Monday, January 27, 2020

Entering 2020, MLB has questionable balls

MLB gets its balls from a Rawlings plant in Costa Rica, where all the pineapples grow. This allows them to be juiced. Ha-ha. Badaboom. But seriously, folks, every single ball is hand-stitched over a 10-minute period, and supposedly they are identical when rubbed in special mud from the Delaware River. (I assume the mud is laden with PCBs, but let's not think about that.) 

Here's the thing: Last year, something happened to the balls, and Yankee fans ought to start thinking about it. I'm sure the Yankees are.

Last year, balls soared out of MLB stadiums at an all-time record pace. Thus, sinker ball pitchers thrived, and fly ball pitchers - such as J.A. Happ - were battered to the point of PTSD. Hard-throwing rookies, who had risen through the ranks by using balls from China, found that fly ball outs became moonshots. Last year, something changed in the balls, and it begs an existential question: What happens if a sport cannot regulate its fundamental element?

In December, a four-egghead MLB committee - including professors of physics, math, statistics and mechanical engineering - concluded that 2019's baseballs showed "less drag" than in previous years due to inconsistent seam heights. This produced a record number of home runs - 6,776 - eclipsing the previous record, set in 2017, of 6,105. That's a huge increase, almost 10 percent. The professors also blamed the behavior of batters: Everybody was swinging (and missing) for the fences.

And here's an oddity that nobody has yet explained: In the 2019 post-season, the balls didn't go as far. Something changed. The study confirmed an analytical report by the St. Louis Cardinals, which found that in October, balls traveled on the average about five feet less in distance. (Remember any balls dying at the wall? During the regular season, they might have gone out.) MLB and Rawlings swear the same balls were used during the post-season. So, why didn't they go as far? Considering what we know about the ethics of various front offices, I'd say it's worth another study. 

The committee recommended that MLB parks store game balls in humidors. Presumably, that will help them keep their fine tobacco flavor. It could also lessen the HR totals. Supposedly, some parks will do this in 2020; I'm not sure if Yankee Stadium will be one. If some parks do it and others don't, this is ripe to become Houston's next scandal. How easy would it be to use humidor balls when the visitors come to bat, then the old juiced one for your team. Baseball had better think this through.

Another change in 2020: Triple A will switch to the MLB brand from Costa Rica, but the rest of the minors will continue using balls made in China. Apparently, Trump's tariffs only go so far. 

As a dumb fan, I find this talk about balls to be disconcerting. Last year, a few pitchers  - Masahiro Tanaka, anyway - seemed to adjust. Happ put together a nice final month, though it too little and too late to save his season. You wonder whether 2019 was an aberration... or simply, at age 37, the twilight of his career.

With Gerrit Cole, the Yankees would seem to be transitioning from a Murderers Row team into a pitching powerhouse. Right now, we have six decent starters challenging for five rotation slots, and that's not counting Domingo German and the scrum of rookies who might make the jump. Will the Yankees, who play in a modern bandbox, use humidors? Could they make a difference?

There is also the question of what MLB wants. Last year, it promoted the excitement of home runs, though this rubbed many old fans, who grew bored with the exploding volume strikeouts and walks. Entering 2020, the Yankees look like the best team in the AL. The question is, will the game itself have changed?

11 comments:

JM said...

The stewardship of the game is broken. That's a sad and huge statement, but it's true.

Statistics and championships, the backbones of baseball history and fandom, have been rendered meaningless now. That can't be fixed.

Too bad. Great game.

Carl J. Weitz said...

MLB doesn't give a shit about who does or doesn't like how many home runs are being hit. They just couldn't care less.

The only thing that touches upon this is the cost of the baseball. So whether that means balls coming from the Rawlings Costa Rica plant have uneven seams or no seam it doesn't matter unless they are cheaper. Manfred would rather spend his time finding more ways to separate the fan from his hard-earned money. Remember, his multi-million dollar year-end bonus depends on you!

Alphonso said...

The owners should impose a " ball franchise" tax on all ticket holders.

The Giants should, under the cover of night, increase the distance between the yard lines from 5 yards to five yards and three inches. That way, even with a lousy defense, perhaps a few first downs can be prevented by the opposition.

Don't ask what happens when the Giants have the ball.

You think I have ll the answers?

Call Duque.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Agreed, JM and Duque.

And Carl Weitz, I think you're right. Once again this comes down to what has become a national plague: the willingness to sacrifice absolutely everything to immediate, maximum profits.

Thank goodness we're talking baseballs here, not 737s. But the mentality is the same.

JimmyEatsHotDogs said...

Baseball will screw this up....... take it too the bank!

Carl J. Weitz said...

Alphonso, the answer is moveable lines. Or rather moveable ground. You're only talking 3 inches. Who would notice? Whenever there's a change of possession it always takes 7 or 8 commercials anyway...I mean several minutes in-between actual play. "Complimentary fireworks display between every possession" would distract then every time. And be good marketing for a bad team. It definitely can be done.

Anonymous said...

It's what we all suspected all along. The balls really were juiced in the regular season part of 2019. And they were unjuiced in postseason 2019. If they are unjuiced again in 2020, lineups with better pure hitters have the advantage. Those lineups that rely on only swinging for the fences, like the Yankees, will have headaches. If we could only add a couple of quality lefty hitters, with approaches similar to DJ LeMahieu, I'd feel so much better about our chances in 2020.

The Hammer of God

Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside said...

I’ll be only be happy in 2020 if I get to shit all over local Red Sox fans

HoraceClarke66 said...

Yeah, but our best swing-for-the-fences-only hitter will be out with injuries. So we're ahead of the game.

That Cashman is a genius!

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ibusuchi said...

KARNA RASA HATI YANG GEMBIRA BERKAT BANTUAN AKI SOLEH
MAKANYA SENGAJA NAMA BELIAU SAYA CANTUNKAN DI INTERNET !!!

assalamualaikum wr, wb, saya IBU SUCHI saya Mengucapkan banyak2
Terima kasih kepada: AKI SOLEH
atas nomor togelnya yang kemarin AKI berikan "4D"
alhamdulillah ternyata itu benar2 tembus AKI
dan berkat bantuan AKI SOLEH saya bisa melunasi semua hutan2…
orang tua saya yang ada di BANK BRI dan bukan hanya itu AKI alhamdulillah,
sekarang saya sudah bisa bermodal sedikit untuk mencukupi kebutuhan keluarga saya sehari2.
Itu semua berkat bantuan AKI SOLEH sekali lagi makasih banyak ya, AKI
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seperti saya...?
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2: Selaluh kalah dalam bermain togel
3: Barang berharga sudah
terjual buat judi togel..
4: Sudah kemana2 tapi tidak
menghasilkan, solusi yang tepat..!
5: Sudah banyak dukun ditempati minta angka ritual blom dapat juga,
satu jalan menyelesaikan masalah anda..
Dijamin anda akan berhasil
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