Last week, FanPulse results showed that 68% of respondents believed that MLB juiced the baseballs “intentionally”. This week, SB Nation’s national question followed up on that result by asking:
74% of respondents saw this new juiced ball as bad for the game.
It’s hard not to follow the line of logic here: if the ball has been altered, then so has the integrity of the game. I didn’t even stop to think much about the possibility that the league didn’t juice the ball. I was right out there questioning how 32% of the voters didn’t think the ball had been juiced.
What’s stuck with me since last week was quincy0191’s comment:
idk why it’s so hard to believe that MLB isn’t the Illuminati
I know life is easier when we believe that there are people in charge, and they have a plan, and things are working out according to that plan, even if the plan is horrifying. But also I don’t think MLB did this because they’re just not competent enough to have figured out something this complex and keep it a secret. We would’ve seen leaked memos and off-the-record sources saying there was a directive.
So, this is an even simpler explanation for what’s going on that better fits what we think we know about the league and its participants. I was capricious when I said:
I’m very interested to know what the 32% think happened to lead to historic home run rates. Is this burying one’s head in the sand-level ignorance?
And my analysis, such as it was, didn’t really amount to looking at two percentages and wondering why one didn’t conform to my worldview. But what quincy0191’s comment supposes is, “What if I don’t know what I’m talking about?”
First, it’s very clear that the ball is different. Back in June, Dr. Meredith Wills wrote for The Athletic (subscription required):
Performing my own independent studies, I determined the decrease in drag could be traced back to an increase in lace thickness, which inadvertently produced a rounder baseball. The introduction of thicker laces also corresponded to a marked increase in pitcher blister injuries, suggesting that as a possible factor.
Subsequent research about the home run rates have been just as weird:
Well... one month later, we're averaging slightly above 1 homer in 25 PAs for the year as a whole. HR/FB is also >15%! https://t.co/oLrfx4UHoH— Rob Arthur (@No_Little_Plans) August 20, 2019
Online speculation (which I can’t locate again) was that Baseball had sought to make the production process more efficient and in doing so, had done so well that it begat... this. All these dingers.
So, maybe the ball wasn’t juiced intentionally, but it has been juiced in some way. Or... maybe nothing really has changed?
This article by Jim Albert on the causes of the home run increase in 2019 is well worth a careful read. Jim makes a convincing argument that, despite all the hype to the contrary, it is not due solely to changes in the ball. https://t.co/y0eauUSOBj— Alan Nathan (@pobguy) August 19, 2019
jumping in, I wrote about these changes in LA and barrel rate but I’m nervous that a differently-centered pill could have ramifications on EV because I think it’s weird that EV is up across the board in one year.— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) August 21, 2019
You should remove bunts, as those have a noticeable effect. When I do so, as well as the "fill in" data (which is necessary to counteract bias), I get this.— Tangotiger (@tangotiger) August 21, 2019
2017 had some issues with GB, which is why you see it down a bit pic.twitter.com/KVYmSMypzJ
In this line of reasoning, it’s the hitting, coaching, and other technology unrelated to the process of making the ball yet still about the process of hitting the ball.
So, maybe we are seeing more home runs because batters are better at hitting home runs and pitchers are much better at throwing 94+ mph fastballs to give the batters the extra juice they need to clear the fences more often. Whatever the ultimate reason, it’s far less obvious that baseball has resorted to “intentionally” juicing the ball. Would you agree?
As to the other point about a juiced ball being bad for the game — if those who just assumed (like I did) that it was juiced, does your response change (if you felt it was bad for the game)? More broadly, is the home run explosion or the Three True Outcome-ization of baseball good for game?
Meanwhile, Bruce Bochy’s approval rating remained steady (89%) and you can see that after the Giants’ disastrous 22-34 start, their evening out has lifted his season approval over time:
Confidence in the team’s direction held about the same at 87% (it was 88% in week 21). The full confidence ranking is really something:
Confidence Results, Week 22
|94%||Tampa Bay Rays|
|91%||San Diego Padres|
|87%||San Francisco Giants|
|85%||New York Yankees|
|77%||New York Mets|
|74%||Toronto Blue Jays|
|73%||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|65%||Chicago White Sox|
|62%||Kansas City Royals|
|47%||Los Angeles Angels|
|28%||St Louis Cardinals|
|13%||Boston Red Sox|
The Orioles are breaking all sorts of records for awfulness and I suppose there’s an alternative universe where we’re doing that with the Giants. At some point, when a team is abjectly terrible and the front office seems like it’s intentionally making the team be as bad as possible to break the will of every fan and interested party so that it can do whatever it wants, it makes more sense to simply embrace what it is. The Orioles aren’t a baseball team, they’re a cauldron of misery. Pour enough ingredients into it and one day Mike Elias might become the King of Scotland —
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
There are still six weeks left of the regular season. Hop on as a FanPulse voter to influence the conversation.