As has been the case in previous years, the 2019 MLB season saw a record amount of home runs hit across the sport. The Los Angeles Dodgers were right in the thick of things, setting a franchise and National League mark with 279 home runs during the regular season.
L.A. overall finished fourth in the league behind the Minnesota Twins (307), New York Yankees (306) and Houston Astros (288). With those four teams advancing to the postseason, many expected the month of October to be dominated by the home run.
And while there has been a healthy amount of home runs hit during the playoffs, there has been speculation by managers and players alike that the shape of the baseball has been altered in effort to ease concerns of it being juiced.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts raised awareness to the matter prior to Game 4 of the NL Division Series. He opined that the baseballs differ when compared to those used during the regular season.
MLB recently issued a statement to put any doubts to rest, confirming the postseason baseballs were taken from the same batches that contained regular season balls, via Maury Brown of Forbes:
The baseballs used in Major League Baseball are manufactured in batches. Balls that are used in the Postseason are pulled from the same batches as balls used in the regular season. Regular season and Postseason balls are manufactured with the same materials and under the same processes. The only difference is the Postseason stamp that is placed on the ball. As has been previously acknowledged, however, the drag of the baseball can very over different time periods.
“There are a couple balls that I felt that — I don’t know the weather patterns of D.C., but that maybe you see the trajectory and the sound and it doesn’t seem like it’s traveling — even the Cody ball that it seems like that ball, other times during the year, might have went out or went a little bit deeper in the ballpark,” Roberts said prior to MLB releasing their statement.
A total of 14 home runs were hit between the Dodgers and Washington Nationals in five games during the NLDS — good for an average of nearly three per contest.
However, there were multiple instances of solidly-hit balls that looked good off the crack of the bat that simply did not carry over the fence. This was evident for Max Muncy in Game 4, who hit a ball with an exit velocity of 107 mph and launch angle of 32 degrees.
Will Smith also nearly walked it off for the Dodgers in the ninth inning of the decisive Game 5, but the ball ultimately fell short of clearing the right-field wall by a matter of five feet or so.