Fun With Conspiracies: The Baseball *WAS* Partly De-Juiced in the Postseason

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Fun With Conspiracies: The Baseball *WAS* Partly De-Juiced in the Postseason

Chicago Cubs

If last week feels like a month ago, I can only imagine how long ago the last postseason feels. The Nationals won it all, right? Every road team won every game in the World Series? Cubs didn’t qualify? Something like that?

So, putting ourselves back in that brain space for a moment, you might recall that, despite the 2019 regular season operating like the most juiced ball year ever. After years of increasing juiciness, and scientists and statistical analysts all saying, yeah, the balls are different, MLB finally admitted that, yes, there were issues with the seams on the newer baseballs that were likely producing less drag (thus longer flight), and also some other unknown factors that were causing more distance. Combined with players increasingly buying into, and properly-effectuating, improvements to the launch angle associated with their swing (the Fly Ball Revolution), home run rates exploded so rapidly to an extent that it arguably made the sport not quite something we actually wanted.

To that end, MLB conceded that it was going to try to “de-juice” the balls going forward, so to speak, and we anecdotally noticed that balls seemed not to be flying as well in the postseason. Pitchers noticed. Outfielders noticed. Managers, hitters, pundits, and so on. But MLB denied that they had hastily swapped in de-juiced balls for the postseason. It was yet another source of controversy and drama focused on the ball, itself, instead of the players. And the data sure didn’t look good – but MLB insisted that postseason batches of balls are pulled from regular season batches, so there couldn’t be a difference.

Well, now the scientists and statistical analysts have gotten their hands on 2019 postseason balls, and … surprise! Unintentionally or not, some of them were de-juiced because they were actually from 2018 or earlier, and others were de-juiced because the seam heights once again varied wildly:

Among the possible explanations here are either that Rawlings (which is owned by MLB) goofed in where it was gathering its 2019 postseason balls for stamping, or some de-juiced balls were intentionally added into the mix but later denied. Neither looks good for MLB on an issue where they have, for years, lost any semblance of credibility. Suffice to say: if the scientists and analysts tell me the ball was different (again) in the postseason, I believe the scientists and analysts.

The hope going forward is that the production process – and the league’s transparency about it – both improve to the point where the 2020 baseball is more uniform, and, ideally, has a little more drag than 2019. We saw the impact using the 2019 big league ball had on AAA (it made player evaluation almost impossible and limited player development for a number of guys), and we saw the historic home run numbers getting way out of whack from even the height of the Steroid Era.

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.