The Juiced - Low-Seam - Baseball, the Many Bullpen Options, and Other Cubs Bullets | Bleacher Nation

Social Navigation

The Juiced – Low-Seam – Baseball, the Many Bullpen Options, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I’m still binging MCU movies, in case you were deeply concerned why I haven’t mentioned them in this space often. I know, I know. You don’t care. But I have the keyboard.

Anyway, the nature of the lead-up to the Winter Meetings, and the Meetings themselves, are such that I don’t really have much in the way of chill-and-watch-a-movie time. And since I really want to watch these movies in a more immersive way than just putting them on in the background, over the past two weeks, I’ve only managed ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ (clearly inferior to the other Avengers flicks, and allowed itself to get a little too campy), ‘Ant-Man’ (Paul Rudd is just so delightful, man), ‘Captain America: Civil War’ (a better Avengers than Ultron, but I’ll note that Vision immediately starts being nowhere near as powerful as he was supposed to have been in Ultron, which has always bothered me), and ‘Doctor Strange’ (big fan of when the MCU gets cosmic and mystical, I’ll admit). It’s been a good stretch, but I’m *really* excited to get what’s coming in the run-up to ‘Infinity War.’

  • The transaction-heavy nature of the Winter Meetings are such that I’m not always able to get into big “other” baseball news until the Meetings conclude, so that’s why I’m about to barf out a load of bullets at you about the juiced baseball. MLB concluded its study into the baseball the last few years, and, surprise, it was juiced. And, surprise, it’s not at all certain they’ll be able to better control for it next year thanks to how dramatically fly ball distance can change based on teeny, tiny changes in seam height:

  • To be sure, MLB seems not to like that word “juiced,” seemingly because of the implication of intent or something inside the ball being different. Maybe I’m wrong to use it. But to me, “juiced” has always simply meant “something is different, physically, about the baseball, and it is impacting the way the ball flies.” And now we have, by MLB’s own admission, proof that the ball has been different at various times this year thanks to varying seam heights, which impacts drag.
  • Although MLB is also quick to point to changes in player behavior being a big contributor to the home run spike – and it was – they kinda end-run-around the idea that player behavior changed *because* of the changes to the baseball.
  • But why such an obscene spike in power this year in particular, when we know the ball started changing in 2017? Well, player behavior keeps getting more exaggerated, so that’s part of it, but also, here’s a pretty darn good theory:

  • That would also explain why the change from minor league balls to big league balls at AAA led to an even MORE pronounced offensive spike than you otherwise would have expected based on 2017 and 2018 data. I mean, it became silly season down there, and I can only hope they figure that part out, in addition to MLB. It makes player evaluation at the AAA level nearly impossible.
  • Rob Arthur has been on the baseball problems since way back before MLB was willing to admit there were issues, so his thoughts are worth a read, too:

  • The big question now: will things be the same next year? Unfortunately, the answer is maybe! Consider that the research study conceded that drag increased for the postseason (remember the suddenly de-juiced balls?), but it did NOT determine that seam heights were different in the postseason. So … uh … that strongly suggests that something else, physically, with the baseball can impact air drag besides just the seam height. The league, which owns the company that makes the baseballs, just doesn’t know what those physical issues are. So that’s cool.
  • Anyway, MLB’s research study did make some recommendations going forward: study the rubbing mud that is applied to baseballs to determine any impact on drag, tighter tracking on baseball batches and logging of which batches were used in which games, use uniform storage facilities in all ballparks, and improved atmospheric data tracking equipment at all ballparks.
  • Amazon’s ongoing 12 Days of Deals includes LEGO Star Wars today, which I was just doing with The Little Boy this morning. So that’s awesome. #ad
  • I was modestly disappointed when the Cubs didn’t pull off a fringe roster trade back in November at the rostering deadline to get one of those take-a-chance type relief arms, but it turns out they wound up with four of those types anyway: Jharel Cotton, CD Pelham, Dan Winkler, and now Rule 5 pick Trevor Megill (whom Jed Hoyer revealed the Cubs did try to trade for back in November). The nature of these fringe guys is such that none, individually, has a good chance of being a real contributor in the bullpen, but when you can stack up four of them together, you suddenly do have a pretty good shot at finding at least one Rowan Wick or Kyle Ryan type. Cubs will definitely need it, because right now, here are the certain guys in the bullpen:

Craig Kimbrel
Rowan Wick
Kyle Ryan

  • That is literally it. There are tons and tons of other young options in-house (in addition to the four above, there are Wieck, Mills, Maples, Norwood, Underwood, Alzolay, etc.), but none are guys you say, “Ah, yes, he’ll DEFINITELY be in the bullpen regardless of anyone else they add.” So, yeah. There are a lot of spots currently available to be won …
  • Good content:

  • Good news in the Bulls’ world, which is, of course, all relative:

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.