Two For Tuesday: Cole and juiced balls


On a midsummer Tuesday following a video game Home Run Derby – let’s look at a couple subjects.

Has Gerrit Cole surpassed Justin Verlander as the Astros’ ace?

Even as late as the end of May this seemed like a silly question. Cole had ridiculous strikeout numbers but his ERA and W-L did not match up with JV. At the end of May they looked like the following:

Name W-L ERA WHIP HRS/9 IP BBs/9 IP Ks /9 IP
Cole 5-5 4.02 1.047 1.5 2.26 14.2
Verlander 8-2 2.27 0.784 1.48 1.94 10.8

However if you look at how each of them has performed through June and the beginning of July:

Name W-L ERA WHIP HRS/9 IP BBs/9 IP Ks /9 IP
Cole 4-0 1.60 0.978 1.0 2.0 11.6
Verlander 2-2 4.18 0.951 2.42 1.90 11.0

A couple things are interesting here.

First, Cole’s improvement has been tied to a reduction in K’s / 9 IP and an improvement in HRs / 9 IP allowed. His WHIP is just down a little, but his ERA is so much better. He has obviously done a better job of getting outs without wearing himself out as much with Ks.

On the other hand, Verlander (see his complaint below) has one place to look for most of his slide down since May and that is on a huge 2.42 HRs/ 9 IP allowed. His WHIP is worse, but the big problem he has had is in allowing so many HRs.

So is Cole the new ace or is this just a short term swap of roles. In 2018, both pitchers were excellent with JV just slightly more excellent.  This year, JV is still slightly ahead in overall performance, but that is getting ready to flip.

Bottom line, Cole has a lot in common with the US Mint. They are both making a lot of money lately. Cole should sign a huge contract in the off-season and it will not likely be here.

As friend of the blog AC45 pointed out, Justin Verlander made claims at the All Star Game festivities that the MLB through their purchase of Rawlings had purposely juiced baseballs to raise the scoring and excitement in the game.

https://www.chron.com/sports/astros/article/Justin-Verlander-blames-MLB-for-juiced-baseballs-14082029.php

Does it matter and do you care?

I’m sure to purists it does matter if the ball has been juiced in order to artificially amp up the excitement in the most calm and cerebral of the 3 major sports in the U.S.  Baseball is headed for another record breaking year in total HRs. The HR Derby was insane as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit 91 total HRs (enough to make Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa blush) and lost. Runs are sexy and home runs are apparently super-sexy.

One question sticks out when it comes to Justin Verlander. Is it purely juiced baseballs or is it also baseballs being thrown very hard and high in the strike zone with super spin that hitters are looking for now? It feels like some of both.

The bigger question is does this matter to the normal fan as long as both teams are hitting the same baseball – juiced or not?

When Alex Bregman hits a respectable 16 HRs in the Home Run Derby and then says he may have to quit the derby because he just can’t compete, it makes one wonder. Baseball has always had a lot of appeal to the everyday fan, because most of the players are the size of them or their neighbors. Are we headed to an era when the players are all Aaron Judges, Giancarlo Stantons – behemoths built like power forwards or tight ends?

Maybe it does not matter much now, but maybe someday it will.

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68 comments on “Two For Tuesday: Cole and juiced balls

  1. As for me, I don’t really care if the ball is juiced, the bats are corked, or the pine tar is laced with steroids. I just want the MLB Commissioner to [a] be HONEST – because no one likes a liar, and [b] be FAIR to all teams, because you most deinitely don’t exactly have that reputation.

    Meanwhile, I have a question. Does the MLB commissioner’s office have even a semblance of credibility at all with any Houston Astros fan?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The facts are that balls are flying out of the park at an all time rate. I think some of the major contributors are likely:

    – Better conditioning programs that are tailored to the individual player and carried out on a year- round basis
    – Analytics are allowing batters to approach pitchers with a better plan of attack
    – Increased launch angles are putting more balls in the air
    – Sign steeling/ pitch tipping is more of an art than ever before

    The increase in HRs over the last few years is fairly linear to the increase in the aforementioned points, so I don’t think there is clear support for the juiced ball theory.

    However, there is one stat that I think unequivocally supports the theory. The fact that immediately upon introduction of the MLB ball at AAA home run rates increased drastically. As a whole, minor league home run rates had incrementally increased over the past few years and continue to do so at every level other than AAA.

    Regardless of whether the current ball is hotter, the way I see it is that every team uses the same ball and therefore all share the same advantages/ disadvantages.

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  3. As far as Cole and JV, I think this is just, as you called it ‘a short-term swap of roles’. I remember earlier in the year when everyone was saying Colin McHugh was our new ace – See Chipalatta post of April 18. That didn’t age well. Neither, I suspect, will all the current ‘OMG, Cole is even better than Verlander’ hoopla.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Man what kind of idiot working at this website wrote that post about McHugh being the ace?
      Well to paraphrase a line from Home Alone 2 – “The finest in Houston.”

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  4. Verlander surely has pissed off the stuffed shirts at MLB. And as far as I’m concerned, he’s got a lot more credibility than Manfred. But I think he’ll get fined for having a shared opinion. I don’t think they’d dare pile on and suspend Jake and him too though.

    I just don’t understand how our Astros are seemingly becoming the bad guys of MLB. We know it’s a great clubhouse full of good souls.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The Astros have worked out an extension with Verlander and they haven’t worked out one with Cole. The way things are going right now Cole and Verlander are two aces and Cole is pitching like a #1 now, whereas JV was pitching like the #1 earlier in the year. I don’t think it matters who is #1, but I will look forward to the time this year when they are both getting the results of a #1 guy.
    The baseballs have changed. MLB has overseen the change and as long as every player and every team is using the same ball, I am OK with it. What worries me is the fact that pitchers are losing innings pitched because of it. Managers have to be mindful of the fact that the balls are juiced for their hitters, too and that just because a guy has given up 3 home runs doesn’t mean he should be taken out, because your team could easily come back with the ball the way it is.
    This is happening right now because I can’t remember facing a team lately that doesn’t have a bullpen that has been over worked. And an overworked bullpen is the result of pulling starters earlier. This situation is not very healthy for relief pitchers and the league juiced the ball but didn’t have a plan to fix what the juiced ball was going to destroy. A rested bullpen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perhaps we could go to a six man rotation. It would probably necessitate an increase of the active duty roster to 26 though.

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    • I can’t seem to find any info on time of game for 2019 to date, but it would seem to me that the more we use the pen, the longer the game will take.

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    • The problem with being OK with everyone using the same ball theory (which is fine by itself), but coupled with the fact that pitchers are having arm troubles at an epidemic & alarming rate, the league has chosen to favor hitters in this regard, and presumably scoring.

      Since Verlander has 15 years invested in a legacy he’s trying to protect among peers like Walter Johnson and Nolan Ryan, I can understand his problem with the dishonesty, and ball changes.

      One need look no further than the HR Frazier hit in Gm3 ALCS to start thinking, there’s something way different with this ball.

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  6. First question: NO….Verlander was and is THE Ace of this staff. Justin was the Ace in Detroit when Garrett Cole was still in braces. Who know if Cole will still be an Ace when he is Verlander’s age…..but probably not.
    I watched Justin talk about the “juiced” balls this morning, and read an article about it this afternoon, with some cuss words not fit for this blog!
    He’s *NOT* the only pitcher who has said the same thing. So stay tuned if he gets a call from Bud Selig….I mean Manfred (same men different name).
    This mornings paper said MLB is still looking at the play involving Jake……makes me angry just thinking about it, because they printed what Ausmus said. I’ll cross my fingers that the American League wins again this year!

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  7. JV 2018 to 2019:

    WHIFF % up 31.8 to 32.8
    Meatball % down 9.1 to 6.9

    This suggests that he is throwing more quality pitches, fooling more people and making fewer mistakes than ever.

    It looks like hitters are sitting on the fastball. More people are out ahead and pulling the ball. They are swinging at 81.9% of mistakes.

    Meatball swing % up 77.6 to 81.9
    Pull % up 35.1 to 38.9

    There is additional support for the argument that hitters are strictly sitting dead red. Slugging is up on the FB, but down on every other pitch. FB swings don’t hit movement.

    SLG on 4- seam up .397 to .583
    SLG on Slider down .335 to .236
    SLG on Curve down .194 to .188

    The biggest support for sitting on the heater is found in the pitch that looks most like a FB before it breaks. Check out the drop in SLG on the changeup! That’s a lot of fooled hitters.

    SLG Avg. on Changeup down .619 to .292

    Hitters are selling out on the FB, putting the ball in the air and hoping for a HR. With a 0.81 WHIP what else can you do?

    Consider this:

    1) JV has only given up 76 hits and 27 BB in 126.2 IP. Take out his 26 HR and you get a WHIP of only 0.610!

    2) He has given up only 42 ER in 2019. 33 of those are a result of HR. Take out the HR and his ERA would be .064!

    No one is hitting much of anything, and the only runs being scored are off the long ball.

    I think in the 2nd half JV tweaks his sequencing a bit and replaces a few more sliders with the changeup. He will get back to his norm of keeping the ball in the yard and when he does he will be untouchable.

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  8. I agree that as long as the same ball for each team is used, it makes little to no difference. Each ballpark has different distance dimensions and fence dimensions (in the outfield). But to get honesty from the Commissioner’s office will never happen. That started with Judge Landis and has not ended YET. And each league is plagued by the same problem.

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  9. Home Runs, you say?

    Last year the Yankees led all teams with 267 dingers on the year. This year they’ve hit 149 through 88 games. If they keep this rate up, they’ll hit 274.

    Last year the 2nd highest dinger numbers belonged to the Dodgers, with 235. This year so far, in 92 games, they have hit 146. That has them on pace for 259.

    Third place in dinger-smashing last year went to the As with 227. This year they have 145 in 92 games. They are on pace for 246.

    Fourth place in dingers last year was Milwaukee with 218. This year they’ve already hit 155 in 91 games – on pace for 275.

    Our own Astros hit 205 homers in 2018; this year, through 90 games, we’ve hit 142. That puts us on pace for 255.

    Those are some pretty hefty increases.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Interesting article where Bob Nightengale asks the question:

    “But what if there is more to it? What if it’s as though we’ve gone back to the 1990s, and we’re being naive? What if doping is back in a big way?”

    “You can’t help but wonder,” said Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black. “You don’t want to, but I think we all have our suspicions.’’

    If steroids are back it would explain why the balls are smaller (tongue in cheek).

    On a serious note, I do find Black’s comments disturbing.

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2019/07/08/mlb-as-home-runs-fly-at-record-pace-doping-steroid-question-returns/1662455001/

    Below are HR totals by year 2000-2018. After more rigid drug testing was in place, HR totals went back close to the pre- steroid era. They seemed to have stayed at that level until around 2015. At the current pace 2019 will end with just shy of 6,700.

    AL NL Tot Yr
    2,688 3,005 5,693 2000
    2,506 2,952 5,458 2001
    2,464 2,595 5,059 2002
    2,499 2,708 5,207 2003
    2,605 2,846 5,451 2004
    2,437 2,580 5,017 2005
    2,546 2,840 5,386 2006
    2,252 2,705 4,957 2007
    2,270 2,608 4,878 2008
    2,560 2,482 5,042 2009
    2,209 2,404 4,613 2010
    2,271 2,281 4,552 2011
    2,500 2,434 4,934 2012
    2,504 2,157 4,661 2013
    2,025 2,161 4,186 2014
    2,275 2,634 4,909 2015
    2,657 2,953 5,610 2016
    3,170 2,935 6,105 2017
    2,900 2,685 5,585 2018

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  11. Rrj…I really hope Bauer is not on the radar. He has made no secret that he only wants a one year deal. I’d hate to give up 4-5 studs for him, PLUS his personality leaves a lot to be desired. Not exactly a warm and fuzzy kind of guy.

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  12. I loved that every Astros position player got a hit and Verlander’s back and forth with Freeman was the best part of my All-Star game.

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  13. Balls are flying out of parks faster than my hair fell out in my 20s. Aladdin, childs play, men in Black, and now Little mermaid . What the hell year IS this?!🙀

    Like

  14. A series of MLBtraderumors articles with Astro content

    Whitley – backing up what op just posted
    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2019/07/pitcher-notes-stroman-felix-gore-whitley.html

    Rumors of Astro interest in Mets’ Noah Syndergaaaaaaaard
    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2019/07/noah-syndergaard-rumors-brewers-astros.html

    Gerrit Cole talking about impending free agency (I find this unusual in that normal response is – “I’m just worried about winning my next game – the contract stuff will take care of itself in the offseason”
    https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2019/07/gerrit-cole-discusses-potential-trip-to-free-agency.html

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    • It’s pretty clear that Cole wants his shot at free agency. It’s also clear that if the Astros have the money, he would consider listening to their offer because he likes the team.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dan P’s interpretation –
        If the Astros offer less, but close to a team that does not check the boxes (White Sox?) he would choose the Astros
        If the Astros offer less, but close to a team that does check the boxes (Yankees?) Bye bye Cole

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      • He is going to be in the AAA All star game with Tucker – so that is pretty good – but apparently the way he toughed out 6 innings when their bullpen really needed it did not resonate with the organization

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      • If I had one complaint about the Astros it would be the same players getting chance after chance when there are better options.

        Heck why not stretch out James? He was originally in the running for the rotation anyway!

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  15. I don’t like that Manfred felt it necessary to juice the baseball in order to gain new fans. Will more runs attract more fans? I don’t buy it. Kids that play baseball will want to go to MLB games. Start there. Get more kids playing. There are other ways to market the sport without screwing with its integrity. Let the game evolve on its own. Let hitters learn to go against a shift. Let pitchers learn how to use what pitches they throw best to their advantage. If Manfred wants to use technology, maybe figure out a way to get balls and strikes called the same way every night at every park.

    Garrit Cole or Justin Verlander right now? I lean towards Cole because he might have more quality innings left in him this year. How many guys throw 101 in the 7th inning? But at the same time, how many guys would you want to have on the mound for a big game than Verlander? Not many. I feel pretty good about having both guys for now. Luhnow needs one more.

    I’m pretty sure the clubhouse would get a boost on hearing of a deal for Trevor Bauer. Everyone wants to win the prize. He’d help. And if he does not want to extend past 2020, no big deal. Luhnow will figure something else out.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. With Cole, Miley and McHugh all becoming free agents at the end of the season and with Corbin Martin likely out for next year, and Bukauskas pitching meh and with Whitley acting like a third grader and pitching like a third rater (and even with McCullers hopefully coming back) you would think that if the front office does give up assets for a pitcher that it won’t be for a rental like Bauer.
    But when – when – when – have I ever been right in trying to figure out this front office. So forget everything I said.
    I will bet they have a good shot at re-signing Miley on a two year deal if they so wish.

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      • Thanks, my mistake – I keep remembering his statement that he is going to be year to year – but that just meant he would not take a contract to buy out his arb years (and he won’t sign a multi-year free agent contract) – which is in many ways admirable. He is banking on his ability to pitch well year to year and not be some long term millstone around an organization’s neck

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  17. But on the flip side, why would Cleveland unload Bauer now? They are right in the hunt for a wild card slot and only 5.5 behind the Twins. If I’m an Indian fan and they folded on me now, I’d quit.

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    • 56. He was pretty good. And he wrote the first real book on what our hero’s did when they were not being hero’s. My father did not think I should read that book as a teenager. Last week I made a reference to Joe Schultz, Seattle Pilot manager. I got that from Ball Four.

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      • Read it my senior year. Just picked it up on a whim. Kind of made me look at ball players different. Good read.

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      • Yeah it was an eye opener for a naive kid to read about his favorite sport.
        Around that time I also read Instant Replay by Jerry Kramer of the Packers that gave great insight into pro football and Vince Lombardi.

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  18. So , Rob Manfred sent his goons into the AL clubhouse, took Verlander aside from his teammates and then showed him video clips of The Godfather to remind him of what happens to players who open their mouths. Verlander comes out of the meeting with his racehorse still in one piece and a new story coming out of his mouth.
    Horse Dookie!

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  19. Trying to figure out where the Astros stand in their draft signings and their slot money/allowed overslot money to avoid losing a draft pick next year is like doing a research paper.
    The way I have it figured, signing #11 pick, Ryan Gusto to a $421, 700 signing bonus has the Astros near-maxxed out. They probably have enough left to sign their #32 pick, Oscar Carvajal of Fresno State, to a tiny bonus. Since he is a junior, I could see him going back to school.
    With the deadline to sign draft picks just a few days away, I think the Astros move on to the next big deal, trade deadline.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. One might wonder if there was a hint of an indication that the silence of a Verlander might go a ways in determining the fate of another Astros player, should another Astros player be considered for a some kind of discipline in the near future. Mere speculation on my part, of course.
    It was interesting that Torre and Leyland were named in this meeting, but nobody gave out the name of the third league goon who was there with Verlander. He’s the one who smelled like a fish.

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  21. The Royals have decided to bring Bubba Starling to the majors. That wouldn’t have meant much to me had I not seen his name in the lineup from last night’s AAA All-Star game in which the PCL whipped up on the International League.

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  22. In a perfect world, Jake would appeal his ridiculous suspension and undisclosed fine and would win, hands down. But in the real world of Major League Baseball, this is part of a bigger deal, all choreographed to advance the Commissioner’s agenda. There is no fair arbiter. There is no way to ‘win’ against the corrupt system.

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    • I like others call BS on this but PC is creeping into the Baseball world. I’ve watched the collision about as many as most have and here’s my take. Jake comes down the line mas rapido and sees Lucroy at the plate. He decides to take the inside track to the plate as Lucroy steps in front of the plate and inside the baseline to receive the ball. At the same time Jake is attempting to slide head first to the plate. I’m sure the league felt like Jake should have gone to the outside, behind Lucroy, and sliding safely into home. Of course there’s nothing like a “Monday Morning Quarterback” making the decision. If you believe the league office it’s like Jake decided to knock hell out of Lucroy rather than score the winning run. I’m just worried that some pitcher will now go “head hunting” the next time Jake comes to the plate. So be prepared guys.

      Like

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