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Are Baseballs "Juiced" This Season?

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Just now, Can_of_corn said:

And those numbers include the steroid era.

The steroid era, the 1920-30s jackrabbit ball where they scored six runs a game, the 1890s where there were a few years over 7.00 runs/game and the whole league hit .309, the 1987 surge where McGwire hit 49 as a rookie, all those teams that used to play in parks that were 257 to right field... all that, and one out of every 12 .450 slugging teams are from 2019.

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5 minutes ago, DrungoHazewood said:

The steroid era, the 1920-30s jackrabbit ball where they scored six runs a game, the 1890s where there were a few years over 7.00 runs/game and the whole league hit .309, the 1987 surge where McGwire hit 49 as a rookie, all those teams that used to play in parks that were 257 to right field... all that, and one out of every 12 .450 slugging teams are from 2019.

Could you imagine roided up Sosa, McGwire, and Bonds playing today? 500 feet HRs would be routine.

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THE TROT OF THE MONTH CLUB – Let’s see now. There were more home runs hit in April (1,010) than in any April in history. There were more home runs hit in May (1,135) than in any calendar month in history. And now the home-run rate in June (1.42 per game) has blown past even the historic rate in May (1.37) — because of course it has.

THE THOUSAND HOME RUN PYRAMID – So if you made it through the previous paragraph, you won’t be surprised to learn that at this clip, we’d see 6,591 home runs hit this year, which would be … the most in history! And about 1,000 more than last year (5,585)! And nearly 2,400 more than were hit a mere five years ago (4.186)! Even at the height of the PED era, the most bombs launched in any season was “only” 5,695 (in 2000). We could see that total eclipsed by 900 homers this year.

GOPHERVILLE’S TEAM – The Orioles are on pace to do some crazy stuff: A) become the first team ever to allow an average of two homers per game (current rate: 2.0/game) and B) not just serve up the most gopherballs in history (current pace: 324!) but (at this pace) break the previous record (258) by nearly 70 homers.

The bats?

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But we’re talking about 1,000 more homers than last year.

Anyone out there think the quality of bats has undergone a massive alteration since last fall? Right. Didn’t think so. Next witness

Launch angle?

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“We’re not seeing the same spike in Double A or Single A,” said Twins GM Thad Levine. “Only in Triple A. And the only thing that’s changed there is the baseball.”

Oh, yeah. There’s that. Plus there’s one other problem with that launch-angle theory. Despite the fixation with hitting the ball in the air, the rate of fly balls has barely changed.
 

FLY BALL PERCENTAGE

2017 35.5%
2018 35.4%
2019 35.8%

Pitching?

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AVG. FASTBALL VELOCITY

2014 93.2 mph
2015 93.4 mph
2016 93.5 mph
2017 93.5 mph
2018 93.6 mph
2019 93.7 mph

PEDs?

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But at a time when testing is more extensive and more frequent than it has ever been, there is no belief anywhere that this is Balco-ball 2.0.

“Zero chance that’s the reason,” said one baseball man who asked not to be identified. “Unless there’s a conspiracy that no one knows about, in the commissioner’s office or the union or anywhere else, I honestly think it’s zero.”

The baseball?

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The ball isn’t bigger. It isn’t heavier. It isn’t lighter. It isn’t bouncier. It isn’t made of any different materials. It just flies farther. And if you think you know how to fix it, Rob Manfred would love to hear from you.

“We should be able to figure this out,” said one executive who has posed these questions. “But the people who know the most about it just tell me to stop asking.”

 

 

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1 minute ago, Aristotelian said:

Is it possible that the Orioles' pitching is so bad that they could account for the league increase in HR?

How about the combination of poor pitching, poor pitch calling and juiced balls on top of all of that.

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"I don't know what I'm witnessing, but the way the ball is coming off the bat right now is extraterrestrial," Maddon said after the Cubs' 7-3 win. "It's an E.T. thing going on out there. It's crazy. This is my fifth year [with the Cubs], and I know what I've seen. Whenever the wind is blowing in like that, you don't see that. You don't see that."

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"We can sit here and talk until we are blue in the face about the ball," Lester said. "It is what it is. Every pitcher in the big leagues has to pitch with it. You can comment on it all you want, but it just sounds like an excuse. I don't make excuses. Have to make better pitches."

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/27013475/extraterrestrial

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“We think one of the things that may be happening is they’re getting better at centering the pill, [which] creates less drag,” Manfred said. “In addition to that, there’s all these man-made issues: hand-stitched, where it’s stored after it’s made, where it’s stored at the ballpark, who puts the mud on the ball, how much mud they put on the ball. It’s really difficult to isolate any single cause. But we do think it’s a drag issue.”

https://nypost.com/2019/06/20/the-balls-arent-juiced-mlb-explains-rise-in-home-runs/

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To be clear though, the 2019 baseball is not the 2017 baseball. Not only is it different from those of late 2015-2018, it’s different from balls going back to at least 2000.
image41.png

The Seams Are Lower

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For the first time in at least 19 years, seam height had decreased to such an extent that, even taking uncertainties into account, the seams were demonstrably lower. (This is described by the term “statistically significant.”) In fact, when compared to the average from previous seasons, the seams on the 2019 balls are only 54.6 percent ± 15.0 percent as high. While these data cannot measure the extent of the effect, there is no doubt that lower seams would improve aerodynamics. These results are also consistent with anecdotal pitcher observations.


The Leather Is Smoother

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Up through 2018, the baseballs showed the sort of ball-to-ball variation expected from a handmade construction process. However, the static friction for the 2019 balls is 27.6 percent lower, a statistically significant result demonstrating the leather covers are genuinely smoother. Like decreased seam height, this contributes to a lower drag efficient, making home runs even more likely. In addition, slicker leather can be expected to produce the sort of grip issues being experienced by at least some pitchers.

The Ball is Rounder

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Not only were the 2019 balls virtually round, what bulging they did show was slightly negative, suggesting the seams might be slightly “nestled” into the leather. In addition, while this change is only a trend when compared to the 2018 sample, the difference between the 2000-2014 and the 2019 samples is statistically significant.

Here, the effect on aerodynamics may actually be two-fold. Not only are the balls rounder (therefore producing less drag), but “nestled down” seams might decrease the impact of the already-lower seam height. This double-whammy would produce a ball that travels even farther.

 

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Since internal inquiries continue to be inconclusive, it might be beneficial for MLB to commission another report from the Home Run Committee, this time focusing on the 2019 baseball. Unlike the study of the 2017 home run surge, where the Committee looked at a number of potential causes besides the ball, this research would be much more straightforward. And while my study focuses on the construction differences themselves, the Home Run Committee is in a position to determine how much each attribute — lower seams, smoother leather, greater spherical symmetry — contributes to aerodynamics. Such information would prove invaluable to MLB’s goals of tightening specifications and improving quality control. It would also help Rawlings determine future production improvements.

After all, any one of these changes would cause the ball to fly farther; together, they have made the current home run surge inevitable.

 

 

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Random thought occurred to me: what would be the impact of not replacing balls so often?  What if you kept using the same ball as long as it didn't go in the stands or was obviously deformed or damaged?  Scuffed, dirty... keep using it. 

Probably not much impact since we're see astronomical numbers of both homers and foul balls.  But a somewhat well-used baseball probably doesn't travel as far as a brand new one.  Would be interesting to see tests.

Of course this assume baseball wants fewer homers.  That doesn't seem to be the case.  They could just un-juice the balls.

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12 minutes ago, DrungoHazewood said:

 

Random thought occurred to me ........ what would be the impact of not replacing balls so often?  What if you kept using the same ball as long as it didn't go in the stands or was obviously deformed or damaged?  Scuffed, dirty... keep using it. 

Probably not much impact since we're see astronomical numbers of both homers and foul balls.  But a somewhat well-used baseball probably doesn't travel as far as a brand new one.  Would be interesting to see tests.

Of course this assume baseball wants fewer homers.  That doesn't seem to be the case.  They could just un-juice the balls.

 

o

 

The worst-case scenario would be this, which happened in 1920. Of course, there were no batting helmets then, either.

 

 

Image result for The Pitch that Killed

 

o

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Rosenthal mentions in an article in the Athletic that a lot of GMs are telling MLB they need to know, one way or the other, what the plans are going forward for baseballs next year and beyond.  Will it be status quo or will some attempt be made to de-juice them?  They need to determine the hitting environment so they can determine what types of hitters, and pitchers, to pursue as the trading deadline approaches.

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I suspect the players are juiced, rather than the baseballs.  

Remember the last time there was an unexplained surge in HR  like this in MLB.  McGwire, Canseco,, Bonds, Sosa, all of them turned out to be on the juice. As I get older, I see that history often repeats itself.

Here is what I suspect is  happening. The majority of MLB hitters and pitchers are now on PED.  Only it's different  from the old McGwire days,  today's PED don't bulk the players up to look like the Incredible Hulk.  Also the drug makers are so far ahead of the weak testing program in MLB that players will very rarely get caught.   '

The pitchers are throwing faster fastballs, because they are on PED,.  Because the batters are also on PED,  when they do connect ,the ball leaves the bat with greater velocity and often leaves  the park. Hence strikeouts are up due increased velocity of pitchers on PED,  and the HR are up due to batters on PED. 

Edited by Maverick Hiker

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14 hours ago, Maverick Hiker said:

I suspect the players are juiced, rather than the baseballs.  

Remember the last time there was an unexplained surge in HR  like this in MLB.  McGwire, Canseco,, Bonds, Sosa, all of them turned out to be on the juice. As I get older, I see that history often repeats itself.

Here is what I suspect is  happening. The majority of MLB hitters and pitchers are now on PED.  Only it's different  from the old McGwire days,  today's PED don't bulk the players up to look like the Incredible Hulk.  Also the drug makers are so far ahead of the weak testing program in MLB that players will very rarely get caught.   '

The pitchers are throwing faster fastballs, because they are on PED,.  Because the batters are also on PED,  when they do connect ,the ball leaves the bat with greater velocity and often leaves  the park. Hence strikeouts are up due increased velocity of pitchers on PED,  and the HR are up due to batters on PED. 

I think there is some level of PED use ongoing.  There will always be players and labs that try to stay ahead of the testing, and some will succeed.  

But year-to-year spikes and dips probably can't be attributed to PED use.  There's no reason for very large groups of MLB players to suddenly gain or lose power, or any other attribute like pitcher velocity.  And we haven't seen spikes in pitcher velocity, only a gradual upward trend that coincides with less demanding innings and batters faced strategies.

Examples of spikes: From 1976 to 1977 homers went from .58 per game to .82 per game.  That's a 44% increase in one year, the equivalent of going from 94 homers/team/season to 133.  This year homers are up 19%, and will probably end up north of 20%.  From 1992-94 homers went up 43%. From 1987-88 homers fell 39%.

Those kind of step changes would require vast numbers of hitters to all suddenly start taking highly effective new PEDs.  And then in many cases all stop a year or two later.  Or it would take someone changing the tension setting on the ball-winding or ball-stitching machine by a couple notches.

We know for a fact that in WWII they changed the composition of the balls and runs fell by over a 1.0 run/team/game.  We know that they changed the cork center of the ball in 1911 and runs went up 3/4ths of a run per game.

I think it's far more likely the root cause is the balls.

 

 

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Baseball prides itself on almost never changing the playing rules.  The rules are probably 98% or 99% the same as they were in 1909.  Tweaks to the strike zone, and the DH rule are the only major things that are different as far as on-field, in-game rules.  That year an average player hit one homer per 500 plate appearances.  In 1981, when I was 10, an average player hit 8.  This year an average player hits 18 per 500 PA.

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