Players believe MLB is using a slicker ball for the World Series

If the home run barrage in the World Series has you reading conspiracy theories on the ball being different during the regular season … you might be right. Actually, it may go even deeper than that. Players from both the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers believe Major League Baseball is using a slicker ball during the World Series, according to Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated.

Verducci spoke with players and coaches on both teams, and found that they agree the ball has been slicker. An MLB official denied the balls were different, saying the only thing that has changed is the color of ink stamped on the balls.

Among the people who believe the balls are different include: Astros pitching coach Brent Strom, Charlie Morton, Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish and Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. Morton also said Lance McCullers Jr. could tell the balls were different just by feeling them with his eyes closed.

The article also features a side-by-side look at a baseball during the regular season and one being used in the World Series. They look different, though Verducci said that could a result of one ball being rubbed with mud before the game, which is normal. He also said the World Series ball “looked and felt noticeably different. It was slicker to the touch.”

As Verducci notes, 15 home runs have already been hit during the World Series. That’s already among the highest in the history of the event.

Joc Pederson’s home run in Game 4 broke the contest open. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Morton admitted a slicker ball caused him to be less aggressive with his two-seam fastball. It didn’t seem to impact him much as he and Alex Wood turned in an excellent pitcher’s duel in Game 4.

It’s possible that’s because neither of them throw a slider. The main takeaway from Verducci’s piece is that pitchers are having a hard time throwing their sliders with the slicker ball. He cites Darvish, Ken Giles and Kenley Jansen — who gave up a home run on a slider for the first time all season in the World Series. Darvish and Giles have struggled mightily in the World Series thus far. Both rely heavily on their sliders.

As research was released during the regular season suggesting the ball may have been different, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has consistently cited that the balls have been within the league’s specifications. The same research showing a difference in the balls argued the league’s specifications are too broad. Two balls could technically be within those specifications and still produce drastically different results.

If Verducci is correct, these World Series balls would be an entirely different issue. But if the league stood by the balls in the regular season, it wouldn’t exactly want to admit something was off on baseball’s biggest stage. Fans should expect to hear denials, even if the difference in the World Series was accidental.

If you aren’t convinced already, Verducci’s entire column is worth a read. And if you still believe the balls are perfectly normal, that’s fine too. Verducci’s column proves that the players are thinking about it and that it’s already impacted their approach, so it’s going to make a difference either way.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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