Players and coaches from the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros alike are questioning the difference in the baseballs used during the 2017 World Series compared to the regular season.
As Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reported Sunday, members of both teams complained last night about the balls being different from even those used in the regular season, saying the new baseballs feel “slicker.”
One of the major storylines of the 2017 regular season was the vast amount of home runs that were hit. Major League Baseball has had its ups and downs in regards to the home run ball over the years, but this year something seemed different. The ball left the yards of MLB stadiums 6,105 times in 2017; the most in the history of the sport. This led to questions of why.
An article by Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports at the end of June brought up the question of whether this spike in the MLB home run rate is connected to the balls.
“One hundred percent,’’ David Price said. “We have all talked about it.’’
Many other pitchers concurred, including Brad Ziegler.
“There’s just something different about the baseballs,’’ Ziegler said. “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.”
Major League Baseball denied that the baseballs were different from those in 2016.
The problem for the players and coaches in the World Series are that the balls are “slicker” than the ones in the regular season. The slickness of the balls is making it harder to throw sliders. The apparent reason for that is a difference in the grain of the balls’ leather.
“The World Series ball is slicker,” Justin Verlander said. “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.”
“It’s obvious,” Astros pitching coach Brent Strom said about the World Series ball being slicker. “You can see it and you can feel it. It’s not the same. Someone’s got to explain to me why.
“We had a well-pitched game tonight from both sides,” Strom continued. “I’m not taking anything away from the players. I just want to know why? Why in the world would the baseballs in the World Series be different? Because you can see the difference. You can feel it. I don’t understand it at all.”
Peter Woodfork, MLB’s senior vice president of baseball operations, noted that “The only difference is the gold stamping on the baseballs.” According to him, the standards of manufacturing and the materials used are the same.
The 15 home runs hit already during the first four games puts this World Series among the top 10 in the last 112 World Series in regards to home runs.