The offense in the 2017 World Series has been off the charts through five games. Pitchers on both sides are blaming the baseballs.
On the face of it, pitchers blaming the actual baseballs seems kind of silly. It’s their job to pitch well and blaming the ball doesn’t make sense. That is until you listen to what specifically both teams are saying.
Join us, down what may or may not be a sports championship conspiracy theory rabbit hole.
Let’s start with the Astros. This comes from respected veteran Justin Verlander via NBC Sports:
"The World Series ball is slicker. No doubt. I’m telling you, we’re in here signing [World Series] balls before the game, and it’s hard to get the ink on the ball sometimes. You know when you sign a receipt at Starbucks, and if you don’t hold the paper down with your hand, the pen just slides across the paper and the ink doesn’t stick to it? That’s what it’s like sometimes trying to sign these balls. That’s how slick the leather is."
"It’s different. I noticed it especially throwing a slider. It didn’t feel the same. The home run I gave up to [Joc] Pederson was a slider."
It’s not just the Astros who have noticed how different the baseballs feel. Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt had this to say:
"Yu [Darvish] noticed the difference. He told me the balls were slicker and he had trouble throwing the slider because of how slick they were. He wasn’t able to throw his slider the same way."
After an absolutely wild Game 5, which saw the Astros win 13-12 and a combined seven home runs between both teams, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen also wasn’t happy with the quality of the ball.
Jansen has given up a run in three out of four appearances in the World Series. Not only that, but both teams have combined to score 58 runs in the span of five games.
This could be just a simple case of two of the best offenses in baseball playing well and both pitching staffs being out of gas. It’s a long season and the innings have piled up for everyone. Still, it’s hard to ignore this many pitchers, on both teams, having the same complaint. It’s also hard to understand why the league would use a World Series baseball that’s any different than what the players are used to. This isn’t the time to do anything different to the balls. The stakes are at the absolute highest and pitchers now have to adjust to a new baseball. Imagine being a pitcher and suddenly not being able to throw a slider when you needed it the most.
As far as the MLB is concerned, they insist the baseballs are the exact same. Commissioner Rob Manfred is not giving in. It seems like an odd stance when there is plenty evidence that something has changed with the baseballs. Major League Baseball has seen records for home runs in a single season and now in a single postseason. There has to be some type of reason for this and maybe it’s time to start listening to the pitchers.