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Theo Epstein suggests slick baseballs contributed to Yu Darvish’s World Series struggles


During the World Series, Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci wrote a story in which various members of the Dodgers and Astros agreed that the baseballs used during the World Series were slicker than those used during the regular season. The pitchers, and report, suggested that the balls made it particularly hard to throw a slider, leading to slider pitchers having particular problems, leading to a lot of home runs on balls which spin but didn’t break as expected.

Major League Baseball denied that at the time, saying that the only difference in the baseballs was the little gold “World Series” embossing. The photo at the top of Verducci’s article makes such a denial dubious, but by the time October rolled around, we became pretty accustomed to Major League Baseball issuing dubious denials about the composition of baseballs.

Yu Darvish is a guy who relies a lot on a slider and he, quite famously, struggled mightily during the World Series. He was one of the pitchers who noticed a difference in the balls. Yesterday, when he made his first appearance at Cubs’ camp, the president of his new team seemed to acknowledge that the balls could’ve played a factor. Here’s Theo Epstein talking about Darvish’s World Series struggles:

“First of all, there were a lot of reasons for what happened … from the possibility of tipping pitches, the difficulty with the baseballs and then the Astros were red-hot. They won the World Series for a reason, but I don’t think we would be doing our job if we evaluated based on a two-game sample. He’s been over here for six years. He’s proven himself as an elite pitcher.”

“The difficulty with the baseballs” sticks out. Is the comment a matter of Epstein merely nodding at his new employee’s explanation as a means of having his back, or does Epstein put stock in the slick balls theory too?

If the latter, I wonder how many other people inside the game believe the pitchers who issued complaints about the baseballs and how many believe MLB’s denials about it. And I wonder what MLB thinks of that.

Maybe they’ll just deny that Epstein even said that, knowing full well that most of the baseball media will just print their denial without criticism. Worth a try, right?

Howie Kendrick to undergo an MRI after exiting game with a serious leg injury

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Update, 7:49 PM ET: The Nationals placed Howie Kendrick on the 10-day disabled list with a right Achilles injury. In a corresponding move, right-hander Jefry Rodriguez was recalled from Double-A Potomac.


Nationals left fielder Howie Kendrick was removed from the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Dodgers after injuring his right leg. In the eighth inning, Kendrick tracked a Max Muncy sac fly to the wall, but landed strangely on his right leg and fell to the ground. Unable to put weight on it, he was forced to exit the field on a cart and was sent to undergo an MRI soon afterward, the results of which have yet to be revealed.

While the Nationals have not specified the nature or severity of Kendrick’s injury, Martinez revealed that it’s located in the “lower part” of the outfielder’s leg and appears to be quite severe. He’ll likely be placed on the 10-day disabled list in the next couple of days, though the recovery process could take even longer.

Prior to the incident, Kendrick was off to a hot start this season. Entering Saturday’s doubleheader, he carried a batting line of .302/.331/.477 with 18 extra-base hits and an .808 OPS in 157 plate appearances. He went 1-for-3 on Saturday with a base hit in the seventh inning. Andrew Stevenson subbed in for Kendrick following the injury and has been tabbed to start in left field for the second game of the doubleheader at 8:05 PM ET.