After more than a year of dismissive talk about the baseball’s being manufactured to the same specifications they always were, Major League Baseball’s own study into what is going on in the Juiced Ball Era now confirms what we’ve all long suspected: the balls are in fact different.
MLB's own commission confirms that the baseball has changed, and is responsible for the home run surge. Largely vindicates three years of study by me and many others. https://t.co/wndIWTcs20
— Rob Arthur (@No_Little_Plans) May 24, 2018
MLB released the results of its study into the increase in home runs across the game. A takeaway: pic.twitter.com/1vpedvuweI
— Jared Diamond (@jareddiamond) May 24, 2018
So, then, MLB will be able to say that the baseball did not suddenly become “juiced,” but that’s kind of a matter of semantics. The point is – and we’ve known for a long time – something changed with the baseball in mid-2015, and it caused an unnatural spike in home runs thanks to the balls flying through the air with less resistance.
Yes, players have also been adapting their swings to do more damage in the air – the Fly Ball Revolution – but as Rob Arthur points out at Five Thirty Eight, the increases we’ve seen in fly ball rates haven’t actually necessarily led to improved production in the aggregate:
For the most part, the rapid ascent of the home run rate in baseball was thanks to the baseball itself. Now it’s out there and confirmed for everyone to digest and accept.
With that in mind, the question going forward will be: if MLB figured out how to “fix” the issue … would they want to? Folks like dingers, and pitchers have been adjusting to this new world now for nearly three years. Perhaps this new normal – with “better” alignment of the pill in the baseball – is the way things should stay?
Or perhaps the increase in homers has also contributed to the increase in strikeouts and walks (as batters go nuts for hard elevation, and as pitchers become more sensitive about pitching in the zone), and thus is exacerbating the pace-of-play issues that continue to grow, and see fewer and fewer action (balls in play).
At least now we can start discussing these issues in a more open and honest way.