Juiced ball theory gains steam amid home run binge
Home runs kept flying over the wall at Minute Maid Park, on line drives up toward the train tracks, on fly balls that just dropped over the fence.
Seven more were hit in Game 5, raising the total to a World Series-record 22 — with possibly two more games to play. Twenty-five runs were scored in a game started by the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel, Cy Young Award winners regarded as among baseball’s best.
After a season when sluggers outpaced even their steroid-era predecessors for home runs, some are convinced that something is amiss with the baseballs.
“The main complaint is that the balls seem a little bit different in the post-season and even from the post-season to the World Series balls,” Astros Game 6 starter Justin Verlander said. “They’re a little slick. You just deal with it. But I don’t think it’s the case of one pitcher saying, ‘Hey, something is different here.’ I think as a whole everybody is saying, ‘Whoa, something is a little off here.’”
A record eight home runs were hit in Game 2, including five in extra innings, and Game 5’s seven long balls would have tied the old mark. The 10-inning 13-12 Astros win Sunday was the second-highest scoring game in World Series history.
“I haven’t personally noticed anything. I haven’t tried to think about it either,” Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow said after giving up two homers in Game 5.
Same for Kershaw, even after giving up his record eighth homer of the post-season Sunday.
“I don’t really pay attention to it,” Kershaw said.
“I just assume that both sides are dealing with it, so I’m not going to worry about it.”
The long-ball assault tops the 21 of the 2002 Series. Anaheim hit seven and Barry Bonds and his San Francisco Giants slugged 14 over seven games. That was the year before survey drug testing.
Speculation that something has changed includes a study claiming to have found differences in the size and seam height of balls since the 2015 all-star break.
Commissioner Rob Manfred insists nothing nefarious is going on.
“I’m absolutely confident that the balls that we’re using are within our established specifications,” he said Friday.