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Mitch Garver thinks MLB changed baseballs for the playoffs

Add Garver to the growing list of people who think changes were made.
Mitch Garver

Stopped following the MLB playoffs as soon as the Twins were swept by the Yankees?

Not much has changed, with pitching dominating on a nightly basis. It's largely due to the fact that guys like Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander are on the mound, but there's still a lot of speculation that fewer home runs and lower final scores have something to do with a change in the baseballs. 

Some data scientists, according to Baseball Prospectus, concluded recently that the baseballs used in the playoffs are quite a bit different from what was employed during the regular season, when home run rates were at record levels and the Twins set the MLB record with 307 homers. 

Twins catcher Mitch Garver, who slugged 31 homers in just 93 games during the regular season before going 2-for-12 with zero homers in the playoffs, tweeted Sunday night that "the new baseballs for the postseason are an adjustment." 

Among the responses to Garver's tweet was a follower who joked that the baseballs aren't "juiced" anymore. 

Garver's reply: "Most say juiced, some say fair. You see these arms in the game right? Nearly un-hittable. That way a barreled ball in the air doesn’t get caught at the wall." 

Enter Devin Fink, a writer for FanGraphs whose data backs up Garver's observation that balls players "barreled" during the regular season for hits and home runs haven't created equal success in October. 

"During the regular season, a barrel was a home run 59.6% of the time," Fink tweeted. "During the postseason, just 49.0% of barrels have gone for homers (into tonight)."

Barreling a ball is the MLB's way of saying a batter crushed a pitch.

"To be Barreled, a batted ball requires an exit velocity of at least 98 mph. At that speed, balls struck with a launch angle between 26-30 degrees always garner Barreled classification. For every mph over 98, the range of launch angles expands."

Fink noted that the average exit velocity in the postseason has been harder than it was in the regular season, which, if barreled, should have a great chance to be a homer. 

  • Regular season: 104.6 mph
  • Postseason: 105.3 mph

Launch angles have also gone mostly unchanged, going from an average of 26 degrees in the regular season to 25.8 degrees in the postseason. 

But to definitely say the Twins were swept by the Yankees in the best-of-five American League Divisional Series because of un-juiced baseballs doesn't add up because the Yankees had to hit the same baseballs. 

New York slugged five homers to Minnesota's four in the series, but was far superior with runners in scoring position, going 11-for-34 while the Twins were a measly 3-for-28. 

That said, the St. Louis Cardinals' front office, after nearly being no-hit by Anibal Sanchez and Scherzer in back-to-back games of the National League Championship Series against the Nationals, has taken a public stance about the baseballs used in the playoffs, according to Sports Illustrated

Even Yankees manager Aaron Boone speculated that the ball was flying a little different during Game 3 against the Twins in Minnesota. 

“I’m going to ask our guys what we’ve got,” Boone said, via SI. “There may be a couple of balls in Minnesota that seemed like maybe they could have gone a little further. Whether that’s the cooler weather, those kind of things, I don’t know. I’m just hearing about this now. I don’t know what to make of that.”

The Baseball Prospectus article said temperature has very little to do with the resistance a baseball faces, and it should be noted that temperatures were gorgeous for the one game the Twins played in Minneapolis against New York. 

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