Have the Boston Red Sox been victims of an unfair home-field advantage the Tampa Bay Rays enjoy?
Data that emerged from Chris Sale’s most recent start at Tropicana Field prompted questions about the pitcher’s mound at the Rays’ stadium, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. Sale discovered after his Sept. 1 start the average extension — i.e. how far in front of the rubber he released the ball — on his four-seam fastball was almost six inches closer to the point than the average release point he registered during all but one start in his Red Sox career.
“I don?t know what it is,” Sale said, per Speier. “I’ve heard some rumblings about stuff going on with Hawk-Eye (the data-tracking system) and maybe some other scenarios. I don?t know if there are any conspiracies out there regarding that as well.”
Data has shown 13 other Red Sox pitchers have had greater extension at Tropicana Field in 2021 than in other ballparks. The same goes for Tampa’s pitchers, who measure around 2 1/2 inches more extension at home than on the road, MLB’s largest home/road split, according to Speier.
The Tampa Bay Times’ Mark Tompkins photographed Red Sox players measuring the Tropicana Field mound Sept. 2. Major League Baseball has used lasers to examine the height and slope of the Rays’ mound and found no evidence it did not fit specifications, Speier reported Wednesday, citing multiple MLB sources.
So what gives?
The answer won’t reveal itself itself prior to Game 1 of the Red Sox-Rays American League Division Series, which will begin at 8:07 p.m. ET on Thursday at, you guessed it, Tropicana Field.