Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka Thinks Baseballs 'Don't Feel Right' This Season

Alex Greenberg
July 10, 2019 - 3:20 pm
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Something is different about the baseballs being used in MLB this season.

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Justin Verlander sparked some controversy over the All-Star break when he explained his belief that Major League Baseball is juicing the balls this year to increase offensive numbers around the league. The Astros pitcher called the balls “a f---ing joke” and even went as far as to claim that the league bought Rawlings, the company that makes the baseballs, in order to change the balls to their liking.

Verlander’s account of the baseballs feeling different has now been backed up by Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka spoke about the issue, through a translator, to NJ.com.

“Probably the right word to say is, it just doesn’t feel right," Tanaka told the site. "Feels like the ball is a little bit harder and it feels like the seams are a little bit lower … I feel like there’s room for conversation on the topic (of the balls being juiced).”

Even MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has acknowledged that the balls are different this year, but he denied the notion that the league is altering the balls on purpose to change outcomes of games.

“Baseball has done nothing, given no direction, for an alteration of the baseball,” Manfred told reporters in Cleveland over the All-Star break. “If we were going to do it, we would do it in a way that was transparent to the media and fans before making that change.”

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Home runs are up about 60% from the 2014 season. In recent years, the game has become more about strikeouts and homers than about putting the ball in play and getting runners on base. These changes have upset baseball purists, and those who stand to get hurt the most by an increase in offense: the pitchers.

Masahiro Tanaka pitches in the 2019 All-Star Game
USA TODAY Images

Tanaka and Verlander aren’t the only ones who have complained. CC Sabathia, Marcus Stroman, Jacob deGrom and others have also voiced their concern about what appear to be changes with the baseballs.

Meanwhile, as expected, a few hitters have pushed back against the notion that the balls are juiced. 

Verlander has allowed the most home runs in the Majors this year, but Tanaka hasn’t exactly been shelled. The 30-year-old righty is 5-5 with a 3.86 ERA and 16 home runs allowed so far this season. He picked up the victory in this year’s All-Star Game after throwing a scoreless second inning.

Manfred insists that Major League Baseball has “scientists” looking into the issue. He has claimed that the change in feel and stats is because the baseballs are all handmade and thus each ball can vary. Tanaka isn't buying that excuse.

"I think that MLB is saying that the balls are being handmade, then it (home run totals) shouldn’t just be going up. There should be a down, also."

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