Baseballs are juiced?
Rockies’ Dunn among pitchers who think that explains boost in homers
● 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.”