Home runs are way up in 2019 to the point that they are on pace to shatter the league record for home runs in a season. Observers started noting as early as April that home run rates were up, and it is certainly being noticed by pitchers.
MLB’s new homer-happy environment and its admission that the balls are different led to a fiery rant from Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander:
“It’s a f—— joke,” Verlander told ESPN. “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—— 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. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It’s not coincidence. We’re not idiots.”
The former MVP has allowed a league-high 26 home runs thus far in 2019, which is just 4 shy of his career-high for a season.
Max Scherzer was asked about the juiced ball argument and his response seemed like a clear shot at Verlander.
“We can all see the ball is definitely traveling differently,” said the three-time Cy Young. “The commissioner has even come out and said so. The drag is just different. Yeah, the ball’s different. But you can’t cry about it. You gotta go out there and pitch. I’m not gonna cry about it. Our hitters get to hit with it.”
Pitcher on pitcher violence.
Meanwhile, Max Scherzer has been going crazy on the mound since late May:
One day after Verlander’s comments, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred responded:
“Baseball has done nothing, given no direction for an alteration in the baseball,” Manfred told reporters Tuesday. “The flaw in logic is that baseball wants more home runs. If you sat in owners meetings and listen to people on how the game is played, that is not a sentiment among the owners for whom I work.”
Manfred also said “there is no evidence from scientists that the ball is harder” but acknowledged that “the drag of the baseball is less.”
“Pitchers have raised issues particularly about the tackiness and seams on the baseball, and we do believe those could be issues,” Manfred said.
Chicks dig the long ball.