We are nearing the end of the 2019 MLB season – are we also finally nearing the end of The Juiced Ball Era?
This season has seen an absurd spike in home run rates around the league, with half the teams (including the Cubs) setting new home run records, and record for homers across the league (set in the other Juiced Ball season in 2017) getting blown out of the water in mid-September.
After a considerable bit of evasion and denial, the league has come around to an acceptance of reality: the baseball changed in very, very important ways over the past year (just like it did a couple years ago), and MLB finally admitted it at midseason.
With that behind us, now we can finally have an honest conversation about what the league should do, if anything, about the juiced ball. Some people might argue – and some players have – that the league actually likes this extreme homer era, and may not even see a “problem” to fix.
I tend to think that’s not actually true, though, because I’ve gotta believe that for as much as MLB wants to increase offense, what they really want to improve is action on the field. And in a game where home runs become such a disproportionate part of the scoring, not only do they become less enjoyably special, you also have more and more players selling out for power at the expense of contact and more balls in play (where I suspect MLB actually wants to steer things).
So, I’m not surprised – but still relieved – to see this acknowledgment from Commissioner Manfred:
— Maury Brown (@BizballMaury) September 25, 2019
We’ll have to wait to see what MLB’s most recent scientific study reveals – it is expected after the World Series – and how the league thereafter decides to implement any recommendations. But we very likely will be in for another recalibration of what we believe the “normal” offensive environment to be in MLB (and at AAA, good Lord), together with a number of coming rules changes.
That is to say, the 2020 MLB season might look pretty different from this year’s installment in a number of ways.