- Pitchers and coaches from both the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros have claimed the World Series baseballs are slicker than the regular-season baseballs. Pitchers have complained about the grip on the World Series balls, saying the surface is slicker. MLB said there are only minor differences in the balls and that they are made and held to the same standard as the balls used during the regular season.
The 2017 World Series has been a shootout through five games.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros have scored a combined 58 runs, with 22 home runs, punctuated by the Astros’ Game 5, 13-12 win on Sunday.
According to pitchers and managers from both teams, the explosive offense may be due to a change in the baseballs being used in the World Series.
The Astros ace Justin Verlander was one of several people to tell Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci before Game 5 that the postseason balls are slicker.
“The World Series ball is slicker, no doubt,” Verlander said. “I’m telling you, we’re in here signing [World Series] balls before the game, and it’s hard to get the ink on the ball sometimes. 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.”
Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish complained about the slick balls, saying he couldn’t get a grip on his slider. Verlander also echoed the thought.
“It’s different,” Verlander said. “I noticed it especially throwing a slider. It didn’t feel the same. The home run I gave up to [Joc] Pederson was a slider.”
Said Astros pitching coach Brent Storm: “Why in the world would the baseballs in the World Series be different? Because you can see the difference. You can feel it. I don’t understand it at all.”
According to Verducci, the MLB senior vice president of baseball operations Peter Woodfork said the World Series balls are made from the same materials and held to the same standards as regular season balls. One source told Verducci that the difference may be a rubbing mud that is used to treat the balls that may be creating a difference. Verducci wrote that he held a World Series ball and a regular season ball and felt the difference.
Astros pitcher Charlie Morton said that slicker balls, obviously, mean less control.
“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. That’s a very bad thought to have in your head.”
Honeycutt said MLB should do something to make a change.
Verducci’s story came before Game 5, when both offenses didn’t have much trouble putting their bats to the ball. The offensive explosion has resulted in one of the most compelling, dramatic World Series in recent history, but pitchers would obviously rather have it the other way.