After commissioner Rob Manfred spent the entire 2017 season denying the baseballs were “juiced,” Major League Baseball has appointed a committee to conduct a study to determine whether that’s actually the case.
According to Kristie Ackert of the Daily News, Mets assistant general manager John Ricco confirmed the league’s study after it was revealed during this week’s general managers meeting in Orlando. Ricco adds that the league’s early findings have yet to suggest any notable changes to the baseball, but the investigation is still on-going.
“They talked to us about the committee they put together that is currently in the midst of studying it,” Ricco said. “They have put together a high-level panel of physicists and scientists to study the ball and early returns are that really not much has changed. But we’ll see what they say at the end.”
Several pitchers have charged that baseballs used in MLB games over the last year and a half have felt different than in years past. The changes, they say, were noticeable right after the 2015 All Star Game. That coincides with a significant increase in home runs in MLB. During the 2017 regular season, a record 6,104 home runs were hit. That shattered the previous record of 5,693 in 2000.
The feeling that the baseball had changed gained more momentum throughout the season before peaking during the postseason. The baseball seemed harder and slippery, some suggested, with the seams being more difficult to grip. Managers and pitching coaches have backed their pitchers up, suggesting that the changes have led to an increase in blisters forming.
If you’ve been paying attention to the injury reports, it does seem like more pitchers than usual weren’t force to leave starts early and miss time with blister-related issues. Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman attributed his blisters issues this season directly to the perceived change in the baseball. That led to a short-lived MLB investigation during the season that went nowhere.
“I’ve never had a blister in my life, nothing even remotely close to having a blister. It’s crazy. It’s extremely frustrating, extremely frustrating,” Stroman said at the time. “I feel like it’s an epidemic that’s happening across the big leagues now, a bunch of pitchers getting blisters, guys who have never had blisters before. For MLB to turn their back to it, I think that’s kind of crazy.”
At this point it seems like there’s too much evidence for it not to be true to some degree. We’re not just talking about a minor hike in home runs here. The previous record was topped by over 400, which amounts to an average of two more home runs every day during the season. That’s significant, and the number is even bigger in comparison to recent seasons.
Not everyone will scoff at more home runs. They should be concerned though if changes to the baseball are truly leading to blister issues for pitchers. In that case, it’s more than changing the game, it’s impacting pitchers ability to do their job. If nothing else, we should hope MLB’s study can shed light on that issue one way or the other.
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