MLB decides to reconstruct the balls they will be playing with for this upcoming season, what does that mean moving forward?
The Major League Baseball fans and teams were brought to attention that their balls needed change based on record home run rates and variations in its baseballs. With questions roaming around about whether or not their baseballs were “juiced” back in 2017 and moving forward, a memo was sent out to 30 teams to inform them of changes to the balls for the 2021 season. These updated balls will fly one to two feet shorter on balls hit over 375 feet. This change should lead to fewer home runs, and lighter balls could offset the decreased bounciness.
“In an effort to center the ball with the specification range for COR and CCOR, Rawlings produced a number of baseballs from late 2019 through early 2020 that loosened the tension of the first wool winding,” said The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Eno Sarris. Reducing the weight and decreasing the bounciness would lead to reduced home runs.
In the last 162 game season that was played, the league saw a record of 6,776 homers hit in 2019. During the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, home run rates slightly fell from 6.6% of homers in 2019 to 6.5% last year. Inconsistency in the seam height for the boost in home runs has resulted in baseballs having less drag on average than in previous seasons.
Rawlings, who has manufactured balls for the league since 1977 and owned by the league, have said on multiple occasions their balls have not been intentionally altered. Rawlings factory in Costa Rica has loosened the tension on the first of three wool windings, which will adjust the coefficient of restitution (COR) down slightly. With the adjustments made on the balls, it will also lessen the ball’s weight by 2.8 grams without changing the size or impact of the pitcher’s velocity.
Five teams have also come up with a plan to add humidors to their stadiums, with 10 of 30 MLB stadiums being equipped with humidity-controlled spaces. The Arizona Diamondbacks, the Boston Red Sox, the Colorado Rockies, the Seattle Mariners and the New York Mets used humidors. It can help combat the effects of the lack of moisture which will make the balls fly farther. With these small changes, it could bring home runs back to 2016-2018’s record instead of 2014.
What does all of this mean for MLB’s baseballs and the future of home runs? Even if changing the balls won’t make a significant difference in terms of the game favoring batter, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a necessary decision. They plan to be more consistent in their process so that MLB baseball batches won’t make significant differences. Moving forward, these new balls could lead to a reduction in overall homers of about 5%.