Base­balls are juiced?

Rock­ies’ Dunn among pitch­ers who think that ex­plains boost in homers

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Pa­trick Saun­ders Pa­trick Saun­ders is the pres­i­dent of the Base­ball Writ­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica: psaun­ders@denverpost.com or @psaun­der­sdp

● PHOENIX» Base­balls are “juiced” this sea­son. Or in the words of pitch­ers through­out the majors, base­balls are “hot … wound too tight … just feel dif­fer­ent.” That’s the grow­ing feel­ing through­out the ma­jor leagues, ac­cord­ing to an in-depth story in Fri­day’s edi­tion of USA To­day.

Some of the Rock­ies’ pitch­ers feel the same way.

“I don’t have proof or any­thing, but there has been some talk since the all-star break last year that there have been more home runs since then, and that balls are fly­ing far­ther,” vet­eran re­liever Mike Dunn said. “I’ve heard this — and so this is spec­u­la­tion, too — that (juic­ing balls) can be done, be­cause they make the Home Run Derby balls harder so that there are more home runs.

“I have heard that from a lot of play­ers in the past. So can it be done? Yeah. Can it be done without us know­ing about it? Yeah.”

Ac­cord­ing to the USA To­day story, 2,922 home runs had been hit this sea­son en­ter­ing Thurs­day. At a rate of 2.52 homers per game, base­ball is on pace for more than 6,000 home runs this sea­son, shat­ter­ing the all-time high.

The most homers ever came in the 2000 sea­son — at the peak of base­ball’s in­fa­mous “steroids era” — when 5,693 homers were launched. That year, there were 2.34 hit per game dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

What’s more, pitch­ers this year have an over­all ERA of 4.34, the high­est since 2007, and there is a feel­ing through­out the majors that balls are fly­ing far­ther than last year.

Some pitch­ers not only be­lieve the base­balls are harder, they think the seams on the ball are not raised as much as in the past, mak­ing it harder to im­part spin — and thus move­ment — on the ball.

“There is a lot of spec­u­la­tion, but I don’t see a big dif­fer­ence,” Colorado re­liever Jake McGee said. “But I do know that we still have some balls in the ball bag from a few years ago, and it seems like the seams are big­ger.

“But for us it’s kind of hard to tell, be­cause when you play at Coors (Field) and the weather starts heat­ing up, the balls start fly­ing.”

In a state­ment, Ma­jor League Base­ball told USA To­day that the base­balls are no dif­fer­ent now than they were a year ago:

“As a qual­ity con­trol ef­fort, we rou­tinely con­duct in-sea­son and off­sea­son test­ing of base­balls in con­junc­tion with our con­sul­tants at UMass Low­ell to en­sure that they meet our spec­i­fi­ca­tions. All re­cent test re­sults have ★★★ been within the spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

“In ad­di­tion, we used a third-party con­sul­tant (Alan Nathan) to test whether the base­ball had any im­pact on of­fense in re­cent years, and he found no ev­i­dence of that.”

Rock­ies all-star third base­man Nolan Are­nado, who had 15 homers en­ter­ing Fri­day night’s se­ries opener against the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs, isn’t sure what to make of the is­sue. He cites the play­ers’ dif­fer­ent launch an­gles on their swings and the de­sire of more play­ers to hit home runs as pos­si­ble rea­sons for the surge in homers.

“I haven’t paid a lot of at­ten­tion to it, so I don’t know,” Are­nado said. “All I know is that pitch­ers are nasty and I strike out a lot.

“But I do think the game is dif­fer­ent now. Guys are look­ing at launch an­gles and all of that stuff. Every­body is try­ing to hit homers. It’s dif­fer­ent, for sure.

“But if all of those pitch­ers are say­ing it, I guess it’s true. But I’m still strik­ing out a lot.”

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