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OC Register: Angels’ Joe Maddon hopes new baseballs bring back ‘1985’ style


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TEMPE, Ariz. — A few weeks ago as Joe Maddon was watching baseballs sail over the fence, one after the other, in a Cactus League game, he had a suspicion.

“These,” Maddon said, “have got to be 2020 issue.”

Those would be the baseballs, which have been changed for the 2021 season. According to a widely reported memo sent to clubs over the winter, MLB changed the manufacturing process for baseballs to be used this season, in order to make them more consistent and less lively.

Maddon is an enthusiastic supporter of the change, often referring to the “1985” style of play he would like to see.

As MLB tries to move the game from one dominated by homers, strikeouts and walks, Maddon said changing the ball ought to take care of that all by itself.

“If the ball doesn’t travel as far, a lot of the things you’re looking for will just occur because hitters will have to adjust,” Maddon said. “Pitchers will adjust. Defenses will adjust. Everything will adjust. Speed will become more prominent. All the things you’re looking for will just happen…

“The game will just come back, I think, to almost what we had grown up knowing.”

Maddon, 67, favors a style in which pitchers can pitch to contact because they aren’t so worried that contact will drive the ball over the fence. Hitters won’t swing from their heels trying to drive every pitch out if they are more likely to hit fly balls to the warning track. Stealing bases will become more prominent if teams aren’t so convinced runners are already in scoring position on first.

It remains to be seen how much this year’s changes to balls will have an impact on the game.

The coefficient of restitution (COR) of balls in recent years had trended toward the top of the acceptable range, according to the memo. In other words, the balls were more bouncy, so they flew farther.

In order to bring the balls more toward the middle of the range, they have been wound more loosely, which in theory would mean the seams would be higher. That could benefit pitchers in a second way, by making the breaking balls sharper.

This spring, the Angels have been using the new balls in their workouts and games at Tempe Diablo Stadium, while some other teams have been using older balls.

The consensus of a handful of Angels pitchers asked about the feel of the balls this spring was that they don’t feel any different, though.

“I don’t feel anything honestly,” said Jose Quintana, who is starting his 10th season in the majors. “Hopefully it will help me.”

Dylan Bundy, who has been in the majors since 2012, said each ball always feels a little different to him anyway: “Not one ball’s the same. You’ve got to deal with it. Everybody has to deal with it. So just go out there and throw it.”

Andrew Heaney, who debuted in 2014, said that he’s a bad one to ask because he’s never been great at picking up tiny differences based on feel.

“I can tell when the seams seem a little thicker or more raised, but I haven’t really been paying attention,” he said. “I’m not really worried about it. We’ll figure it out.”

The exception is Ty Buttrey, who made his debut in 2018. He said he noticed last year that the balls felt different, but this year they feel the way they did a few years ago. He said the indicator to him is that he gets different callouses on his fingers based on the feel and size of the ball.

As for the difference in carry, that’s difficult to judge because of the conditions in Arizona. The ball generally flies better in Arizona than it does at the places where baseball is played in the regular season. Even within Arizona, it can vary wildly based on the wind on a given day.

Maddon, however, said he’s noticed a few times when he’s thought the baseball had changed: “I’ve seen some games where I thought balls were gonna leave that haven’t left.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Angels on Friday released right-hander Jesse Chavez and outfielder Jon Jay, veterans who were in camp on minor-league deals. Both players fell under a clause in the rules forcing teams to make decisions by a Saturday deadline.

The Angels needed to put in writing that the players would be on the Opening Day roster, release them or pay them a $100,000 retention bonus to keep them in the minors.

The moves further defined the Angels’ likely Opening Day roster, with Juan Lagares expected to be added to the 40-man roster as the fourth outfielder.

The Angels’ bullpen choices have been narrowed significantly with moves in recent days. Raisel Iglesias, Alex Claudio, Mike Mayers, Junior Guerra and Ty Buttrey are expected to get five of the eight spots.

Right-hander Aaron Slegers, who missed a couple weeks with back spasms, came back and pitched Wednesday. Assuming the Angels feel he’s good to go with just five or six innings in the spring, he should also have a spot.

That leaves Jaime Barria, Patrick Sandoval and prospect Chris Rodriguez for the last two spots. Maddon said Thursday that Rodriguez is  “looking really good.” Presumably the Angels would need only one of Barria/Sandoval, so the other could be stretched out as an emergency starter at the alternate site.

Felix Peña (hamstring) will start the season on the injured list, but he should be back by mid-April.

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I’ve always been a fan of the game, and that will never change.  What really drew me to the game early on was the strategy that went into the game.  Hit and run, stealing bases, sacrificing to move a runner into scoring position, etc.  Is this boring to some?  Of course.  Like watching golf is boring to people who don’t play the sport, baseball can be the same way.

Swinging for the fence every at bat, the effing shift, sabermetrics over strategy, etc. may have brought a younger generation into watching games, but it’s alienated other baseball purists.  I for one, would love to see the 1985 St. Louis Cardinals style of baseball come back, like Maddon suggests.  I also agree that “deadening” the ball will have the effect Maddon states, and everything hopefully, will revert back to where the game was a few decades ago.

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80s style was the best. You really had a bit of everything. There were dingers, but "average power" was more like 15 HR a year rather than the current 20-25 (it has really inflated that much). 30 HR was a lot and now 40 is the new 30.

You had dynamic base-stealers, with Rickey leading the way but also Tim Raines and a few "speed specialists" like Vince Coleman who couldn't do much else.

 

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35 minutes ago, Angelsjunky said:

80s style was the best. You really had a bit of everything. There were dingers, but "average power" was more like 15 HR a year rather than the current 20-25 (it has really inflated that much). 30 HR was a lot and now 40 is the new 30.

You had dynamic base-stealers, with Rickey leading the way but also Tim Raines and a few "speed specialists" like Vince Coleman who couldn't do much else.

 

2 corrections.

First, 30 home runs being "normal" isnt a now thing, its been like that since the needles, I mean the 90s.

Second, vince coleman could do more than just steal bases. He had a hell of an arm. In fact, he once demonstrated it with a firecracker on dodger fans.

Ive been trying to get a coleman jersey just because of that, but cant find an authentic one 😞

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10 minutes ago, ten ocho recon scout said:

2 corrections.

First, 30 home runs being "normal" isnt a now thing, its been like that since the needles, I mean the 90s.

Second, vince coleman could do more than just steal bases. He had a hell of an arm. In fact, he once demonstrated it with a firecracker on dodger fans.

Ive been trying to get a coleman jersey just because of that, but cant find an authentic one 😞

That 1985 Cardinals team was amazing, and I specifically referenced them in my post for a reason.  They had Coleman, Jack Clark, Andy Van Slyke, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Tommie Herr, Terry Pendleton, etc.

Aside from Jack Clark’s team leading 22 HR’s, the nearest player was Van Slyke who had 13.  Tommie Herr led the team with 110 RBI’s but only had 8 HR’s.  Herzog had them play small ball, and they won 101 games and Damn near won the World Series but lost in 7 games.  As a baseball fan, that team was pretty amazing to watch.

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It's pretty much impossible to play 85' brand of baseball these days, pretty much all prospects are HR hitters now, and with that strikeout rates are up.  Power ball is the name of the game now.  The game just isn't built around the scrappy players anymore, scouts avoid finesse/speed and go for brute strength and bat speed/pitch speed.  It's rare to find guys like Fletcher anymore.

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3 hours ago, ten ocho recon scout said:

2 corrections.

First, 30 home runs being "normal" isnt a now thing, its been like that since the needles, I mean the 90s.

Second, vince coleman could do more than just steal bases. He had a hell of an arm. In fact, he once demonstrated it with a firecracker on dodger fans.

Ive been trying to get a coleman jersey just because of that, but cant find an authentic one 😞

Fair enough re: Coleman, although I was meaning offensively. 

The weird thing about HR is that it seems that the upper end hasn't  increased as much, at least proportionally, as the average. Sure, there's Giancarlo hitting 59 a few years ago but for the most part the top HR hitter usually tops out somewhere in the 40s, but the median among qualifying players has substantially increased from about 15 historically to 25 in 2019. 

 

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Just now, Angelsjunky said:

Fair enough re: Coleman, although I was meaning offensively. 

The weird thing about HR is that it seems that the upper end hasn't  increased as much, at least proportionally, as the average. Sure, there's Giancarlo hitting 59 a few years ago but for the most part the top HR hitter usually tops out somewhere in the 40s, but the median among qualifying players has substantially increased from about 15 historically to 25 in 2019. 

 

someone needs to paint over that yellow line

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3 minutes ago, Angelsjunky said:

Fair enough re: Coleman, although I was meaning offensively. 

The weird thing about HR is that it seems that the upper end hasn't  increased as much, at least proportionally, as the average. Sure, there's Giancarlo hitting 59 a few years ago but for the most part the top HR hitter usually tops out somewhere in the 40s, but the median among qualifying players has substantially increased from about 15 historically to 25 in 2019. 

 

To be fair, i think coleman was being offensive. (Sorry, Im gonna keep this dumb joking as long as i can)

Good call on the top end though. With so many guys sporting 25 HR power, going back roughly 25 or so years now, youd figure there would be "lots" of 45-50 guys now.

Guess it shows that steroids, muscles, swing angles or not, the actual skill of hitting a ball 400 feet in the opposite direction is harder than you think. 

Baseball will always be underrated as far as skill to non fans. Theres the old stereotype that ballplayers arent athletes. To be fair, plenty of examples they arent. (Then again theres plenty who are in far better shape than people realize, but cant tell under baggy jerseys). 

But the actual skill.... hitting a ball. From a pro pitcher. Throwing a pitch that moves at 90 MPH. Throwing the ball with accuracy. Etc etc. 

Plenty of stories out there of start nba players who didnt play until high school. Same with the NFL. No way in hell that happens in baseball. Its one of the few sports being blessed with size wont help you very much at all.

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3 minutes ago, AngelsLakersFan said:

What boomer doesn't want to go back to 1985?

Ha! Boomers are old, and want to go back to.....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shit. 

 

New name. Boomer Ocho. 

I remember a few years back getting a car at work, and the radio was playing K-Earth 101. And it was playing prince.

And i went "wow, guess they changed they used to play oldies". Then i realized 80s Prince music was as long ago as the 60s songs on K Earth when i was a kid.

Then i got depressed. And i bought skinny jeans to feel young. And when I bought them, I warned the cashier about the communists and complained about the lack of quality family sitcoms on tv these days.

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3 minutes ago, ten ocho recon scout said:

Ha! Boomers are old, and want to go back to.....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shit. 

 

New name. Boomer Ocho. 

I remember a few years back getting a car at work, and the radio was playing K-Earth 101. And it was playing prince.

And i went "wow, guess they changed they used to play oldies". Then i realized 80s Prince music was as long ago as the 60s songs on K Earth when i was a kid.

Then i got depressed. And i bought skinny jeans to feel young. And when I bought them, I warned the cashier about the communists and complained about the lack of quality family sitcoms on tv these days.

K-Earth is basically the same format as KROQ now.

Also, pro-tip, you gotta be careful with your casual boomer drops. Phrases such as radio, k-earth, Prince, and the 60's are all dead give aways.

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4 hours ago, PattyD22 said:

That 1985 Cardinals team was amazing, and I specifically referenced them in my post for a reason.  They had Coleman, Jack Clark, Andy Van Slyke, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Tommie Herr, Terry Pendleton, etc.

Aside from Jack Clark’s team leading 22 HR’s, the nearest player was Van Slyke who had 13.  Tommie Herr led the team with 110 RBI’s but only had 8 HR’s.  Herzog had them play small ball, and they won 101 games and Damn near won the World Series but lost in 7 games.  As a baseball fan, that team was pretty amazing to watch.

They beat the Dogs in the NLCS.

Wayne’s World tribute to Jack Clark! 

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