May 4, 2022
Here we go again.
After six-and-a-half years of lofted fly balls that made people say, “Wait, that got out?” the 2022 season has instead featured a barrage of loud outs that make people — even pitchers — say, “Wait, that wasn’t a homer?”
And yes, a change in the baseball itself is again altering the state of play in MLB — this time kneecapping the home run surge that has kept scoring afloat in an age of ever-advancing pitching wizardry. Unlike the original “juiced” ball that entered the league around the All-Star break in 2015 — with fluctuations that peaked in 2017 and 2019 — this change came with some hint of warning that an adjustment was being made.
It was widely reported that MLB installed humidors at every park to standardize the storage of baseballs, and Insider reported that a less bouncy baseball supposedly introduced in 2021 was actually only partially integrated alongside more homer-prone 2020 balls — a phenomenon blamed on pandemic-related production issues. This season, the deader balls are being used everywhere, the Athletic reported.
But the implications of the shift (or shifts) have been more seismic than expected. Entering Wednesday’s games, MLB’s scoring was at 4.04 runs per game, which would be the lowest since 1981 if it held all season. It will likely rise some with warmer weather, but that still gets you back to only 2013 or 2014 levels. More alarming, the league batting average has plummeted to .232, the lowest on record and five points shy of 1968’s Year of the Pitcher. Trustworthy studies have already identified the ball as the obvious culprit, and MLB’s own stats show higher drag on the ball than in previous seasons.
Source: Yahoo Sports (Photo by: SCtimes.com)