Column: Runs in baseball are actually fun

Houston Astros' George Springer hits a home run during the third inning of Game 6 of baseball's World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Yesterday, The Daily Campus’ managing editor, Stephanie Sheehan, wrote a column about the “juiced ball era” in Major League Baseball and the insanity that was Game 5 of the World Series. Sheehan described the 25-run game as “tedious to watch” and “not pretty,” assuming that her opinion was unpopular but firmly standing by her belief.

I have tremendous respect for Sheehan and her baseball fandom, but her opinion about Game 5 and the future of baseball is asinine.

We’ll start here, Game 5 was one of the most exciting games in World Series history. FiveThirtyEight uses a stat called “average win probability added” to determine how much each individual play contributes to victory. Sunday’s game ranked second of all World Series games in this metric, behind only Game 6 of 2011 (the David Freese game).

More runs will naturally create more game-changing plays, and that’s a good thing. I understand and appreciate the nerve-wracking appeal of a pitchers’ duel, but the thing fans like about a low-scoring game is the possibility of the game’s narrative changing in any given at-bat. In reality, the hope of something changing isn’t nearly as thrilling as the actual lead changes that take place in a game like Game 5.

I will admit that the length of Game 5 was absurd, there’s no defending that. But everyone knows the MLB has a pace-of-play problem and fans and officials alike have been trying to address that for years. But for all five-plus hours of Game 5, fans were on the edge of their seats not knowing what was going to happen next.

And it’s not like these 25-run games are happening every night. Even in the World Series with accusations of altered baseballs, the Astros scored fewer runs than their season average in three of the first four games and the Dodgers were below their season average twice in the first four. The record-breaking 22 home runs are a lot, but most fans love the ability of hitters to change the game with one swing.

One could say that the abnormally high amount of runs and home runs made each ensuing run less exciting, but I didn’t find that to be true. When the Dodgers came up to bat in the top of the ninth inning, I wasn’t expecting them to score three runs to tie the game. Did I think it was possible? Sure. But my belief it was possible doesn’t equate to me actually expecting them to score three runs, and yours probably didn’t either. The reaction was probably more like “Wow, I can’t believe that really happened.”

And as for the juiced baseballs theory: Consider me extremely skeptical. There’s no motive for the MLB to purposefully tamper with the baseballs for this series. The Astros scored the most runs in the regular season by a large margin, and the Dodgers were above average at 12th. There wasn’t a need for more difficulty on the pitchers.

Why would the MLB put their reputation at risk with a slight tampering of the baseball just for a few more runs? It doesn’t make sense, despite the complaints of several pitchers. I tend to side with Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill, who pointed out the effect that a drastic difference in weather has on the baseball.

Yasiel Puig’s one-handed home run seemed impossible, but so were the one-knee home runs by Adrian Beltre and Scooter Gennett earlier this season, and nobody attributed those to the baseball.

Regardless of whether the baseballs are “juiced,” the excitement of Game 5 was incredibly fun to watch. The future of baseball will probably see more home runs, but that’s not a bad thing and it doesn’t mean that every game is going to end 13-12. Even in a year where the home run record was shattered, there were still plenty of low-scoring games to show the different type of excitement that the sport certainly needs.


Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at joshua.buser@uconn.edu.