Are baseballs juiced?

Are baseballs juiced?

  • Yes

  • No


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soxhop411

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Pitchers such as PRICE seem to think so.
PHOENIX — They walked slowly out of the New York Yankees clubhouse down the corridor, took a left into a private family room, and were escorted into a bathroom.

This is where Major League Baseball’s drug testers took several players Wednesday morning before their game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, customary practice for a sport trying to avoid another steroids scandal.

The trouble is that the drug testing police, trying to keep the sport as pure as possible, are hauling in the wrong guys.
The ones who needed to be drug-tested are those five-ounce baseballs.

In interviews this past month with everyone from pitchers to scouts to umpires to team officials, they informed USA TODAY Sports that today’s baseball may be juiced more than anyone’s body during the height of baseball’s ugly steroids era.

“Come on, just tell us,’’ Boston Red Sox veteran starter David Price says. “We all see it. Just come clean and say it.’’
Major League Baseball insists there has been no change in the manufacturing of the baseball, but commissioned independent reports last year which determined there is less of a drag on the baseball, which has become even more evident this year.

“They could not conclude why that is,’’ Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday at the Associated Press Sports Editors commissioners meetings in Manhattan, “but they did have some theories, which in part were that the baseball is a hand-made product that is almost exclusively made from natural products. The result of that is there’s going to be some variations in baseballs. You cannot escape that fact.

“We’re in that range of variation that we don’t know how to eliminate. When the drag goes down, the ball goes further, and you’re going to have more home runs.’’
There were a record 1,144 homers hit in March and April, averaging 2.62 homers a game, an increase of 12.2 percent from a year ago. There were a record 6,105 home runs hit in 2017, but now we’re on pace for nearly 6,500 home runs.
There are more home runs being hit these days than ever before in baseball history, yes, more than even when players were juicing out of their mind during the steroid era.

There are 16 players on pace to hit at least 40 homers, four players on pace to hit at least 60, and two players -- Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers -- to reach nearly 70.

And to think, just a year ago, Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies led the National League in homers with 38.
Three teams -- the Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners and Brewers -- are on pace to hit more than 300 homers, shattering the Yankees’ season-single record of 267 last year. The Baltimore Orioles gave up a Major League record 73 homers in March and April, and are on pace to surrender a staggering 381 homers, 123 more than any team in baseball history.
And they’re going further than we’ve ever seen. There have already been a staggering 50 home runs hit 441 feet or longer, according to MLB Statcast, and 26 homers of at least 450 feet.

“And I don’t even believe Statcast,’’ Price said. “I think they’re being hit even further. I bring out my (golf) range finder, and that doesn’t lie.’’
If you want proof that something strange is happening with the baseballs, check out the numbers in Triple-A. This is the first season that Major League Baseballs are being used in the Pacific Coast League and International League, and their home-run rate has spiked by a staggering 47.1% -- 2.56 homers a game from 1.74 of a year ago.
https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2019/05/02/mlb-home-runs-record-rate-juiced-ball/3650669002/

More at the link.
 

Buck Showalter

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Tuesday night - against the A's - Bogaerts hit a ball to centerfield (in Fenway) and after making contact, he appeared to be pissed that he "missed it".....

It carried to the warning track - over-the-head of the CFer and cleared the bases.

That's the first thing I thought of when I read this article on Twitter yesterday.

Yes - the ball is most certainly juiced.
 

Ale Xander

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They're juiced.

Offense sells. Just like PI and QB hit rules in NFL, hand-checking rules in NBA, and goalpad dimensions in NHL.

All changes designed to add offense.
 

Harry Hooper

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The subtle thing about reducing the drag of the baseballs is that they still pass all the traditional "coefficient of restitution" tests for liveliness.
 

grantb

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Of course it is, I read about the change in AAA and was not surprised in the least at the new results.
https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/juiced-baseballs/ - This analysis doesn't account for all of it, but add in that less air resistance means less movement on pitches and I can see most of these results being ball driven.
 

shaggydog2000

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It’s strange that MLB keeps denying it, when a good portion of the evidence says otherwise.
Because the balls can be livelier than older batches and still be within the specs that the MLB has had for decades. So they would not be lying when they say the balls are within normal bounds of their measurements. But they could still be lively enough to make a difference in offense. And the MLB may not have asked for any change in the process of making the balls, and the manufacturers may not have intentionally made any changes, but the balls started coming in livelier because of a change at a material vendor, or maintenance on some of their machines, or anything else. It's probably not a conspiracy to mess with David Price.

But it could be a conspiracy to mess with David Price.
 

Mueller's Twin Grannies

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Could this be at least a partial explanation for Sale's struggles? He's been getting hit harder than he ever has before and has been throwing anywhere from 90mph to 97mph in his various starts and the results have been largely the same every time. For a pitcher who depends on that late break or that little bit of extra zip on a pitch, it likely makes a big difference if it's breaking even a fraction of a second later than it used to or is staying straight as an arrow all the way through the zone instead of that late movement you hear about. Then again, no other ace is really having the same struggles, so maybe not.
 

Blue Monkey

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I have a baseball from the 1999 season (which is right at the height of the juiced era) and another from maybe 2005 or 2006. I haven’t cut them open but the difference between the tightness/size of the stitches is quite noticeable. The 1999 ball is stitched much tighter. Something like that may be going on here.
 

YTF

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Balls are flying out of parks in record numbers with the past 3 seasons having seen 3 of the 4 highest home run totals ever. I don't have the data on this, but can anyone here recall seeing home runs hit at this pace in APRIL? (Edited.. data is in the opening post) What will it be like when the weather gets warmer? Traditionally the ball seems to carry better as the season progresses?. There is a new approach to hitting with everything seeming to be about launch angle these days. We're not only seeing more balls in the stands, but we're looking at some serious distances as well.
 
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santadevil

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I have a baseball from the 1999 season (which is right at the height of the juiced era) and another from maybe 2005 or 2006. I haven’t cut them open but the difference between the tightness/size of the stitches is quite noticeable. The 1999 ball is stitched much tighter. Something like that may be going on here.
That would reduce drag, not increase it
 

brs3

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I thought this had been determined last season by the 538 and SB Nation article?

The natural solution would be for pitchers to rediscover the inside of the plate and pitch on the corners?

As Maddux & Glavine said, chicks dig the long ball. Who doesn't?
 

Joe Sixpack

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Yes...you said the 1999 ball was stitched tighter.
Are you saying that the current baseballs aren't juiced?

I'm saying they are now and something must be reducing drag quite a bit
I think the theory would be they stitched them tighter in the late 90s when steroids and home runs exploded, then in the PED backlash stitched looser to reduce power (it was being compared to a mid-2000s ball, not a present day one) and they are now going tighter again.
 

Blue Monkey

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Yes...you said the 1999 ball was stitched tighter.
Are you saying that the current baseballs aren't juiced?

I'm saying they are now and something must be reducing drag quite a bit
Sorry maybe I did not phrase it very well. What I was saying is that 1999 ball, with the super tight stitching was also right in the peak of the “juiced” era. Then 5-6 years later a non-tightly stitched ball, during a “non-juiced” era, if you will. Maybe the stitches on the ball now are back to being tight like they were late 90’s.

Yeah what joe six pack said.
 

MyDaughterLovesTomGordon

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On the radio, Castig has been hammering on this. He keeps being shocked when balls go out. After calling games for 50 years, he says, you know what swings produce what results, and he feels like he doesn't understand what he's seeing now.

That's all the evidence I need.
 

garlan5

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i remember in the late 90s espn baseball shows talking about the same thing- the juiced ball. They never questioned the obvious juiced player. Is there any data on individual players from a few years ago to compare exit velocity coming off the bat.
 

Max Power

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I have two baseballs at home. One from around 10 years ago and one that a Rays player tossed to my daughter last weekend. The seams are completely different. The older ball has higher, narrower seams, and the new one is much more flat and spread out. There may be some differences inside as well, but you can see the change right on the surface.

 

YTF

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On the radio, Castig has been hammering on this. He keeps being shocked when balls go out. After calling games for 50 years, he says, you know what swings produce what results, and he feels like he doesn't understand what he's seeing now.

That's all the evidence I need.
It was either yesterday or the day before Dave O'Brien sort of put the question to Eck and his response was something like "What I know is baseballs are flying out of here like golf balls".
 

BuellMiller

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On the radio, Castig has been hammering on this. He keeps being shocked when balls go out. After calling games for 50 years, he says, you know what swings produce what results, and he feels like he doesn't understand what he's seeing now.

That's all the evidence I need.
Which is the opposite of his time with Jerry Trupiano when flyballs to 10 feet short of the warning track would get the "Way back!" treatment
 

Jnai

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I would love to cut open some balls and see if the insides look different. The construction of the ball has way, way more to do with the liveliness than does the "drag" caused by lower seams.
There are robust measurements indicating that drag is the culprit, and that other parts of ball construction are not. (that said, there is little good evidence that the seams are to blame).

Rawlings released a trove of other measurements related to weight, size, COR, etc last year. Although it is clear that these measures vary over time, it is much less clear that they would produce patterns of data consistent with the observed change in home runs.

The real challenge here is that the ball to ball variation in drag is actually quite high, much much larger than the change between home-run-surge balls and non-surge balls. This makes identifying the issue in ball construction extremely challenging.
 
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Jnai

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Because the balls can be livelier than older batches and still be within the specs that the MLB has had for decades. So they would not be lying when they say the balls are within normal bounds of their measurements. But they could still be lively enough to make a difference in offense. And the MLB may not have asked for any change in the process of making the balls, and the manufacturers may not have intentionally made any changes, but the balls started coming in livelier because of a change at a material vendor, or maintenance on some of their machines, or anything else. It's probably not a conspiracy to mess with David Price.

But it could be a conspiracy to mess with David Price.
The specs on the ball are much much wider than the practical variation seen in ball construction for all of the parameters typically measured by Rawlings.
 

Bob Montgomery's Helmet Hat

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There are robust measurements indicating that drag is the culprit, and that other parts of ball construction are not. (that said, there is little good evidence that the seams are to blame).

Rawlings released a trove of other measurements related to weight, size, COR, etc last year. Although it is clear that these measures vary over time, it is much less clear that they would produce patterns of data consistent with the observed change in home runs.

The real challenge here is that the ball to ball variation in drag is actually quite high, much much larger than the change between home-run-surge balls and non-surge balls. This makes identifying the issue in ball construction extremely challenging.
You very well might be right. I was in the baseball industry for a while and I've seen a lot of balls made in factories around the world, so my mind always goes to inner construction. The whole drag thing probably was after my time, so I sort of struggle to understand it.
 

Jnai

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The commissioner's home run report from last season is actually a very good primer on it, as well as Alan Nathan's other work.
 
Jul 5, 2018
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The commissioner's home run report from last season is actually a very good primer on it, as well as Alan Nathan's other work.
That there has been increase in homers is not proof that the balls have been juiced. If a 350' flyball is now a 400' HR, shouldn't what would have previously travelled 500' now reach 550'? But based on Statcast, the longest home runs since 2015 have topped out every year at about 500'.

By the way, whether the ball is juiced has been a popular topic for a long time:

https://www.si.com/vault/1970/07/20/611156/funny-ball-funny-bounces
 

YTF

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That there has been increase in homers is not proof that the balls have been juiced. If a 350' flyball is now a 400' HR, shouldn't what would have previously travelled 500' now reach 550'? But based on Statcast, the longest home runs since 2015 have topped out every year at about 500'.

By the way, whether the ball is juiced has been a popular topic for a long time:

https://www.si.com/vault/1970/07/20/611156/funny-ball-funny-bounces
Interesting read, but the article is nearly 50 years old. A lot in the game has changed since then. That fact might partially make the argument that it's not the balls. Bigger and stronger athletes surely have an effect as does changing philosophies and approaches to hitting the ball. The influx of new or newly renovated ballparks probably contributes as well, but there is a trend these past four seasons including the unprecedented home-run pace that we're off to this season. I'll leave the science part of this to those who know best, but there is clearly something different.
 

Jnai

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That there has been increase in homers is not proof that the balls have been juiced. If a 350' flyball is now a 400' HR, shouldn't what would have previously travelled 500' now reach 550'? But based on Statcast, the longest home runs since 2015 have topped out every year at about 500'.

By the way, whether the ball is juiced has been a popular topic for a long time:

https://www.si.com/vault/1970/07/20/611156/funny-ball-funny-bounces
That's true. The report also discusses possible changes in player behavior.
 

dhappy42

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An increase in pitch velocity should produce an increase in exit velocity, right? I mean when batters make solid contact.
 

Jnai

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An increase in pitch velocity should produce an increase in exit velocity, right? I mean when batters make solid contact.
Yes, but relatively little when compared to factors like bat speed, and pitched ball velocity has not increased in a manner that would be consistent with the increase in home runs.
 

aksoxfan

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Maybe the bats are juiced as well. Also, doesn’t the finer stitching make it more difficult for pitchers to get movement on the ball? I would also think gripping would be harder.
 

YTF

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Maybe the bats are juiced as well. Also, doesn’t the finer stitching make it more difficult for pitchers to get movement on the ball? I would also think gripping would be harder.
Interesting point. Remember back a while ago, perhaps ten years or better, it seemed that bats were breaking all the time and there was thought of it being due to a shortage of ash and the introduction of maple bats. I'm not sure what, but something has changed since then as we don't seem to see nearly as many bats shattering/exploding all over infields like we did then. Your post has me wondering if the league has found a safer, more suitable replacement than maple and if so, how might that contribute to what we are seeing with the current home run glut.
 

ledsox

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Yes, but relatively little when compared to factors like bat speed, and pitched ball velocity has not increased in a manner that would be consistent with the increase in home runs.
Right. And there is also a theory that breaking pitches are susceptible to longer flight since the pitch spin is more in line with the backspin of a well lifted batted ball. With a fastball the spin would have to be reversed at impact. With increased usage of breaking pitches this could also be a factor in the increased HR rate..
 

terrynever

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Pirates’ Josh Bell just hit one 472 feet into the Allegheny River. Fourth ball into the river since stadium opened in 2002.
 

soxhop411

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Pirates’ Josh Bell just hit one 472 feet into the Allegheny River. Fourth ball into the river since stadium opened in 2002.

If you gave mlb players metal bats to hit these juiced balls. How far would they go?

700 feet?
 

Jnai

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Right. And there is also a theory that breaking pitches are susceptible to longer flight since the pitch spin is more in line with the backspin of a well lifted batted ball. With a fastball the spin would have to be reversed at impact. With increased usage of breaking pitches this could also be a factor in the increased HR rate..
I'm fairly sure that the spin rate or angle of the pitched ball has almost nothing to do with the spin rate or angle of the batted ball.
 
Jul 5, 2018
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An increase in pitch velocity should produce an increase in exit velocity, right? I mean when batters make solid contact.
The Ted Williams red seat homer was hit off of a change-up and Reggie Jackson's famous All-Star game homer was off of a slider. Other players at the game said they had never seen a ball hit so hard.