August 3, 2019

"It's a (expletive) joke. Major League Baseball's turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and..."

"... you've got Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the (expletive) company. If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it's not a guess as to what happened. We all know what happened. Manfred the first time he came in, what'd he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It's not coincidence. We're not idiots."

Said the pitcher Justin Verlander, quoted in "These scientists may have solved MLB's 'juiced' baseball problem" (USA Today).

The "pill" is the core of the baseball. Rawlings manufactures baseballs and is owned by Major League Baseball, which has an interest in producing exciting games. "Manfred" is MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Lloyd Smith, a professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering who's been studying baseballs, said to USA Today: "I would like you not to say that we’ve solved the problem... We’ll say that once Major League Baseball is satisfied with our results and willing to make a public statement.... If this was an easy answer, we would’ve had this a year ago. But it’s a hard answer and that likely means we’ve got a noisy signal. And interpreting noisy data is tricky."

69 comments:

Chuck said...

Justin Verlander.

Chuck said...

Verlander is both right and wrong. Yes, baseballs are flying as never before. They are “juiced.” But I don’t think it is going to be found that the cause is “the way they center the pill.” I think it is going to be about aerodynamics.

I am really looking forward to the report because we’ve been dealing with the same thing in golf. Balls go too far.

{#21}

Chuck said...

Correction; make that {#22}.

Ann Althouse said...

Justin... Jason... the "J" names. So overused! It's all a blur.

gilbar said...

hi Chuck! missed you (see? people read your comments when they're not form letters)

I remember this one time, when MLB changed the ball from the normal hardness, to MUCH harder. It TOTALLY changed the game;
It made a man named Hack Wilson SUPER FAMOUS 56 home runs, the record* for 68 years; and 191 runs batted in, a mark yet to be surpassed.


the record* there's only One League. Some pretend league might have had some slugger too, but no one noticed

Temujin said...

Justin Verlander, a future hall of famer, has been holding baseballs in his hands for about 30 years now. He's been pitching in the major leagues since 2005. He throws more innings that most pitchers today. He's a throwback to the days when pitchers used to want to last the entire game (today's pitchers are inning specialists).

When Verlander says the ball feels different, or is reacting different, I'll tend to believe him. He's seen it up close much more than any 'expert' on the sidelines. Plus- he's married to Kate Upton. So he's right.

The Tigers had Justin Verlander AND Max Scherzer on their rotation at the same time (plus Pudge Rodriguez & Miguel Cabrera), and somehow still managed to not win a World Series, and just gave both future hall of fame pitchers away for nothing in horrible trades. The Tigers have the worst front office in the majors. (and their record reflects it).

Fernandistein said...

If it were news it'd be fake news:

But for now, mum’s the word.

Smith and Nathan declined to discuss specifics about the findings.

Tank said...

In the future, Verlander’s stats are going to be compared to the stats of other great pitchers. He is right to be concerned that they are damaging his place in baseball history.

Fernandistein said...

This "We X-Rayed Some MLB Baseballs. Here’s What We Found."

The baseballs changed a little bit.

Paco Wové said...

"If it were news it'd be fake news:"

If it weren't for fake news, there'd be no news at all.

David Begley said...

If true, a major problem. The eternal fixed nature of baseball and the stats are important to the sport’s appeal. Sosa and McGuire will never get into the Cooperstown because of steroids.

mikee said...

In golf, a machine tests new ball designs and only those balls that fly within a certain range are allowed to be used in play. Change the dots, change the sheen, change the inside or the outside material, if the machine hits the ball and it goes too far, the ball is not allowed on PGA play. See Eddie Caminetti's explanation of this testing in "The Green," by Troon McAlister, one of the great golf books of all time.

In baseball, the balls are made by one supplier and of materials that supposedly don't change year to year. The materials have changed. The balls need to be tested like the ones in golf.

Problem solved.

tim maguire said...

Ann Althouse said...Justin... Jason... the "J" names. So overused! It's all a blur.

Agreed. It's his parents’ fault.

mikee said...

Argh, the explanation of golf ball testing is of course not in "The Green," it is in "Scratch," about the hottest new ball on the golf course!

Mark said...

"solved the problem"

Of course, this guy doesn't even know what the problem is.

The problem is that they have ruined the game.

buwaya said...

See?

What was I saying about the validity of conspiratorial thinking?

Chuck said...


Blogger Temujin said...
Justin Verlander, a future hall of famer, has been holding baseballs in his hands for about 30 years now. He's been pitching in the major leagues since 2005. He throws more innings that most pitchers today. He's a throwback to the days when pitchers used to want to last the entire game (today's pitchers are inning specialists).

When Verlander says the ball feels different, or is reacting different, I'll tend to believe him. He's seen it up close much more than any 'expert' on the sidelines. Plus- he's married to Kate Upton. So he's right.

The Tigers had Justin Verlander AND Max Scherzer on their rotation at the same time (plus Pudge Rodriguez & Miguel Cabrera), and somehow still managed to not win a World Series, and just gave both future hall of fame pitchers away for nothing in horrible trades. The Tigers have the worst front office in the majors. (and their record reflects it).


I’ve seen Verlander pitch a no-hitter in person. In about the sixth inning, my comment was, “He’s hardly even working at this.” There wasn’t a single wasted pitch; no wasted effort; total control. It looked like he could do 27 innings.

You’re right that with each passing season the Tigers’ trade of Verlander to the Astros looks more and more terrible.

But Scherzer was not traded. He was lost to free agency after an arbitration year.

{#23}


Harsh Pencil said...

Kate Upton had the best tweet when Verlander didn't win the Cy Young one year. "Hey @MLB I thought I was the only person allowed to fuck @JustinVerlander ?! "

gspencer said...

The surge/pace of the number of home runs is outta the park,

https://www.si.com/mlb/2019/06/12/home-run-rate-stats-fly-balls

Chuck said...

So the problem with golf balls is not that they are failing the USGA’s initial velocity test. The problem is that they are more and more being successfully designed to spin a lot less with driver when hit extremely hard, yet still spin acceptably with lofted irons and wedges. Such that players now have less fear of hooks and slices with driver.

Geoff Shackelford regularly does some fine writing on the need for a ball rollback in golf. Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, the late Arnold Palmer, the late Frank Hannigan and a dozen or so of the leading golf course architects all agree on the need for a ball rollback in golf.

{#24}

Howard said...

its more fair than having individual players deciding weather or not to inject juice. Maybe Verlander wants to go back to the rocks they used back in the 20's

Rory said...

"Sosa and McGuire will never get into the Cooperstown because of steroids."

Never's a long time. The Hall of Fame exists to induct people, and to incidentally get people to come to Cooperstown. In 2-3 years, there will be a dearth of dominating players on the ballot. The Hall has multiple doorways to induction. McGwire's already been put on a ballot by one of the special committees. It's just a matter of time.

Laslo Spatula said...

The game has turned into pinball, both on the field and in the stands.

Constant commercial breaks, with loud music and constant shiny-shiny-bling-bling on the screens.

And beer that is WAY too pricey.

Of course, my fond memories are of seeing the Athletics in their horrible cement bowl, with tiny crowds, poor teams, but a sense of being at a ballpark, not a Chuck E. Cheese with a baseball diamond.

My friend and I would see afternoon games in the mostly empty cheap seats. There was a small group of older blue-collar black gentlemen that often sat a few (empty) rows from us; we would talk the game with them, and they were as funny as hell.

They would also bum cigarettes from us on occasion.

The stadium only sold Marlboro Reds and Kools; you could see they were somewhat disappointed with the Marlboros, so we started smoking Kools at the games, so that they were happier with our offerings.

One of the men once asked us if we wanted to get a beer with them after the game. We were up for it, but another guy looked a bit... concerned.

After a pause, he asked what kind of car we were driving; I told him an AMC Javelin.

He said something to the effect of "Nah, you don't want to park that there...'

I am Laslo.

Ralph L said...

And interpreting noisy data is tricky."

Especially when you delete the expletives.

robother said...

"Noise" is a technical term for "the guy who's paying for this research".

rehajm said...

Most if it is not the ball but Trackman and optimizing launch angles. People are blaming the ball in golf too for the same reason- cause they don’t know about Trackman.

mccullough said...

Bullshit.

The hitters are catching back up with the pitching.

Pitching was dominant for the last 10 years.

Verlander is whining. Again.

Ralph L said...

Younger golfers have more visible muscles than previous generations, to the point that their manboobs must get in the way. Are they checked for steroids or other drugs?

Leland said...

Meanwhile, the Astros hit 6 homeruns last night. The only starters not to get homeruns last night were the team HR leaders: Springer, Bregman, and Brantley.

Francisco D said...

I have not been a baseball fan since the early 70's, thanks to the inept Chicago Cubs.

However, I was switching stations yesterday and saw about 10 seconds of a baseball game on ESPN. The batter half swung at a ball and wound up hitting an opposite field home run. Yeah. That is a juiced baseball.

mccullough said...

Verlander is very rich. He could pay to have the balls tested himself. But he doesn’t have the balls.

But Verlander is happy Joe Mauer retired. Mauer owned him. Made him cry like the pussy he is.

Crimso said...

Everybody wants their favorite sport frozen in some imagined Golden Era, which is always some time frame that overlaps with their lives. There is only one instance where the era in question was objectively, indisputably an actual Golden Era that was ruined: when the NCAA ruined men's college basketball by adding the shot clock and the 3-pointer.

mccullough said...

Hitting strategy has changed in reaction to the pitching and shifting defenses.

JAORE said...

"Studies say...."

Damn near anything you want.

Head researcher urges caution....screw THAT! We have a headline!

The pill is to blame sez pitcher..... conspiracy! Click bait!

Drag is down.... don't know why.... not as sexy as the conspiracy....

No need to wait for further evidence.

Phil 314 said...

Chicks dig the long ball.

traditionalguy said...

Did Tom Brady get into the Rawlins plant disguise?

traditionalguy said...

The multi millionaire pitchers need to quit complaining. They get paid for what they do compared to what the other pitchers. If the ball they throwing is better at going far, than so are all the balls thrown by all of the pitchers.

Just keep respecting the national Anthem and pitch.

Chuck said...

Blogger mccullough said...
Verlander is very rich. He could pay to have the balls tested himself. But he doesn’t have the balls.

But Verlander is happy Joe Mauer retired. Mauer owned him. Made him cry like the pussy he is.


A millionaire, with a World Championship ring, married to Kate Upton. Next stop; Cooperstown.

Some “pussy.”

Chuck said...

{#25}

Greg Hlatky said...

Verlander is a high-ball pitcher. If the batter gets a bead on them, those pitches end up in the seats.

stever said...

MLB is going with home runs not sacrifice bunts. They don’t give players the ability to promote themselves so the focus on launch angles and WAR, etc. The public builds the stadiums and the teams sell the “experience” . So I’m not going to yell at the clouds, I don’t give a shit about the NFL or NBA anymore.

alanc709 said...

They didn't change the baseball in 1920. What ended the dead ball era was the death of Ray Chapman by a beaning. That resulted in the outlawing of the spitball, and keeping fresher balls in play. Until that time, a baseball in use wasn't replaced unless it was lost or fell apart. (Remember the scene in The Natural, where Roy Hobbs knocked the cover off the ball?) Many people felt Ray Chapman couldn't see the ball that hit him, because players used to routinely rub tobacco spit and anything else at hand to darken the ball, to benefit "their" pitcher. Kind of foolish, since both pitchers inevitably used the same ball.

Sebastian said...

"the "J" names. So overused! "

Feeling guilty about saddling a kid with your lack of creativity?

rcocean said...

It ins't just the balls that increase the PGA Player's distance, its the modern clubs with their massive sweet spots. The old wooden clubs had a smaller margin of error, you had to hit it perfectly or you'd be off center and slice or hook. Today, someone like Koepka or Rory can bash away. The average drive length on the PGA AND the LPGA is almost 30 yards longer than it was in 1994. Driving accuracy is slightly lower.

Tom Watson said he only came in 2nd in the 2009 British Open because the new equipment allowed him to hit the ball as far at age 59 as he did at age 39.

mccullough said...

It was nice of the Astros to give Verlander a ring for his shit performance in the 2017 World Series.

Corey Seager autographed his homer off Verlander and gave it to Kate Upton with his phone number on it.

Here’s Verlander’s stats in the three World Series he’s pitched in:

5 games started. 27 innings pitched. Won zero games and lost four games. Gave up 23 hits, including six homers. Walked 8 guys. Hit 1.

Gave up 17 earned runs.

When a pussy whiner like Verlander complains about The Balls, it’s a fucking joke.



Ralph L said...

when the NCAA ruined men's college basketball by adding the shot clock and the 3-pointer.

No, it was allowing them to touch the rim. Now it's all hotdoggin'.

Yancey Ward said...

Here you can find the numbers of homers/game. Major League Baseball (MLB) first had more than 0.5 homers per game in 1932. The first season with more than 0.75 homers per game was 1950. The first season with more than 1.0 homers per game was 1987. The first season with more than 1.25 homers per game was 2017. 2019 is on a pace of 1.38 homers per game.

Is the ball juiced? I have no idea, but the steady progression is for more homers per game for the entire history of baseball.

mccullough said...

Yancey,

The pitching and defenses (especially defensive shifts based on data) are better. So the strategy has changed. Guys are looking to do more damage now at the plate. Strikeouts and home runs and walks are all up.

The best hitters in the game strikeout 15-20% of the time, walk 15-20% of the time, and have more than 40% of their hits go for extra bases.

Trout, Yelich, Betts, and Bellinger.

Andrelton Simmons is a throwback. He hits for a good average but doesn’t walk much or strikeout much. About 25% of his hits are for extra bases.

Trout could strikeout 5% of the time and hit a shitload of singles. But his strategy and execution are the optimal.





Jim at said...

Raise the seams. Problem solved.

mccullough said...

There is no problem to solve. That’s why Verlander is a fucking joke.

The guy wasn’t bitching when strikeouts went up and batting averages went down.

Verlander has given up 28 homers in 151 innings this year.

Scherzer, a much better pitcher, has given up 10 homers in 134 innings.

Pitch better or shut the fuck up.


heyboom said...

Lifelong Dodger fan, excited about the season so far. However, two things happened this past week that made me go, hmmm?

The first one was two nights ago, when Will Smith hit a grand slam. What was noteworthy to me was at contact the Padres reliever, Trey Wingenter immediately pointed to the sky (to let his fielders know it's a pop fly) and then does a little fist pump. I know he was thinking, "Yes, I got this guy on a flyout and we're out of this jam...", until he turns around and watches the ball carry over the fence.

The second is that one of our newest acquisitions, Kristopher Negron, hits two home runs in his first two games with the Dodgers. Prior to this, he had a total of TWO home runs over the past FOUR seasons.

I'm not complaining, but there is something going on this year.

Jeff Brokaw said...

The AAA minor leagues are also using the same ball as the Majors. Homerun numbers are way up there too, but not in AA and below, which is using the old ball.

Probably not a coincidence.

rehajm said...

The pitching and defenses (especially defensive shifts based on data) are better. So the strategy has changed. Guys are looking to do more damage now at the plate. Strikeouts and home runs and walks are all up.

Yes. The numbers gurus determined this very thing and coaches and players have responded.

Joe said...

The problem with Verlander's theory is that it assumes an expertise that Rawlings simply doesn't have. Rawlings made changes based on gut ideas without the ability to objectively test what those changes would do.

Reminds me of auto racing until the late 70s, where they just tried stuff. Some ideas worked really well even though the designers didn't know exactly why. It's that experimentation which offered a big part of the excitement.

CWJ said...

"The hitters are catching back up with the pitching."

Yeah, catching back up, that's the ticket. But if you assume that increasing home run production over time is the natural order of things, then I guess the pause in the increase equals "pitching was dominant."

Phidippus said...

buwaya @8:36 AM: "What was I saying about the validity of conspiratorial thinking?"

I am reminded of the saying about how problem-solving is attempted when the only tool one has is a hammer.

I'm sure that buwaya has many tools in his bag, but just the same it appears that he has his favorites.

On the other hand, maybe he was kidding. It can sometimes be hard to tell, on the internet.

Rory said...

"Yeah, catching back up, that's the ticket."

A resumption in global 'taters.

Mark said...

What I don't hear anyone anywhere saying is that the game is better, funner, more enjoyable

It's not just the ball. It's the entire modern baseball culture, and the coaching, pitching and hitting philosophies.

rehajm said...

What I don't hear anyone anywhere saying is that the game is better, funner, more enjoyable

Bitching about baseball is America's pastime.

daskol said...

There is generally an increase in moaning in baseball when the Yankees are having a dominant season.

Ray said...

The liveliness of the ball is technically called the coefficient of restitution. It's the change in momentum (mass x velocity) of the object before and after contact. It's tested in a controlled environment where the ball is the only variable. Usually "thrown" against a wall. The momentum of the ball before contact is always greater than after in a closed environment due to lost heat. The coefficient is MV2/MV1, where 1 is perfect. The closer to 1, the livelier the ball. Hitting the ball is a little messier. You have the coefficient of the ball and the bat, and the momentum of the ball and the bat.

James K said...

The reason for the increase in HRs doesn't matter. As long as there's some way to reduce them, say by deadening the ball, then MLB should do it. Games consisting of nothing but walks, strikeouts, and home runs are where the game is going, and it's tedious. I still like the game, but just prefer more balls in play, and closer, which effectively means lower-scoring, games.

James K said...

I should add: closer, lower-scoring, and more balls in play likely means shorter games, which is also important.

Slip said...

No it's an easy answer and Verlander nailed it Ann.

mccullough said...

MLB batting average in 1941 was .283. The average fastball was 80 mph.

Batting average in 1988 was .267. Average fastball was 87 mph,

Batting average in 2018 was .250. Average fastball was 93 mph. Much more spin on the ball as well.

Pitchers used to throw complete games. Almost never happens anymore.

Justin Verlander never said shit about this.

The pitching got better and relief pitchers throw harder and are used more.

Hitters have adjusted. They are getting better. Lot of data and film on these pitchers. And
Bellinger has cut his strikeouts down to 15%. Bregman has a relatively low strikeout percentage. Trout has cut his strikeouts down.

These hitters are very good.

The best pitchers don’t give up many homeruns. Verlander misses over the plate too much. Scherzer doesn’t.

Maybe someone should ask. Erlanger why he gives up more than twice as many homer runs than Scherzer. I’m sure it’s the balks. S better has some and Verlander has an empty sack.

tola'at sfarim said...

What's interesting is that Verlander is actually having one of the best , if not the best year of his career. And he's past the prime pitching years. So not sure what that says about the ball

mccullough said...

The Astros have the best defense in baseball.

Verlander’s FIP (fielding independent of pitching) is above his career average. But his ERA is below his career average. So the defense is why.

Verlander is striking out people above his career average and walking and hitting batters below his career average.

But he’s giving up more homers. He thinks it’s the ball but it’s the hitters. They’ve changed their approach. They are reading g more strikeouts for more extra base hits. Someone should ask him if his strikeouts are up because of the ball.

rehajm said...

I toured the Titleist ball factory in June. You wouldn’t believe the effort put in to quality control and delivering a consistent product. A fresh box of Pro V1s is more consistent than a box from three years ago.

Phillip E. "Skipper" Young, a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, founded Titleist in 1932.[2] When playing a round of golf with his dentist, Young missed a sure putt that seemed to be caused by the weight of the ball. He then asked his dentist friend to X-ray the ball and the film showed that the rubber core was off-center. After this initial discovery, Young took X-rays of more golf balls and found that most were poorly constructed with off-center cores and prone to erratic shots. This inspired Young to produce his own line of golf balls, which would become known as Titleist

Bricap said...

Blogger mccullough said...

MLB batting average in 1941 was .283. The average fastball was 80 mph.

Batting average in 1988 was .267. Average fastball was 87 mph,

Batting average in 2018 was .250. Average fastball was 93 mph. Much more spin on the ball as well.

Pitchers used to throw complete games. Almost never happens anymore.

Justin Verlander never said shit about this.



This curve is not as smooth as the three mentioned data points suggest. Check this history. Most notable is the bottoming out in 1968, the infamous Year Of the Pitcher, at .237, and the subsequent uptrend that peaked at .271 in 1999, around the peak of the even more infamous Steroid Era.

If we talk about rising strikeouts and homers both during recent years, that ties in with the Three True Outcome model (BB/K/HR), but walks have not risen at quite as dizzying a rate. There was more correlation during the Pitcher's Era in the 60's and the Steroid Era, but otherwise, it's been pretty rangebound over time.

The Steroid Era also had complaints about the ball becoming livelier. Glavine was the one who alleged it, and it fell on deaf ears, is my recollection. Fences were moved in in a number of places, and strike zones got tighter.

I would concur that the rise of the relief pitcher usually makes it more challenging for hitters, but that is at least somewhat offset by feasting on the mop up relief pitching. And the Cub bullpen this year has been a horror show, as one anecdotal counterexample. We can't even watch when the relievers come on now.

I don't know the perfect answer to all this. We need a Sabermetrician for that, I'm afraid.