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Speculation grows that MLB changed baseballs for playoffs: Did it hurt the Twins?

Minnesota hit four homers in the three games they lost to the Yankees.
Nelson Cruz

Hindsight is 20-20, but did Major League Baseball un-juice the baseballs for the playoffs?

After a year of a record-setting home runs and suspicions that the baseballs were "juiced," eyebrows are raising after Baseball Prospectus published a column revealing data that suggests "air resistance in the playoffs has shot up to the highest level since 2016," writes data science consultant Rob Arthur. 

The result, according to Baseball Prospectus (paywall), is fewer home runs. And by a margin of nearly 50 percent compared to the regular season home run rate.  

"This is data coming from MLB's own pitch tracking system, and I confirmed it by looking at how many homers you would expect to see based on exit velocity+launch angle+park effects," Arthur wrote in a tweet. 

Arthur goes on to say the weather hasn't played much of a role in increasing drag on the baseball, with his suspicion being that changes were intentionally made for the playoffs to reduce homers. 

"The speed and magnitude of the change and the timing of it aligning so perfectly with the playoffs makes it much harder to believe this was a random manufacturing accident. In the past, drag has drifted around slowly during the course of the season, but this was massive & abrupt," Arthur says. 

The Twins were swept by the Yankees in three games, but it's hard to blame Minnesota's continued playoff misery on anything more than the fact that Twins batters were 3-for-28 with runners in scoring position during the best-of-five series. 

Plus, the Twins launched three homers in Game 1 and one more in Game 3 for a total of four long balls in three games. New York, which hit 306 homers during the regular season, hit five homers in the series but was a far better 11-of-34 with runners in scoring position. 

The Twins and Yankees had numerous deep fly balls and line drives that maybe would've gone over the wall with the baseballs that were used in the regular season (assuming there actually is a difference with the baseballs used in the playoffs), but we'd be splitting hairs trying to blame an MLB record 16-game losing streak in the postseason on the baseballs. 

You can read Arthur's full thread here

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