Slick baseballs affecting pitcher performance, says report

Pitchers and coaches claim that the baseballs being used in this year’s World Series are unusually slick, making it difficult to throw sliders, according to a Sports Illustrated report Sunday morning.

Pitching coaches from both the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers complained about the baseballs to the magazine after Saturday night’s game, which Los Angeles won, 6-2. They claim the balls have a different leather grain than those used during the regular season, making them more difficult to control.

“It’s obvious,” Astros pitching coach Brent Strom told SI. “You can see it and you can feel it. It’s not the same. Someone’s got to explain to me why.”

Added Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish: “I had trouble with the ball throwing a slider. It was slicker.”

Astros pitcher Justin Verlander likened the World Series balls to Starbucks receipts.

“We’re in here signing balls before the game, and it’s hard to get the ink on the ball sometimes,” Verlander told SI. “You know when you sign a receipt at Starbucks, and if you don’t hold the paper down with your hand, the pen just slides across the paper and the ink doesn’t stick to it? That’s what it’s like sometimes trying to sign these balls. That’s how slick the leather is.”

Players and coaches said the slick balls have made it more difficult to locate sliders, which has affected pitchers like Darvish and Astros closer Ken Giles, who rely upon the pitch. Game 4 starter Charlie Morton, who does not throw a slider, said the ball's slickness affected how he throws his two-seam fastball to right-handers.

“When the ball is slick you can’t throw in with the same aggressiveness. If you don’t have control of the baseball, you might end somebody’s career," he told SI. "That’s a very bad thought to have in your head.

“It’s the World Series. So you do everything you can to block out everything. You’ve got to focus with every pitch. But I don’t know, maybe it’s the placebo effect, but if that’s what you’re thinking about it does affect your conviction on certain pitches.”

Texture is not the first complaint about the baseballs being used in the series, which is tied 2-2. After Game 2, during which a record eight home runs were hit, including five in extra innings, Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel claimed that “obviously, the balls are juiced … I think they’re juiced, 100%”

The Astros and Dodgers have now hit a combined 15 home runs in the first four games of this year’s World Series. he Series is tied 2-2 with Game 5 Sunday night at Minute Maid Park.

“There are really powerful guys in this league, and they’re going to get theirs,” Keuchel said. “But where you can tell a difference is the mid-range guy who’s hitting 20-plus home runs now.

“That’s what Major League Baseball wants. They want that exciting two home-run lead, and then (the Dodgers) come back and hit another home run, and everybody’s still watching. That’s what they want. That’s what they’re getting.”

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said before Game 3 that he is “absolutely confident that the balls that we’re using are within our established specifications.”

Game 5's first pitch scheduled for 7:20 CT.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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