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In his major league debut on Saturday, Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Winckowski noticed a difference in the baseballs.
Boston Red Sox pitcher Josh Winckowski had a major league baseball debut that won’t go down in history. In his three innings of work, the Boston rookie allowed 4 earned runs. There may have been a reason why his 3.13 ERA from Triple-A didn’t translate to the big leagues other than he was unprepared for the bright lights in Boston.
Although Winckowski didn’t fully blame the baseballs, his quotes point in that direction with some damning evidence that MLB has changed them:
“I honestly wasn’t too nervous. The balls were a little different,” Winckowski said. “Really in the first inning, the sinker just kept taking off down on me more than I’m used to. But then after that, kind of just started guiding the ball. I didn’t feel like I could let it rip. But it happens.”
Red Sox pitcher Josh Winckowski noticed a difference in how MLB balls felt in his debut
Winckowski shared some specifics about exactly what was different about the balls in the show compared to the ones he has been using in the minor leagues:
“I’ve never described the ball like this but it oddly felt like damp today,” Winckowski said. “It was kind of weird. I don’t know. I was like searching for dry spots on my jersey pretty often, which is something I usually don’t struggle with. But it’s part of the learning experience.”
If it’s not the unnatural biceps of sluggers at the forefront of conversation in this league, it’s the juiciness or not of the baseballs. Back in 2019, pitchers began to complain about the feel of the baseballs. It led to a massive shift with the league favoring hitters over pitchers for a full season. There were plenty of conspiracy theories about it. They’ve continued into 2022 with many wondering if the opposite effect has taken place.
We can point to numbers as examples for either. In 2019, there were plenty of power surges around the league although nothing quite like the late 1990s and early 2000s. At the start of last season, the culprit for pitchers dominating early got blamed on the use of spider-tack and other foreign substances.
Major League Baseball has always been specific about the baseballs it uses. The mud rubbed on the balls comes from a single source.
Although the experience of one Red Sox pitcher won’t get Major League Baseball to open up about any changes they may have made, this should serve as some further evidence that things aren’t what they should—or at least claim—to be.
It will be interesting to see what Winckowski does when he returns to Triple-A and how the baseballs feel in his hand. Numbers and performance can only tell us so much about any funny business with the baseballs. The way they feel in a player’s hand carries much more weight. We’ll have to take their word on it.