MLB denies that the baseball was juiced and who can argue that home runs, leaving the ballpark the past few years, has changed the game. The pitcher is at a disadvantage and in 2019 there were a record number of home runs led by the Minnesota Twins and the New York Yankees.
Last year there was a reduction in home run production and that was only attributed to a 60-game season. Regardless, the ball was still flying out of the ballparks.
Okay, we always assumed it has been a juiced baseball. We rise to the occasion with a record number of home runs and anticipate the stat about trajectory, speed off the bat, and how far the ball was hit out of the ballpark. The TV networks love those stats as do the fans.
I have talked to numerous MLB pitchers and the overall consensus is, the baseball, the past two years, had a different feel. They noted a difference with the feel of the seams and how many balls are taken out of play.
One said to me, “Hard to get a grip. Oh yeah, you need to make the adjustments with your pitches. That grip is everything.”
There were a record 6,776 home runs hit in 2019 during the regular season. Last year, 6.5% per plate appearances compared to 6.6% the year before.
But MLB has been in denial and I am sure you can understand their logistics. Home runs mean more revenue when fans are in the ballparks. Home run hitters of all sizes and stature bring popularity. Home runs define an increase as to who is watching the game on TV networks.
And those home run balls mean runs and changes the strategy of a pitcher-hitter matchup in the late innings of a tight ballgame.
So Monday, it was reported that MLB has made a minor adjustment with the baseball and decreased the capacity of a ball getting hit out of the ballpark, but the change may not be significant with some of those short porches around the league. The players today are also of a different mode.
They are bigger and stronger and that has nothing to do with a steroid era that contributed to more than one home run derby. Today, they are not a Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris type of home run hitter, but most players today have the ability to hit long balls out of the ballparks.
A memo sent to teams last week from an independent lab revealed the new baseball will fly 1 to 2 feet shorter when hit over 375 feet. There are also reports that more ballparks will add humidors in humidity controlled storage space. The Rockies, at Coors Field in Colorado, has been using humidors because of the altitude where the stadium is situated. Though, at Coors Fiel,d the home runs always seem to fly out of the park. They are hit long and hard.
One thing has been evident about the new ballparks, they are made for the home run hitter. Yankee Stadium, Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, and not too long ago Bobby Bonilla, the former NY Met said, hitting a ball at Coors Field in Colorado was similar to playing arena football.
Less drag on average, according to the committees that were assigned by MLB, contributed to the home run surge. They said it was the inconsistent seam height of the baseball that contributed to the spike in home runs.
“So they are admitting that they do in fact change the properties of the balls to suit their needs,” a baseball insider said to me.
The production of the baseball used by MLB is back in Costa Rica, but will all of this mean a decrease in the home runs? The last thing MLB does not need is a decrease in home run production and obviously they rely on the fans’ thirst for the long ball, to watch the power generated from Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Pete Alonso in New York.
MLB wants that same production coming from their consistent home run hitters around the league that get fans to watch. You know, as well as I do, the home run ball accounts for more revenue paid by the television networks and the billion dollar industry of baseball. Home runs mean more merchandise sold with the name of a player on the jersey.
But in the end, as that same insider said, “Numbers have always been integral to baseball and to some degree a barometer of performance. Steroids and juiced baseballs have inflated those numbers.”
Pulling the trigger on a swing, letting it go without being hesitant or having a feeling for the ball, evolves as a hitter matures and improves. Yes, the baseball has been juiced and MLB is making a slight change.
Though, I don’ t expect a difference when they play in 2021. The home run production will continue and so will the debate about a juiced baseball.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso “Sports With Rich” YouTube. Subscribe, Like, Comment