucrative free agent contract may say, when his poor 2017 performance is noted, that it was entirely due to the “juiced” baseball. And, in unison, pitchers backing the “juiced ball” theory publicly may put pressure on Major League Baseball to balance the baseball, so to speak.