The Toronto Blue Jays opened this season on a brand new artificial turf at the Rogers Centre. Even though the Jays are just two home games into the regular season, there has been a lot of talk from players and coaches about the ball bouncing abnormally on the new surface, and the league has apparently taken notice.
The main issue with the turf is that it plays incredibly slow, apparently due to the fact that it is overloaded with the little black rubber pellets that get sprinkled on artificial turf these days. If you watch a Blue Jays home game, it’s impossible not to notice the black balls exploding off the turf every time a ball makes contact, and the ball slowing down as a result. The players haven’t been shy about discussing how much the turf is slowing balls down (via the National Post):
“It’s simply slow,” Dalton Pompey said after his Jays lost 2-1 before 48,414 customers. “The last at-bat I had, I thought I had a hit up the middle. I hit it pretty good and (the turf) just sucked it up.”
“There were a couple balls that might’ve scooted through on the old turf,” Jays’ starter R.A. Dickey said. “So if anything, I think it’s going to allow the infielders to make more plays this year.”
“It feels like there’s no balls that are going to get to the wall,” Jose Bautista said. “Maybe on a one-hopper, but nothing that rolls or has more than four or five bounces.”
The numbers seem to line up with these anecdotal observations, too. Granted it’s an extremely small sample size, but so far this season the batting average on balls in play at the Rogers Centre is just .193, the lowest mark in the league by a considerable margin. The Jays have eight games left to play on their current homestand, and we should know a lot more about just how big of a deal this slower turf is by the end of it.