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The baseballs are juiced, or they're slick, or they're both

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Monday’s Say Hey, Baseball looks at the latest baseball conspiracy, and tries to sort out what happened in Game 5.

MLB: World Series-Houston Astros workout Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

MLB keeps denying it, but MLB denies a lot of things they are afraid will make them look bad. The baseballs are surely different in 2017 than they've been in the past, and the result is homers. Lots and lots of homers. Ben Lindbergh wrote this summer that the juiced ball is back, and had the study to back that assertion up. Rob Arthur built upon that piece with his own study, similarly concluding that the balls were what's different and causing these homers.

This all happened after MLB commissioner Rob Manfred discussed that fans love homers. Coincidence? Uh, no, definitely not. But as we've discussed before, it's fine: MLB has made changes before in order to boost offense, iike lowering the mound in the 60s or the previous change to baseballs in the late-90s that coincided (and was overshadowed by) the steroid era.

Dallas Keuchel said the balls are juiced following a World Series game his team won, and explained that MLB had done this to make sure the games were more exciting and people stuck around since anything could happen in one swing. And now more players participating in the World Series say the baseballs are slicker, and causing sliders to flatten out: given how Game 5 went, it sure seems like Keuchel is on to something here.

Rob Arthur mentioned slicker baseballs in his study from this summer as well. A slicker ball moves through the air differently -- for example, a slicker baseball loses less velocity as it moves towards home plate, which also means it's going to lose less velocity heading back in the other direction after Carlos Correa crushes said pitch.

So, we've got a baseball that is more difficult to throw certain pitches with, and that also, by design, will travel further when struck. In short, more opportunities for homers exist, and, the hitters are taking advantage. That's how you end up with a record 22 World Series homers in just five World Series games. It's why these clearly exhausted relievers, who have been worked hard throughout the postseason, can't seem to get through an inning without giving up a dinger. It's why Game 5 was both the best and the worst depending on what was happening onscreen at any given moment.

As Arthur also points out, this all means that MLB's home run surge can end in an instant: once the baseballs are changed again in a way that reduces the slickness of the balls once more. Will MLB go for that in 2018 to try to get all of these studies to quiet down? That might be tough, considering we'd then see studies about how the ball is different in another way, but MLB is just going to deny everything up and down regardless of what's happening to their baseballs, anyway.


Maybe the slick baseballs are all Yasiel Puig's fault