Great minds agree or don’t
Both players said what their senses told them. Baseballs were slicker in 2017 than in prior years and remain slick now, but perhaps they feel more slippery – slipperier, whatever – to the Atlanta Braves catcher because he noticed the higher seams and subconsciously decided MLB had changed everything again?
MLB making changes to the ball shouldn’t surprise anyone, nor should raising the seams slightly as the solution to too many homers and not enough base hits shock you.
In 2018, Dr. Meredith Willis investigated the baseballs and found only two significant differences in materials between earlier baseballs and those used in the 2107 home run surge; the size of the pill and the thickness of the laces. MLB has since restored the pill and adjusted the ball so that the coefficient of restitution is closer to the optimum design. In other words, the ball was returned to its original specifications, not deadened.
The thicker laces were highlighted as a potential cause of the blister epidemic in 2016-2017 and contributed to the home run surge. Thicker laces meant tighter lacing and lower seams that prevented pitchers from picking at the laces to induce spin.
She concluded all of this was an unintended consequence of improving manufacturing Rawlings’ processes and probably went unnoticed because seam height wasn’t something they had to measure.
It’s also reasonable to assume that raising the seam was the quickest way to restore drag to pre-surge level, and work continues on a ball that doesn’t require an added substance for grip.
Get a grip!
When MLB cracked down on Spider Tack and other illicit sticky concoctions, they said research on a standard replacement like the tacky baseball used in Japan was underway. Rosenthal noted that an experimental ball was used in a few AAA games last year, but Major League pitchers who used it weren’t impressed.
Undeterred (apparently), MLB is trying a new version of that ball in the Texas League this season. So far, pitchers like it, or at least they haven’t complained about it.