A group of scientists commissioned by Major League Baseball to figure out what caused a record number of home runs to be hit last season was released yesterday. The increase in round-trippers was determined to be a result of the baseballs flying through the air with less drag. Less air resistance = balls fly farther = more home runs, simple right? Except the researchers have admitted they still have no idea why there is less drag on the balls, which should really be what anyone cares about.
MLB commissioned a study by some of the foremost scientists and minds in the sport to determine whether a juiced ball caused a spike in home runs.
The conclusion: The ball is not juiced — but when it's in the air, it's flying unlike it has before.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 24, 2018
MLB’s inability to provide a full explanation for the dramatic spike in home runs is frustrating. The home runs themselves aren’t really the issue, but rather what seems to be a lack of transparency from the league. They had held that no sanctioned changes were made to the materials or manufacturing of the baseballs. This seems to be challenged by the study’s findings, something has to have changed to account for the reduced drag.
One theory suggests that workers at the Costa Rican factory where Rawlings produces major league baseballs have simply gotten better at centering the balls’ rubber cores. A centered core means a rounder ball which could account for the reduced drag. While intriguing, the theory does not yet have any data backing it up.
What about the slicker World Series balls?
The study makes no mention whether any of the baseballs tested by researchers were from the 2017 post season. Tom Verducci’s initial report of World Series baseballs being slicker than those used in the regular season has seen little follow-up. Several pitchers and coaches from both the Dodgers and Astros made confident statements that the baseballs were slicker. In particular, they claimed the slick baseballs we making it particularly difficult to throw sliders.
Dodgers fans need no reminder of what trouble was caused by those weak sliders. While it would be unfair to blame a World Series loss on the baseballs themselves (both teams played with the same ones) it’s not too much to ask for more transparency from Rob Manfred’s operation. It is not enough for a professional sports league to merely shrug its shoulders when presented with legitimate concerns from their employees.
Major League Baseball must do better. If they want to make changes to increase offense they are well within their right, and it may even be a good thing. Most fans enjoyed the increase in home runs last year. What feels wrong is that it seems like they tried to pull a fast one. And if they didn’t, hopefully, the disappointing results of this study will not be the end of their investment into finding out what happened. They owe it to the players, the fans, and to the legacy of this great game.
You can read the full report here.
[button color=”white” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”samewindow” url=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/dodgers-nation-poll-results-fans-see-plenty-of-room-for-improvement/2018/05/24/”]Dodgers Nation Approval Ratings[/button]