clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tigers’ Justin Verlander thinks the ball is juiced... because it is

An emoji is worth a thousand words.

Detroit Tigers v Texas Rangers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Batters are hitting an unprecedented number of home runs this year. As of right now there have been 4693 home runs this season, with several weeks still to go. That’s more than were hit in 2014, 2013, 2011, 2010... heck if you want to go crazy, every season from 1995 back has a lower home run tally than we have so far in 2017.

The number to beat is 2000’s 5693, something teams came close to doing last year withe 5610.

Point being, there have been a lot of home runs this year, and it would seem like 2017 is on pace to have one of the biggest totals in baseball history. Giancarlo Stanton is on pace to hit 60, which won’t come close to touching Barry Bonds’ record of 73, but is impressive nevertheless.

While hitters might be enjoying the good luck, pitchers have weighed in extensively on what they believe are “juiced” balls, or balls that have been changed in some way to make a home run more likely. The Ringer did a comprehensive investigation that at least, in part, agrees with the pitchers.

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman didn’t mince words when he was pulled from a July game because of a blister.

“I’ve never had a blister ever in my life. Nothing even remotely close to having a blister. It’s crazy. It’s extremely frustrating. I feel like it’s an epidemic that’s happened across the big leagues now. A bunch of pitchers getting blisters. Guys who have never had blisters before. For MLB to turn their back to it, I think that’s kind of crazy. I have no theory. But, obviously, it’s not a coincidence that it’s happening to so many guys all of a sudden. It’s not a coincidence.”

Other pitchers, like Los Angeles DodgersRich Hill, Red Sox pitcher David Price, and San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto have also experienced blister issues this season, most of them for the first time, which many are pointing to the new balls as the source of.

The cause seems to be as a result from a change to the seams of the ball, forcing pitchers to adjust how they hold it, and causing blisters to occur.

Pitchers have not been shy about publicly voicing their opinion that the balls are different. And this time it was Tigers’ pitcher Justin Verlander weighing in, with a not so subtle use of emojis. When ESPN’s Buster Olney commented on the number of batters with more than twenty home runs this season, Verlander replied:

Now, some took the need to say Verlander was implying the players were juicing, but he was quick to kibosh that interpretation.

Whether or not you believe the balls have been juiced — and if they have been the only logical reason would be in order to increase the excitement level in games (and thus increase viewership) by adding more home runs — the point is that pitchers across both leagues have noticed a difference.

What this means for the quality of pitching we’ve seen this season is hard to say, because some pitchers have been excelling, where others have stumbled thanks to injury or other ineffable factors. Some are claiming it’s simply a matter of the batters getting bigger, and that’s hard to disagree with when looking at Aaron Judge, but also doesn’t explain everything.

The home run numbers have shot up, and naturally pitchers will be unhappy about that, but there may be something to say for their complaints that the balls are different.