I’ve never heard the word “juice” this much in my life, from the latest IPA hitting the store shelves a local tap room to major league baseball the word juice is choice. Since this is a baseball blog not a beer blog, I’ll be covering the baseball end of it, but I do love me a good, hazy juicy IPA. Let’s deal with MLB’s juicy problem.
As most of you are aware of Justin Verlander fired a scud missile to the MLB front way back in July, but here’s a refresher for you:
“It’s a f—ing joke,” said Verlander, an eight-time All-Star who is starting his second All-Star Game on Tuesday. “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 f—ing 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. Suddenly, he comes in, the balls are juiced? It’s not coincidence. We’re not idiots.”
You might read that and think what’s the big deal, he’s just expressing his opinion on what seems to be a legit gripe from a pitcher’s point of view, but it’s a big deal when you actually call out the commissioner of baseball on the topic. Personally, I love it, he said what a lot of players not holding a bat wanted to say, but is the ball really “juiced” or not?
Towards the end of June MLB did come out and admit that the baseball is different this season with Manfred making the following comment:
“They [Rawlings] haven’t changed their process in any meaningful way. They haven’t changed their materials. There’s two points that I would make, even in the report last year: The scientists identified the pill in the baseball — not what it was actually composed of — but the centering of the pill in the baseball as something that could be a drag issue. To the extent that the pill is not perfectly centered, the ball wobbles when it’s hit, creates more drag. We think one of the things that may be happening is they’re getting better at centering the pill. It creates less drag.”
To expand on the less drag concept, apparently the ball has 3% less drag than in 2018 that would help the ball travel an extra five feet possibly increasing the homerun totals by 10 – 15% this season. Where does that 10 – 15% fit into things currently? Currently things are on pace for 19% more homeruns than 2018, and 9% more than 2017, the current record setting season. So, we have a discrepancy, but why?
One thing’s for certain, the ball is different and its more than the centering of the “pill” in the baseball, its smaller and harder for pitchers to grip when throwing breaking balls. Mike Montgomery while on the Chicago Cubs has had to abandon his 12-6 curve ball for a slider. “I’m moving toward sliders because with lower seams, you can’t get that same vertical break,” Montgomery said. That comment by Montgomery which he later confirmed he has had to abandon his 12-6 curve ball is troubling. If a pitcher is expecting a ball to break and it just hangs there that alone would lead to more homeruns without the 3% less drag. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve heard Steve Stone commentate the following, “he threw him a breaking ball that didn’t break, and he crushed it.” The one thing that we can take away from this is the baseball is different this season and its effecting the game, but that little pill more centered in the 2019 baseball may not be the only pill that’s changed in baseball.
Perhaps, it’s a new performance enhancing drug? Let’s be honest, it happened before, why not again? Maybe, the juiced ball is also getting crushed by juiced players. I mean, what better way to deflect the conversation away from players juicing by focusing on the new baseball and it’s so easy to create a MLB baseball conspiracy if you just lay out the facts and have the help of one of the best pitchers in the game. It couldn’t be laid out more perfectly, in fact, it’s almost like it was scripted. Manfred comments when taking over baseball that he’d like to see more offense, baseball buys Rawlings, 2017 homers spike with minor allegations of different baseballs, totals drop in 2018, record breaking numbers in 2019, MLB admits baseball is different, Verlander speaks out due to his frustrations, and baseball denies all allegations that it requested a change to the ball.
Meanwhile, everyone is ignoring the same possibility that they did back in the 90’s, that players are using performance enhancing drugs. I will tell you all right now, players are using performance enhancing drugs, I believe it, I don’t think it ever stopped and I don’t think baseball ever wanted it to stop. They use mediocre to low level players to take the fall occasionally to make it look like they are keeping the game clean, but are they really? Sure, you had some bigger names at the beginning, but no homerun leaders ever really took the fall outside of A-Rod. Going back to the issue at hand, I believe players are juicing and here’s why?
The steroid era in baseball as it’s commonly referred to was from 1992 -2006, where homeruns suddenly were at a premium, and players went from average sizes to Hulk sizes and no one really wanted to admit what was going on, at least MLB did not. I accepted it for what it was as it wasn’t illegal at the time, so was it really cheating like everyone screamed when the witch hunt began. There are no way steroids every went away or better put, there’s no way PEDs stopped in baseball. It was too big of an industry and too much of a money maker for baseball as the average fan loves homers and scoring. Since 1992, the start of the steroid/Bud Selig as commissioner era gross revenues are up 337%, which is an incredible number along with MLB cracking the $10 billion mark in 2018, and I’m sure the long ball is tied to it. So why should you believe players are juicing again or never stopped, here’s why.
I looked at MLB homers in specific segments of time that seems to point to quite convincing evidence that somethings not right with baseball. Since the steroid era was a 15-year timespan I looked at average homers the 15 years prior, the 15 years during, the post era which I considered 2007 – 2014, and what may go down as the juiced ball era 2015 – present; for calculating average I used 2015 – 2018.
1977 – 1991: 3,311 homeruns average per year
1992 – 2006: 4,794 homeruns average per year +1,483
2007 – 2014: 4,728 homeruns average per year – 66
2015 – 2018: 5,551 homeruns average per year +823
When I look at these numbers there’s no doubt in my mind that PED’s are running rampant in baseball. Last I heard MLB players are going to break the record by close to 500 homers that was set back in 2017 of 6,105. If the season total ends at 6,600 homers it would raise the average for the juiced ball era to 5,761 homeruns, thus running the average increase to +1,033 over the previous eight years. Also, in 2017 just over half of the teams in baseball hit 200 or more homers, but 2019 there are 23 teams on pace to do this and the Minnesota Twins are on pace for 314 homers crushing the Yankees record last year of 267. The Twins have obviously already crushed their own single season record.
What may be more incriminating is that in the 15 years of the steroid era only once did the homerun total eclipse 5,000, but now were about to eclipse over 5,000 homeruns for the fourth straight season and looking like over 6,000 in two of those seasons. How can we simply contribute that to a newer baseball since history would prove out players are juicing?