2017 World Series: Astros, Dodgers Split On Whether Slick Baseballs Causing Home Run Epidemic
World Series baseball
David J. Phillip/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

For much of the 2017 regular season the general consensus amongst players and observers was baseballs being used were markedly different than years past. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred on multiple instances categorically denied there being any changes.

Nonetheless, teams combined to hit a record number of home runs this season, and the spike carried into the postseason. The first five games of the World Series has only fueled speculation of baseballs being of a different substance of construction.

Thus far, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers have combined to hit 22 home runs, which is a new World Series record. Half of that total was accumulated in the first two contests at Dodger Stadium, a notorious pitcher’s haven.

Beyond home runs being surrendered at an increased rate, the World Series in particular has brought about claims of baseballs having a different surface to them.

Game 3 starter, Yu Darvish mentioned having trouble finding a grip, and Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt offered his take on a possible solution, per Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated:

Said Darvish, “I had trouble with the ball throwing a slider. It was slicker.”

Said Honeycutt, “I know guys have been talking about the ball. I also know that MLB has been talking for a while about maybe a ball that’s more like the ball in Japan, where the leather is tackier so that you can use it right out of the wrapper. I think something has to be done.”

Astros Game 6 starter Justin Verlander, who allowed two home runs in his Game 2 outing, also supports the notion that the baseballs have been doctored in some way. “I know Manfred said the balls haven’t changed, but I think there’s enough information out there to say that’s not true,” Verlander said.

“I think the main complaint is that the balls seem a little bit different in the postseason, and even from the postseason to the World Series balls. 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.”

Dodgers Game 6 starter Rich Hill, on the contrary, doesn’t believe the World Series baseballs differ from the regular season. “I think they’ve been extremely consistent in the World Series, and also in the playoff games, as well,” Hill proclaimed.

“I haven’t really seen too much of a difference or variation in seams or any size of the ball. I know there was talk about different sizes and some of the baseballs were slightly bigger and some were smaller. Some of the seams were higher, some of the seams were lower. But, no, it’s been consistent.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has taken notice of the rise in home runs, but isn’t ready to attribute that to the baseballs. “It does seem like the balls are jumping more,” Roberts admitted.

“And you look at the numbers. The pitchers talk about it feels different in their hand. The one component is the slickness and guys at different ballparks rub it up differently. So I really can’t speak to that.

“Sort of feels the same to me. But it’s hard to argue the numbers. You know there’s more velocity. Guys are swinging harder. I know in Los Angeles the air was light. It was hot. The ball was flying, carrying more than typically. But, I hesitate to try to give you any insight because I really don’t know.”