I’ve been operating under a few well known and mostly agreed upon facts.
- People love home runs.
- A slimmer taller strike zone, which better represents the rule book strike zone, is being called these days.
- Even without PEDs, athletes (and all of society) values strength more than ever.
- There are always PEDs, though they don’t seem to be widespread, but they’re certainly there.
- When home runs go up and strikeout rate goes up, too? Yes, hitters are swinging harder, making more mistakes, but also hitting more balls out of the park. There should be a Moore’s Law about this ratio. I’m going to work on it.
But the fact is, as Ben Lindbergh points out in this Ringer piece, based on research by the estimable Mitchel Lichtman, it seems the ball is juiced.
Lindbergh is extremely diplomatic about this assertion.
Maybe because Lichtman’s interesting testing (certified game-used balls bought on Ebay) is based on a small sample size, and subject to all kind of aging and sample treatment issues that are especially important in a small sample.
So, it’s fair so posit that Lichtman’s numbers aren’t perfect.
But, when you go through all that Lindbergh goes through quite methodically to present the case, it’s hard not to conclude that the ball is likely juiced. And that a small difference, seven feet in distance, could account for the insane increase in homers the last few years.
Which doesn’t mean that the MLB poohbahs decided to juice the ball, because as Lindbergh points out, if that’s what they did they did it in the most obvious way. Which, with crazy child reverse logic, means they probably didn’t do that on purpose, because they would not want their fingerprints on the manipulation. Right?
But they might have not cared, too, though they deny it, and have presented scientific evidence from their own labs that Lindbergh was given access to some months back that the balls are not juiced. We’ll let Alex Jones, the performance artist, weigh in here.
The most interesting part of the story for me was Lindbergh’s recitation of some Craig Wright-reported historical info about the transition from the dead ball to live ball in 1919 to 1921. The wool changed! The bottom line is that the game is played and has been played in continually changing historical and social conditions. To expect gross stats to adhere to any simple benchmark was a childhood fantasy for most of us, and for anyone younger? It should be a goof.
So, I’m not 100 percent down with Lichtman and Lindbergh, I mean who knows for sure (none of us), but this is good work, and the discussion should continue. That’s how science works.
PS. Plus, I realize I didn’t include the most excellent stat to help explain that the home run rate is because the balls are different. Big home run hitters aren’t benefiting much. Top home run rates aren’t increasing. What is increasing is home runs from secondary hitters, whose deep fly balls are suddenly leaving the park. Assuming that’s true, I’m taking their word, let’s blame the ball.