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The MLB Baseball, AAA Usage, And Proposed Changes For MILB

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#1 DocBauer

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Posted 13 August 2019 - 10:59 PM

I almost put this in the milb section and then realized this is really the place to post.

We all know there are changes to the manufacturing of the actual baseball used at the ML level this season. In fact, the MLB powers that be have stated veiled but semi-bluntly, that they recognize there is a change. And this has brought about a sort of X Files conspiracy as to a change. Except for 2 arguments against such a conspiracy. One is again, an almost open admission that something is different, including early opinions that technology has allowed the central "pill" of the baseball to be placed more perfect than before. Actually makes some sense to me.

The second, and deserving it's own paragraph, is a report I stumbled across recently, and posted in a different thread, that MLB has actually asked for a thorough study on the ML baseball that is being used this season. Forgive me, but I can't find the link at this moment. I believe the study is being done by Washington State. The article itself almost reads like a Randball Stu piece as it is so hush hush when it comes to reported initial results that it sounds like a Mulder/Scully investigation. Except, there are angry and opinionated quotes attributed to Verlander that are just too real to be made up. Further, while testing is still taking place and no ending reports are offered, there was an initial report/leak that the current ball had less "drag" than previous ML balls. (Really wish someone could help me find the link).

All of this is to say a conspiracy of some sort is not taking place.

Driving home tonight after watching the Twins go ahead at my dad's place, listening to the radio broadcast, there were comments made about the difference in the ML ball vs the MILB ball. We have known and debated for years about different manufacturers and different balls used. Its no secret. What was so poignant was, ONE of the biggest differences for ANY pitcher was the difference in the ball when they reached the ML level. If memory serves previously, it was the seams of the ball that was the biggest difference. And it was brought up how AAA is using the ML ball for the first time this year. It may have been an "aside" comment, but shouldn't be dismissed as such, what would it be like having Rookie or A ball hitters using an aluminum bat and then suddenly having to adjust to wood?

I think this is a very relative debate!

There are 2 very obvious points about aluminum bats that we really shouldn't have to discuss; offense at lower levels beyond professional as well as finances for aluminum vs wood. But baseballs???

As was stated in the radio commentary, when you invest so much in prospects, pitchers primarily to the point, why would you allow such a discrepancy?

In a multi-million/billion dollar industry like MLB, why wouldn't you level the playing field? Even if most milb teams are independently owned, why wouldn't you use the same tools? I applaud MLB for using the same baseball in AAA this season. But why wouldn't you take steps going forward to level the playing surface more?

I will use Graterol as an unfair subject. There are opinions and reports and ideas of him being healthy and a BIG TIME arm who could help the Twins the last third of the season. Hopefully he can. Love to see him! But he hasn't seen AAA yet, much less used the new ball.

It's time MLB took it on themselves to make sure every level is using the same baseball, no matter what changes may be taking place!
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#2 obtusebanter

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Posted 13 August 2019 - 11:49 PM

Does this summary look about right?

 

https://www.usatoday...ate/1869584001/

 

This nugget jumped out at me:

 

"Smith said modified baseballs could be ready for the 2021 season, but MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said the league has yet to commit."


#3 SQUIRREL

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 07:10 AM

Does this summary look about right?
 
https://www.usatoday...ate/1869584001/
 
This nugget jumped out at me:
 
"Smith said modified baseballs could be ready for the 2021 season, but MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said the league has yet to commit."


That was a good article. Partly why they have yet to commit is because they are still researching and testing to make sure they have it right.

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#4 jkcarew

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 09:12 AM

It's really scrambling the perception of performances at the AAA level. Can just flip over to the thread on the most recent minor's recap and see several comments about how 'great' Zander Wiel has been this year. (Not to pick on Wiel...he's just an example.) He's hit 20 HR and his OPS is around .815. But the reality is everyone's OPS in that ballpark is around .820. Wiel has an wRC+ of 98. I would think it works in reverse for the pitchers. There are pitchers at Rochester that are better than their numbers indicate.

 

Doesn't seem like it would be that hard to get all levels of the affiliated minors onto the same ball...and at least at that point we could adjust our interpretations of performance to a more consistent standard. Right now, a 21-year old prospect in Ft Myers who is OPS'ing around .700 is doing better than the 24 year-old in Rochester OPS'ing .825. That seems silly.

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#5 biggentleben

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 06:14 PM

The cost is prohibitive to put the ball across all minor league levels.

 

Frankly, one positive thing about putting the MLB ball into AAA is making AAA relevant again in development. For the last 10-15 years, teams had begun to move away from using AAA as a legit development stop and begun using it more as a place to harbor quad-A type guys and extra arms that were just off the 40-man for use as needed with the big league club if an injury outbreak were to occur. Now AAA is a legit stop that you need to see both hitters and pitchers make in their development.

 

With pitchers, the outcome is obvious. One tremendous example recently left my favorite organization, so I got to have plenty of view on this. Kolby Allard was a prime draft candidate coming out of high school before back issues hurt him in his senior year and took his velocity from mid-90s in showcases before his senior year to low-90s his senior year. He was handled gently by the Braves and had to have back surgery early on with the team. Once he returned from that, his velocity was significantly down, often pitching entire games without topping 91 MPH, working primarily 88-89. That sort of pitching requires absolute precision or tremendous movement in the minors to succeed, but it requires BOTH in the majors.

 

Allard hit the majors last season for a quick debut, and the first introduction to the different ball was obvious. He was hurt badly without a fourth pitch that he could command with movement. He spent the offseason working on a cutter, and while he's added another tick or two of velocity (sitting 90-92, touching 93-94) this year, he's spent the whole year in AAA and seen his improved arsenal contribute to a high-3's ERA, which is currently a top-5 ERA among all qualified AAA starters this season. If I'm Texas, I'm much more confident in his ability to produce as a #3/4 starter in the majors now after showing that performance in AAA with the same ball he'll see in MLB.

 

For hitters, a ball that explodes off the bat can lead to some bad habits. While we know of the launch angle movement among many organizations, the nuance to that is significant across the game, and many players in AAA this season have notably gone for an all-or-nothing approach with their swing after finding power for the first time this season. It has allowed other hitters to show an ability to take controlled swings and cover the strike zone well, even with additional production from their natural and/or optimized swings without over-compensating for the ball. Tim Locastro of the Diamondbacks is a great example of a guy who hasn't put together a monster home run season, but he's shown an ability to generate average or above-average power without changing his swing mechanics due to the ball, and his previous excellent zone judgement and plus speed now play up into a big league starter. Josh VanMeter of the Reds is another great example of this. He had the Dustin Pedroia profile down well, but he was just a half-grade below Pedroia in every tool, which really shows the fine line of a quad-A guy and a potential All-Star as far as second base goes, but with the new ball, he's essentially playing as prime Pedroia in output. Even with the glove still that tick below, he's able to find a spot in the lineup with that production.

 

In general, I'm not sure that spreading the ball across all minor league levels would actually be a productive thing. There does add a dimension of achievement in climbing the ladder, getting a chance to play in semi-MLB conditions once you've achieved AAA. That's just my pair of Lincolns, though.

Edited by biggentleben, 14 August 2019 - 06:15 PM.

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#6 kenbuddha

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 07:03 PM

 

The cost is prohibitive to put the ball across all minor league levels.

Why is that? Each league has to buy balls. Why can't it be balls that MLB/AAA use?

 


#7 biggentleben

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Posted 14 August 2019 - 08:38 PM

 

Why is that? Each league has to buy balls. Why can't it be balls that MLB/AAA use?

 

MLB owns the production centers. Where the MLB balls are made has a lower production capacity than other production centers.

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#8 ashbury

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Posted 15 August 2019 - 08:46 AM

Where the MLB balls are made has a lower production capacity than other production centers.

This is due to some law of physics that can't be changed over the course of two or three years?

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#9 biggentleben

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Posted 15 August 2019 - 08:56 AM

 

This is due to some law of physics that can't be changed over the course of two or three years?

 

I'm sure it could be...whether they want it to be is another thing.

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#10 ashbury

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Posted 15 August 2019 - 09:06 AM

I'm sure it could be...whether they want it to be is another thing.

So then we're back to kenbuddha's question: "Each league has to buy balls. Why can't it be balls that MLB/AAA use?" Why wouldn't they want it to be the same?

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#11 Vanimal46

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Posted 15 August 2019 - 09:28 AM

So then we're back to kenbuddha's question: "Each league has to buy balls. Why can't it be balls that MLB/AAA use?" Why wouldn't they want it to be the same?


There's been examples of teams sending struggling pitchers to AA to get them away from the altered baseball... Teams probably like having that option.

Justus Sheffield for example was sent to AA to reset after getting crushed in AAA.

#12 biggentleben

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Posted 15 August 2019 - 09:30 AM

 

So then we're back to kenbuddha's question: "Each league has to buy balls. Why can't it be balls that MLB/AAA use?" Why wouldn't they want it to be the same?

 

I'd have to find the story on it (I've perused quite a number in the last 12 months and cannot even remember the authors of particular points at this point), but I believe the MLB (and now AAA) balls are made with a different leather as well as the incredible amount of research going into the specifics on pill placement and such that could be difficult to simply upscale to some degree.

 

I don't honestly have the answer to the why of it, but I do know that added production costs being prohibitive is the reason.

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#13 biggentleben

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Posted 15 August 2019 - 09:31 AM

 

There's been examples of teams sending struggling pitchers to AA to get them away from the altered baseball... Teams probably like having that option.

Justus Sheffield for example was sent to AA to reset after getting crushed in AAA.

 

He's also a pitcher whose stuff had no business being rated as highly as it was when considering what the current major league ball would do to him. He still hasn't changed that in AA in spite of better overall numbers.

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