There is not team in baseball that more epitomized 2019 than the Minnesota Twins. In the era of the juiced ball, the Twins embraced the way to win in 2019—hit lots of bombas, and let the pitching keep them more-or-less in the game. Recent revelations by Baseball Prospectus’ Rob Arthur seems to have found a trend in the home run data, which suggests that the ball being used in the postseason is different than the ball used the rest of the year.
Air resistance in the playoffs has shot up to the highest level since 2016, causing fewer homers. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that the postseason baseball is totally different than the one used in the regular season. https://t.co/U4NBMd05k9 pic.twitter.com/bdIl09blQF— Rob Arthur (@No_Little_Plans) October 10, 2019
The actual article is behind a paywall, but there is a series of tweets linked to the one above, which gives you a pretty good idea of the theory. In a nutshell, his findings are as follows:
- The baseball has a much higher drag coefficient in the postseason than it did in the rest of 2019.
- Based on a combination of Exit Velocity, Launch Angle, and Park Factors, Arthur believes that home runs are about 50% lower than they should be.
- The timing and magnitude of the change suggest that this wasn’t random, but intentionally happened to reduce the number of “cheap” homers in the postseason
- Weather and temperature are not enough of a factor to explain things away.
Various other folks around baseball Twitter are starting to wonder and discuss as well, and apparently unverified sources are suggesting that the MLB intentionally switched back to the old, pre-2018, un-juiced baseball; and/or introduced a new, dead ball for the postseason.
Question: Hearing privately that MLB made an official announcement that they were specifically introducing a deadened ball for the postseason. Did I miss something? If so, does someone have a reference? (Not just postseason play being different. The actual ball.)— Meredith Wills (@Bbl_Astrophyscs) October 10, 2019
Given that the Twins had a record number of players hit 20 home runs this season, and set a team record, they were always going to be most hurt by changes like this, but add in the fact that their pitching was just-good-enough, not having that excessive offense to make up for it would certainly have sunk their offseason odds.
I’m sure you can already think of several hard-hit balls in the ALDS, especially game three, that might have been out if the rabbit-ball was still in play. What if Aaron Judge doesn’t catch a couple of those deep flies that would have been over any normal human’s head anyway? With runners on base, would they have scored, and would it have made a difference? Would it have kept the Target Field crowd in the game? Maybe a couple of the doubles the Twins did hit, would have dropped over the wall?
I’m not saying the Twins got screwed over for sure, and it may not have made a difference, but there is a greater-than-zero chance that if the ball was changed, it also impacted the Twins. Either way, the fact that Rob Manfred keeps messing with the baseball to change the game, and we have to have this conversation is ridiculous. The fact that we even have this suspicion is bad for the game.