M.L.B. Will Change Its Baseballs After Record Home Run Rates

After years of fielding questions on file residence run charges and variations in its baseballs, Major League Baseball knowledgeable its 30 groups in a memorandum on Friday of modifications to the balls — and the way they are going to be dealt with — for the 2021 season. Chief among the many variations can be a barely diminished weight and barely decreased bounciness, the latter of which might scale back residence runs.

“As you are aware, M.L.B. has engaged a committee of scientific experts over the last several years to study the construction and performance of the baseball,” stated one of many first traces of the memo, which was first reported by The Athletic. “One of the recommendations of that committee has been to narrow the manufacturing specifications of the baseball in order to improve the consistency of the baseball’s performance.”

Five of the six seasons with highest residence run charges in baseball historical past have occurred for the reason that begin of 2016. The different got here in 2000, earlier than the league examined for steroids. Many pitchers insisted throughout the record-setting 2019 season that the ball felt completely different of their palms, and the ace starter Justin Verlander accused the league that summer time of deliberately spring-loading the ball. The residence run charge plummeted throughout that postseason, which additional raised suspicions amongst gamers.

(Although residence runs have reached file highs, scoring hasn’t, because the hitters’ energy surge coincided with file charges in strikeouts and with pitchers’ throwing tougher than ever.)

Officials from M.L.B. and Rawlings — which has manufactured balls for the league since 1977 and has been successfully owned by the league since 2018 — have stated on a number of events that the ball has not been deliberately altered. They stated there would at all times be some degree of inconsistency to the baseballs as a result of a lot of the manufacturing course of is finished by hand, at a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica.

Though unacknowledged in the memo, this change could lead to fewer home runs over the course of the 162-game season. Also a slightly lighter ball could offset the decreased bounciness.

M.L.B. told teams on Friday that, with the testing of the new ball complete, “we are comfortable that these baseballs meet all of our performance specifications and achieve the objective of re-centering the ball within the specification range.”

The league said it would release more conclusions from the testing in the coming months.

Also in the memo, M.L.B. said that five more teams had applied for and received permission to store balls in humidity-controlled environmental chambers (known as humidors) for the 2021 season. Five teams — the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Boston Red Sox, the Colorado Rockies, the Seattle Mariners and the Mets — used humidors during the 2020 season. A humidor can help combat the effects of a site’s lack of moisture, which makes balls fly farther.

M.L.B. also said in the memo that it would begin employing on-site compliance officials for every 2021 game to ensure that teams were following league rules, including those regarding chain of custody of game balls and the application of mud used to help pitchers better grip a ball.

The league has tried of late to better enforce its rule against pitchers’ using banned foreign substances like pine tar to improve their grip and the spin of the ball, which can result in more strikeouts.

Tyler Kepner contributed reporting.

Source link Nytimes.com

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