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Front Page: Despite Research that Shows Otherwise, MLB Insists There Were No Changes to Postseason Baseballs

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#1 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 10 October 2019 - 05:56 PM

Whether you have been watching the postseason from inside a stadium or the friendly confines of your house, there’s been something fishy about the action. Did you notice that the Nationals and Dodgers game featured more than a few opportunities to rob a home run in game 5? How about that Miguel Sano and Nelson Cruz could barely squeak their blasts out of Yankee Stadium in game 1? Well, it appears there’s something to it, and that’s not a good discovery for Major League Baseball.Data scientist and former FiveThirtyEight journalist Rob Arthur wrote a piece today for Baseball Prospectus. The premise was that the baseball teams played the game with all season is now gone, and that’s quite a damning revelation. If you don’t have access to a subscription at Baseball Prospectus, he did a nice job breaking it down to a bite-sized Twitter thread. The ball itself is causing more drag than it has at any point since 2016. Home runs are down more than 50%, and the playing field established for 162 games has now been abolished.



Arthur went on to clarify that weather is not the culprit for these outcomes. He stated that drag factors in both temperature and pressure, while also noting conditions have been more optimal than normal and don’t have a significant overall impact. Considering the research he provided, and the comments offered up by Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper, I began to think of specific examples.

Earlier I mentioned thinking that something seemed off about that Dodgers and Nationals game to close out the National League Division Series. I didn’t dig in enough to see the amount of wall scrapers typically present on a game-by-game basis, but it certainly seemed abnormal. I did however consider that Will Smith at bat in the bottom of the 9th. His 100 mph exit velocity and 26-degree launch angle resulted in a fly out. During the regular season there was 75 similar occurrences of those inputs, and they resulted in 44 homers with an 83% base hit rate.



This is a Minnesota Twins website, so let’s bring things full circle here. Parker Hageman immediately turned to Monday’s game against the Yankees. I remembered thinking it was odd to see Gleyber Torres barely get out on a well struck ball, but it was Marwin Gonzalez’s blast that immediately looked gone and fell way short that got me. As Parker notes, the Twins 1B had his well struck ball become a pretty small outlier.



If we think back to game one, there were homers hit by both Miguel Sano and Nelson Cruz that struck me as odd. Although the ball went out to the opposite field, power sluggers like those two rarely need every extra inch to reach the seats. In doing some research through MLB’s own Statcast service, the balls that left the yard in the Postseason traveled an average of 70 feet shorter than they same circumstances produced during the regular season.



All along, the expectation should’ve been that the sport would walk the baseball back. Despite the home run providing a level of excitement to the game (one that pace of play changes would seemingly be geared towards), Rob Manfred has publicly stated that inquiries would be made too many times for tools of the trade to go untouched. What strikes this writer as irresponsible, unfair, and downright disingenuous is to make these wholesale changes during the season.

The point isn’t to suggest that the Twins or any other team is getting a raw deal because of the deadened baseball. What is fair is for players across the league, most importantly hitters, to have a level of frustration aimed at the governing body of their sport. As former pitcher Dallas Braden puts it, “The guy that deflated footballs in the NFL was drug over the coals by the commissioner of the NFL for altering the sports’ ball. What do WE do when it’s THE COMMISSIONER altering balls like some MAD plastic surgeon? Let the man snip & shape as he sees fit, no issues?”

I’ll never have a problem with seasons being analyzed separately as not all factors remain the same as the calendar changes. I do think you’ve got a significant problem when the integrity of a collective season is being manipulated at the drop of a hat.

Because of this uproar Major League Baseball has now issued a statement on the situation. Unfortunately it does little to address any of the actual problems and avoids any statements that point to real reasons why there's such drastic changes in results.



Click here to view the article
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#2 tarheeltwinsfan

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Posted 10 October 2019 - 06:24 PM

This is interesting. Thanks.


#3 mikelink45

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Posted 10 October 2019 - 06:30 PM

This is why records really cannot be compared.What would Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds have done this year?  

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#4 jwestbrock11

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Posted 10 October 2019 - 07:10 PM

On the bright side, we know what next year's ball will be like now. And the narrative about how the pitcher's adjusted and balance has been restored or some garbage like that.
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#5 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 10 October 2019 - 07:33 PM

This is why records really cannot be compared.What would Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds have done this year?


I agree that this is what you can’t compare across seasons, and absolutely across eras. It’s inexcusable though for the sport to make a change this drastic in the midst of a season.
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#6 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 10 October 2019 - 07:34 PM

On the bright side, we know what next year's ball will be like now. And the narrative about how the pitcher's adjusted and balance has been restored or some garbage like that.


Totally expected something like this to come next year (though it seems a bit too much), but it can’t happen between the regular and post season.
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#7 biggentleben

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Posted 10 October 2019 - 11:42 PM

They did a ball change before the 2017 offseason as well. The more lively ball that was seen that offseason showed up roughly midseason in 2018.

 

Ridiculous how bad the MLB explanation sounds. Manfred has irked both sides of the negotiating table. We'll be dealing with a major mess in the CBA soon as the owners are growingly unhappy with him and the players definitely don't like him.

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#8 twinsfaninsaudi

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 04:40 AM

I’m going to read the article but first I would just like to use this space to express my contempt for Rob Manfred. Thank you.
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#9 FritzDahmus

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 06:15 AM

Bob Costas didn't observe it this way....as we all heard.

 

Twins hit a HR - Bob says, "homers are flying out of the park this year...it's ridiculous!".

 

Yankees hit a HR - Bob says, "the Yankees answer in dramatic fashion!".

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#10 Kanonen80

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 07:34 AM

Would be interesting if someone had the time and went back through all the fly-outs, looked at their launch angle and exit velo, compared to in-season batted balls with the exact parameters, and then compared to the dimension of the parks the ALDS games were in.

 

Would be interesting to see how many more HRs the Twins and Yankees could have had, and if that would have made the series any more entertaining (or if it would at least make us feel a little better about the team's ALDS performance :P)


#11 spycake

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 07:48 AM

I'm intrigued by the data and the discussion, but does anyone really think MLB could keep a lid on something like this? It's not quite JFK conspiracy level, but the MLB central office isn't exactly staffed by trained agents of espionage either. Enough people would be involved to make me skeptical. It's not like Manfred personally goes into a storage facility alone and emerges with the box of baseballs to use for each game.

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#12 spycake

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 07:52 AM

Here's another possible explanation, from the article's author:

 

 

So playoff baseballs are produced separately (they probably have a special logo or something). It's possible they do sit longer in storage, under different conditions, than other balls.

 

If you click the embedded tweet, there's more to this interesting exchange.

Edited by spycake, 11 October 2019 - 07:54 AM.

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#13 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 08:03 AM

 

Would be interesting if someone had the time and went back through all the fly-outs, looked at their launch angle and exit velo, compared to in-season batted balls with the exact parameters, and then compared to the dimension of the parks the ALDS games were in.

 

Would be interesting to see how many more HRs the Twins and Yankees could have had, and if that would have made the series any more entertaining (or if it would at least make us feel a little better about the team's ALDS performance :P)

I was doing some of this on Twitter while feeding a baby last night haha. A couple of the Astros batted balls that looked launched went absolutely nowhere.

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#14 Ted Schwerzler

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 08:04 AM

 

I'm intrigued by the data and the discussion, but does anyone really think MLB could keep a lid on something like this? It's not quite JFK conspiracy level, but the MLB central office isn't exactly staffed by trained agents of espionage either. Enough people would be involved to make me skeptical. It's not like Manfred personally goes into a storage facility alone and emerges with the box of baseballs to use for each game.

They didn't tell anyone that they increased the core density of the baseballs prior to this season, and then acted as if they were oblivious to the results despite research pointing out what had happened. Manfred has consistently run so many different initiatives to impact and influence the game, it's nuts.

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#15 USAFChief

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 08:05 AM

 

I'm intrigued by the data and the discussion, but does anyone really think MLB could keep a lid on something like this? It's not quite JFK conspiracy level, but the MLB central office isn't exactly staffed by trained agents of espionage either. Enough people would be involved to make me skeptical. It's not like Manfred personally goes into a storage facility alone and emerges with the box of baseballs to use for each game.

I'm going to need more evidence to believe there's anything to the idea that different baseballs were used in the playoffs. 

 

Fun conspiracy theory, but the logistics of something like this make in unlikely in the extreme. 

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#16 Vanimal46

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 08:07 AM

I'm intrigued by the data and the discussion, but does anyone really think MLB could keep a lid on something like this? It's not quite JFK conspiracy level, but the MLB central office isn't exactly staffed by trained agents of espionage either. Enough people would be involved to make me skeptical. It's not like Manfred personally goes into a storage facility alone and emerges with the box of baseballs to use for each game.


This is the same organization that said "Nah, nothing is different with the ball." earlier this year... until the data was so bonkers they had to say something about it. I don't expect them to be transparent on this topic at all.
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#17 ashbury

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 08:15 AM

I'm intrigued by the data and the discussion, but does anyone really think MLB could keep a lid on something like this? It's not quite JFK conspiracy level, but the MLB central office isn't exactly staffed by trained agents of espionage either. Enough people would be involved to make me skeptical. It's not like Manfred personally goes into a storage facility alone and emerges with the box of baseballs to use for each game.

You left out the part about him twirling his mustache and chuckling mwah-ha-ha! Good satire sweats the details.

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#18 Old Twins Cap

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 08:23 AM

Twins HR record might stand for a good long time.

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#19 spycake

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 08:43 AM

 

They didn't tell anyone that they increased the core density of the baseballs prior to this season, and then acted as if they were oblivious to the results despite research pointing out what had happened. Manfred has consistently run so many different initiatives to impact and influence the game, it's nuts.

But that's assuming it was a known, intentional change to the ball that they made before the season. Maybe they were just cutting costs in ball production and this was an unintended side effect. And subsequent denials would be more to save face about their carelessness than hide any conspiracy.

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#20 spycake

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Posted 11 October 2019 - 08:45 AM

Here's another interesting tweet from the author:

 

 

That would seem to support the explanation that postseason balls are produced/stored differently, rather than any intentional change being made just for the 2019 postseason.

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