Heard a little too much about blisters this season? Had enough of hot spots? Well, I’m with you — I say balls to all of it!
And so, apparently, is Brett Anderson.
Thursday’s starter had his most frustrating outing as a Blue Jay, walking four batters and exiting after four-and-a-third innings and just 74 pitches.
Brett Anderson leaves game, stares down at finger, heads into the tunnel towards clubhouse,followed closely by pitching coach & head trainer
— Hazel Mae (@thehazelmae) September 15, 2017
Just in case anybody didn’t know precisely what Anderson was staring at, the big lefty took to Twitter following the game to voice his displeasure:
.@elonmusk can go ahead and take every 2017 MLB baseball and send them to space
— Brett Anderson (@BAnderson3737) September 15, 2017
I believe Giancarlo Stanton has already tried this approach.— Louis Gray (@louisgray) September 15, 2017
(Interestingly, before he picked up his phone, Anderson was a little more diplomatic about the issue. Laura Armstrong of the Toronto Star explains: “Anderson, who plans to reassess his finger on Friday, wouldn’t go as far as to blame the baseballs for his blister but believed it was a culmination of the warmer, humid climate and the balls themselves.” Hmmmm.)
Anyway, jokes or confusion aside, this bullshit is obviously bullshit! At this point we can’t pretend that Aaron Sanchez being healthy was all that stood between this season being the mess that it’s turned into and it being a success, but it sure as hell would have helped! Yet… nope! He’s done for the year because of his blister issues (and a blister-related finger strain), and not too happy about the whole thing, either — as we can tell from John Lott’s excellent piece on him for the Athletic this week, in which he wonders if he might have been better off without having the surgical procedure he underwent earlier on in the season. (“It was something we felt was the solution and it wasn’t,” he tells John. Oof.)
And, of course, Marcus Stroman has been vocal about the blister issue this season as well:
Marcus Stroman on the blister he developed tonight and blisters across MLB this season: pic.twitter.com/OuQBTCdTlg
— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) July 4, 2017
Stroman has been less vocally harping on this issue more recently than that, too, liking this tweet from Dallas Braden last month, for example:
1 guy blows a knee on a wet bag & we scramble for change. MULTIPLE guys/Orgs lose time w/ blister issues & we get fed a "paid for" analysis. https://t.co/WKy3dYR0PQ
— Dallas Braden (@DALLASBRADEN209) August 17, 2017
Ben Lindbergh of the Ringer wrote about the issue back in July, ultimately deciding that we could only “come to two tenuously related conclusions: Blisters have become more common among major league pitchers, and the baseball’s seams have changed.”
Below is a chart that Ben used in his piece. He gave a few caveats before we swallow what it seems to be telling us whole — for example, noting that this is just publicly available data and may not include blisters that went unreported, or the fact that “it’s also possible that pitchers have been more open about blisters lately because of the growing scrutiny surrounding the ball” — but also… uh… the 2017 data here is from July.
Since then the whispers — or in Anderson’s case, now, as well as Stroman’s and Sanchez’s, the outright statements — haven’t exactly gone away. And, hiding behind all this, of course, are the doubts these pitchers seem to have about just how seriously the league is taking their concerns.
At 5,610, last season saw the most home runs hit, league-wide, since the year 2000. This year, with 5,525 already hit (as of the conclusion of play on Wednesday night), we’ll almost certainly see that mark broken. This year’s HR/9 rate of 1.28 is the highest in major league history. And the league’s slugging percentage of .427 is the highest since 2006.
The league’s ERA in 2014 was 3.74 — the eleventh lowest since the mound was raised at the start of the 1969 season, and the lowest since 1989. At 4.37, this year’s ERA ranks as the 13th highest among those 49 seasons, and the 12 seasons behind it all fell between 1994 and 2007.
That’s not all about the ball — pitchers throw harder (strikeouts are way up as well), and batters are more cognizant of trying to create loft — but with harder balls and lower seams, it certainly can’t be ruled out as at least part of the reason we’re seeing these changes. And if the league likes the changes — likes all these home runs offsetting the big strikeout numbers — maybe they’re not as interested as they should be in doing anything about it. And maybe that’s why pitchers are getting especially vocal about it.
I hope none of that is actually true. I mean… maybe it’s not. It’s not exactly like it’s difficult to get Anderson to tweet about something or Stroman to speak his mind. Plus, it’s easy to get conspiratorial when this problem has hit Blue Jays pitchers especially hard. But whatever the case, the league needs to be figuring this shit out! We need our stars on the mound. We as Blue Jays fans and we as baseball fans, that is. This is all about best on best. Let’s give the pitchers some good balls to hold already, Mr. Manfred!