Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

Many pitchers believe that the baseball has been “juiced”

9 Comments

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.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images
11 Comments

The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.