This World Series feels different. Just ask the pitchers.
There’s long been speculation that the baseballs have been different in recent years, leading to a soaring home run rate.
But in this year’s Fall Classic, the feel of the baseballs is creating problems for pitchers, especially when it comes to throwing their sliders, according to a report from Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci.
“It’s different. I noticed it especially throwing a slider,” Justin Verlander said. “It didn’t feel the same. The home run I gave up to [Joc]Pederson was a slider.”
Yu Darvish, a slider-reliant pitcher who struggled mightily in Game 3, also noticed the difference.
“I had trouble with the ball throwing a slider,” Darvish said. “It was slicker.”
Pitchers on both squads have also suffered, especially Houston closer Ken Giles.
Giles, who threw his slider 47 percent of the time in the regular season and pitched to a 2.30 ERA while nailing down 34 saves, has been atrocious in October, allowing 10 runs in 7.2 innings (11.74 ERA). His performance in the World Series (five runs in 1.2 innings, 27.00 ERA) has deteriorated even further.
Verducci explains that Giles’ slider effectiveness has been a huge culprit. While his slider missed the strike zone 51 percent in the regular season, he’s missed with it 74 percent of the time this postseason, including 75 percent in the World Series alone. Since he can no longer control his best pitch, Giles’ fastball has been demolished, with Dodgers hitters batting .800 against it.
And while Charlie Morton and Alex Wood — the Game 4 starters for both sides — don’t throw sliders, Morton said the different ball still influenced his pitch selection.
“It affects running my two-seamer in to right-handers,” Morton said. “When the ball is slick, you can’t throw in with the same aggressiveness. If you don’t have control of the baseball, you might end somebody’s career. That’s a very bad thought to have in your head.”
Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt summed up the seriousness of the situation, saying MLB needs to resolve the baseball issue once and for all.
“I know guys have been talking about the ball,” Honeycutt said. “I also know that MLB has been talking for a while about maybe a ball that’s more like the ball in Japan, where the leather is tackier so that you can use it right out of the wrapper. I think something has to be done.”