MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred: ‘We Need To Make A Change To The Baseball’

soxhop411

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Manfred said that the league is going back and taking another look at the baseballs.
“We have reconvened the group of scientists that worked with us before [on the initial study],” he said. “We’ve asked them to take a fresh look at everything that is occurring with the baseball. We expect to get this new report shortly after the World Series.”
Manfred said that he believed the report would contain some recommendations, but he sees the need to address the ball given the abnormal increase in home runs.
“The only thing I’m prepared to say at this point and time is I do think that we need to see if we can make some changes that gives us a more predictable, consistent performance from the baseball.”
Asked if there would be any need to run any change to the ball by the players, Manfred said, no.
“We can make the change without approval from the players but I have always looked to approached these types of issues with transparency to the players so that are aware.”


I’m a cynic So I think one of two things will happen:

they change the ball again and homers spike even more

or

they sink to record low numbers.

They had a perfect thing and fucked with it. I doubt they can get it back to normal.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Oh good, so obviously this season doesn't count, since the ball was messed up.

If they fix the ball, then the 2020 season will count again. The Red Sox will be the true defending champions.
 

teddywingman

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Do we really know if it's the baseballs or could it be the launch angle approach combined with higher velocities by pitchers resulting in more HRs and Ks?
 

shaggydog2000

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Do we really know if it's the baseballs or could it be the launch angle approach combined with higher velocities by pitchers resulting in more HRs and Ks?
It could be all three. If somebody had real proof rather than conjecture and limited testing then I would feel more confidant that a particular change would make a difference. If they tried a modified ball in fall leagues and it made a difference, then that would be more significant.
 

VORP Speed

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It could be all three. If somebody had real proof rather than conjecture and limited testing then I would feel more confidant that a particular change would make a difference. If they tried a modified ball in fall leagues and it made a difference, then that would be more significant.
The experiment has already been run. AAA switched to the MLB ball this season and homers went thru the roof. Launch angles and higher velocities didn’t change appreciably from 2018 to 2019. One variable was changed, the ball, and HR went up 57%. It’s the ball.
 

Harry Hooper

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The experiment has already been run. AAA switched to the MLB ball this season and homers went thru the roof. Launch angles and higher velocities didn’t change appreciably from 2018 to 2019. One variable was changed, the ball, and HR went up 57%. It’s the ball.
Beat me to it. The results from the minors tell us looking beyond the ball is a waste of time.
 

DrewDawg

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It would be a better game with fewer homers and more balls put in play.
Yep. It's a bit hyperbolic, but it's the difference between when I used to play softball---some higher leagues were just guys wearing ugly uniforms, swinging $300 bats, and hitting homers all game long. Then I dropped down to lower league and while there are homers, there's defense and base hits and all the rest.
 

shaggydog2000

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The experiment has already been run. AAA switched to the MLB ball this season and homers went thru the roof. Launch angles and higher velocities didn’t change appreciably from 2018 to 2019. One variable was changed, the ball, and HR went up 57%. It’s the ball.
I agree that the AAA experiment proved that the ball is a significant part of the change. I think it's likely to be the most significant by a bit. But the "fix" for the ball, and the physical cause of the change hasn't been explained or tested. So if they start using a new ball, there is no guarantee that it is going to do what they want it to. There isn't just a knob on the baseball machine that you can set to "old" or "new." Or a dial you use to adjust the home runs. The design of the ball didn't change. Some small changes probably happened in the process, and they need to know what is or isn't significant there so they can change it without screwing things up in a different way.
 

Red Sox Physicist

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The physical cause of the change hasn't been explained or tested.
@alannathan and others investigated the increase in home run rates for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons and concluded the increase was due to a decrease in the drag coefficient of the baseball. They ruled out a change in the coefficient of restitution, and changes in batting approach such as launch angle. They did not discover the cause in the change in drag coefficient in that report which is mentioned in the articled linked in the OP. There has been follow up research to identify the cause of the change in drag coefficient, and a new report is forthcoming.
 

chawson

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It’s interesting to consider which Sox players’ value relative to league average would change with a deader ball. Someone upthread suggested Porcello would improve, which could be true, since reverting back toward mediocrity (his diminishing velo is here to stay) would allow him to tap into his one strength — his durability. I’d also think Vazquez could slip a bit.

I’m sure (or I’d hope) some quant folks are researching this subject beyond idle speculation, but identifying which players’ productivity might fluctuate — on the Sox and otherwise — feels like one of the great tasks of the offseason.
 

oumbi

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Very small point about the thread. Would this better located in the MLB Discussion thread? It seems to deal with a larger MLB problem, not so much a Red Sox problem.
 

NJ_Sox_Fan

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Are HRs really a problem for the league though? Guys like Alonso, Alvarez, Acuna etc. who come up and hit all these HRs attract more fans.

It's the stupid times for playoff games, lengthy games due to 47 pitching changes, etc. I think that are more of an issue.
 

Plympton91

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Are HRs really a problem for the league though? Guys like Alonso, Alvarez, Acuna etc. who come up and hit all these HRs attract more fans.

It's the stupid times for playoff games, lengthy games due to 47 pitching changes, etc. I think that are more of an issue.
Triples are far more entertaining than home runs. I just don’t get the “chicks dig the long ball” thing. Chicks dig offense, sure. But HR are not as exciting as people running around the bases and relay throws to get them out.
 

Spacemans Bong

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Are HRs really a problem for the league though? Guys like Alonso, Alvarez, Acuna etc. who come up and hit all these HRs attract more fans.

It's the stupid times for playoff games, lengthy games due to 47 pitching changes, etc. I think that are more of an issue.
Why are games so long? Because of 47 pitching changes.

Why are there 47 pitching changes? Because you need to throw hard enough to miss bats.

Why do you need to miss bats? Because if you don’t, you give up a lot of home runs.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Why are games so long? Because of 47 pitching changes.

Why are there 47 pitching changes? Because you need to throw hard enough to miss bats.

Why do you need to miss bats? Because if you don’t, you give up a lot of home runs.
To the last point, I'm not even sure it's just a need to throw hard enough to miss bats, it's a need to make any kind of pitch that will miss bats (or at least induce non-barreled contact). If sinkers and sliders and cutters aren't sinking and sliding and cutting as much as they used to due to the ball, it renders a bunch of pitchers, hard throwing or not, vulnerable to hard contact they might otherwise be able to avoid.
 

Rough Carrigan

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@alannathan and others investigated the increase in home run rates for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons and concluded the increase was due to a decrease in the drag coefficient of the baseball. They ruled out a change in the coefficient of restitution, and changes in batting approach such as launch angle. They did not discover the cause in the change in drag coefficient in that report which is mentioned in the articled linked in the OP. There has been follow up research to identify the cause of the change in drag coefficient, and a new report is forthcoming.
Some pitchers have been quoted saying that the ball is wound and stitched tighter than it used to be such that the seams stick up less. This makes breaking pitches move less and probably makes the ball a little more aerodynamically efficient on deep fly balls, too.
 

effectivelywild

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Some pitchers have been quoted saying that the ball is wound and stitched tighter than it used to be such that the seams stick up less. This makes breaking pitches move less and probably makes the ball a little more aerodynamically efficient on deep fly balls, too.
Yeah, though strikeouts are still up, so it seems like at least some pitchers have been able to overcome this.
 

uncannymanny

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I agree that the AAA experiment proved that the ball is a significant part of the change. I think it's likely to be the most significant by a bit. But the "fix" for the ball, and the physical cause of the change hasn't been explained or tested. So if they start using a new ball, there is no guarantee that it is going to do what they want it to. There isn't just a knob on the baseball machine that you can set to "old" or "new." Or a dial you use to adjust the home runs. The design of the ball didn't change. Some small changes probably happened in the process, and they need to know what is or isn't significant there so they can change it without screwing things up in a different way.
Why would a 100+ year old league suddenly buy the ball company and change the manufacturing process as legalized gambling is exploding. Makes no sense!
 

Spacemans Bong

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@alannathan and others investigated the increase in home run rates for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons and concluded the increase was due to a decrease in the drag coefficient of the baseball. They ruled out a change in the coefficient of restitution, and changes in batting approach such as launch angle. They did not discover the cause in the change in drag coefficient in that report which is mentioned in the articled linked in the OP. There has been follow up research to identify the cause of the change in drag coefficient, and a new report is forthcoming.
Meredith Wills seems to have you guys beat on this: she's tested the balls and found them to be smoother, rounder and with lower seams based on past years.
 

drbretto

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When was that?
1998.

And this is all unnecessary. I agree, it's the ball. I just don't see a problem. Baseball has changed many, many times in its history. So, instead of the dead all era, we're in a juiced ball era. Congratulations, baseball, you managed to bring back a home run era without the steroids. What are you trying to fix?

The lack of consistency over the different eras has never been a problem. It's not a problem to give the fans something to debate about. Those debates fuel the fire of fandom. Trying to protect the historical narratives is like the WWE trying to protect the big secret that wrestling is fake.

The commissioner even speaking out about this just gives would be record-deniers something to back up their claims of an illegitimate era. Doing something about it stomps out the fire and hangs an implied asterisk on the whole season. If they really think the new ball goes too far (literally), just quietly, subtly, adjust it next year.

Change happens. It's fine.
 
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In my lifetime

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The overwhelming issue with baseball is not home runs or even frequent pitching changes (which I agree aren't ideal), it's the pace of the game which is up from 2 and a half hours up until the 80's to 3 hrs and 10 minutes. If you banned cell phones at games, the parks would be empty, since there is not enough action to occupy over 3 hours. I think the correction is incredibly easy and just follows the lead of football. Simply, the bench calls the pitches transmitted via earpiece located in cap to SS, pitcher and catcher. Pitcher can still simply shake off the pitch and the bench gives him a new pitch/location. It would eliminate so much wasted time in between pitches, and end the worry about signals being stolen. It's not new or complex technology. If you want to ensure no other information is transmitted. just do it via numbers transmitted only: 1, 2, 3 followed by location indicator. It seems to me that this one single change would shave 30 minutes of dead time off each game.
 

Max Power

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Meredith Wills seems to have you guys beat on this: she's tested the balls and found them to be smoother, rounder and with lower seams based on past years.
I have a couple balls at home from different eras. The ones from this year definitely have much lower seams.

I wonder if the ball also explains the uptick in pitcher velocity, too. If there's less drag on it, it should reach the plate a little bit quicker. Going back to a more traditional ball may bring pitch speed and strikeouts down a bit, too.
 

Plympton91

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The overwhelming issue with baseball is not home runs or even frequent pitching changes (which I agree aren't ideal), it's the pace of the game which is up from 2 and a half hours up until the 80's to 3 hrs and 10 minutes. If you banned cell phones at games, the parks would be empty, since there is not enough action to occupy over 3 hours. I think the correction is incredibly easy and just follows the lead of football. Simply, the bench calls the pitches transmitted via earpiece located in cap to SS, pitcher and catcher. Pitcher can still simply shake off the pitch and the bench gives him a new pitch/location. It would eliminate so much wasted time in between pitches, and end the worry about signals being stolen. It's not new or complex technology. If you want to ensure no other information is transmitted. just do it via numbers transmitted only: 1, 2, 3 followed by location indicator. It seems to me that this one single change would shave 30 minutes of dead time off each game.
I like this idea, except that it removes a good portion of the value of catchers, which is pitch calling. But, one way to address this would be to have catchers give signs that usually don’t mean anything but could at times allow the catcher to “audible” the pitch if they notice an adjustment by the batter that the bench can’t see.

I have a couple balls at home from different eras. The ones from this year definitely have much lower seams.

I wonder if the ball also explains the uptick in pitcher velocity, too. If there's less drag on it, it should reach the plate a little bit quicker. Going back to a more traditional ball may bring pitch speed and strikeouts down a bit, too.
I was wondering the same thing. How much are we talking about? 0.5 mph?
 

tims4wins

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The overwhelming issue with baseball is not home runs or even frequent pitching changes (which I agree aren't ideal), it's the pace of the game which is up from 2 and a half hours up until the 80's to 3 hrs and 10 minutes. If you banned cell phones at games, the parks would be empty, since there is not enough action to occupy over 3 hours. I think the correction is incredibly easy and just follows the lead of football. Simply, the bench calls the pitches transmitted via earpiece located in cap to SS, pitcher and catcher. Pitcher can still simply shake off the pitch and the bench gives him a new pitch/location. It would eliminate so much wasted time in between pitches, and end the worry about signals being stolen. It's not new or complex technology. If you want to ensure no other information is transmitted. just do it via numbers transmitted only: 1, 2, 3 followed by location indicator. It seems to me that this one single change would shave 30 minutes of dead time off each game.
This seems like an great idea worth pursuing, since everyone seems to be so anti-pitch clock.
 

ledsox

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I have a couple balls at home from different eras. The ones from this year definitely have much lower seams.

I wonder if the ball also explains the uptick in pitcher velocity, too. If there's less drag on it, it should reach the plate a little bit quicker. Going back to a more traditional ball may bring pitch speed and strikeouts down a bit, too.
But would it really reduce K's? Breaking pitch usage is up and higher seems should make those pitches more effective.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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The overwhelming issue with baseball is not home runs or even frequent pitching changes (which I agree aren't ideal), it's the pace of the game which is up from 2 and a half hours up until the 80's to 3 hrs and 10 minutes. If you banned cell phones at games, the parks would be empty, since there is not enough action to occupy over 3 hours. I think the correction is incredibly easy and just follows the lead of football. Simply, the bench calls the pitches transmitted via earpiece located in cap to SS, pitcher and catcher. Pitcher can still simply shake off the pitch and the bench gives him a new pitch/location. It would eliminate so much wasted time in between pitches, and end the worry about signals being stolen. It's not new or complex technology. If you want to ensure no other information is transmitted. just do it via numbers transmitted only: 1, 2, 3 followed by location indicator. It seems to me that this one single change would shave 30 minutes of dead time off each game.
I'm not opposed to the idea in general.

I do question how much time it would truly save, particularly if the pitcher can shake off the call. If he shakes off two or three times, wouldn't that process take a similar amount of time to a catcher running signs and being shaken off two or three times? I mean, if the pitcher shakes off the first signal, would the pitching coach then consult with the manager or at least think for a second before making a new call? If they can't get on the same page at all, would that lead to a mound visit to get on the same page? Can the pitching coach visit the mound in such a situation more than once in an inning without having to replace the pitcher?

I'm all for the earpiece communication, but it almost has to be two-way so the pitcher can countermand a call if he wants without causing the catcher or coach to have to guess what he wants instead. But ultimately, I think the only thing it solves is concerns about sign stealing. Because pitchers and catchers (and SS/2B) have been communicating through signals since the beginning of the game, and games in the 40s and 50s weren't slowed down by it in the least. Even games in the 70s and 80s (with TV cameras peering over the shoulder of the pitcher and showing the signs) weren't significantly affected by the process.
 

Rough Carrigan

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The overwhelming issue with baseball is not home runs or even frequent pitching changes (which I agree aren't ideal), it's the pace of the game which is up from 2 and a half hours up until the 80's to 3 hrs and 10 minutes. If you banned cell phones at games, the parks would be empty, since there is not enough action to occupy over 3 hours. I think the correction is incredibly easy and just follows the lead of football. Simply, the bench calls the pitches transmitted via earpiece located in cap to SS, pitcher and catcher. Pitcher can still simply shake off the pitch and the bench gives him a new pitch/location. It would eliminate so much wasted time in between pitches, and end the worry about signals being stolen. It's not new or complex technology. If you want to ensure no other information is transmitted. just do it via numbers transmitted only: 1, 2, 3 followed by location indicator. It seems to me that this one single change would shave 30 minutes of dead time off each game.
I don't think this makes much sense.
The problem isn't how long it takes catchers to signal and pitchers to nod or shake it off. The problem is how long the pitchers and hitters doddle, literally doing nothing.
And why the hell would a team with a sharp catcher want the bench to call the pitch? Sharp catchers can see that a guy was cheating a little to try and get the fastball or leaning over the plate a little because he's extra conscious of the breaking ball, etc etc etc. A guy on the bench can't see all that like the catcher can.
 

Mueller's Twin Grannies

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So Vasquez really isn't a power guy, and JBJ is pretty bad.
I think it comes down to you're as good as the era you play in allows you to be. Even Jim Bouton mentioned how the great players from his time (and before his time) would be run off the field by the players of today and some might never even get to the Major Leagues if they played today (or, rather, when he wrote that, but probably today too). He also, like many others, didn't seem to understand entirely how PEDs worked, so some of that may have been a little hyperbolic, but his point stands. I seem to recall that a lot of JBJ's are no-doubters and I'm not sure it would make a difference which balls were being used. Vaz, on the other hand, probably got a few extra dingers out of the new ball and his tutoring. But when it's happening league-wide, do you have to make an adjustment on everyone's scores or do you just assume it's some kind of Casimir effect where the juiced balls and the launch angle just create this perfect set of conditions where more balls go over the fence than would if either was different?
 

reggiecleveland

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@0 homers is not that big of a deal and from years of following ball, it means more ot me than it should. Is vas is (era adjusted) a 13 homer guy, that is is till a good player but not the d/power combo he seems based on totals.
 

The Gray Eagle

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I don't think this makes much sense.
The problem isn't how long it takes catchers to signal and pitchers to nod or shake it off. The problem is how long the pitchers and hitters doddle, literally doing nothing.
And why the hell would a team with a sharp catcher want the bench to call the pitch? Sharp catchers can see that a guy was cheating a little to try and get the fastball or leaning over the plate a little because he's extra conscious of the breaking ball, etc etc etc. A guy on the bench can't see all that like the catcher can.
It actually is a problem when there is a runner on second base. Teams can steal signs now much more effectively in games with video rooms and ipads, so pitchers and catchers run through extra signals with runners on second, which slows things down. And leads to more mound conferences after the catcher goes through 3 sets of signs and the pitcher shakes him off.

Last year's postseason really started dragging every time a team got a runner on second. That's when things should be getting more exciting, but it usually led to a bunch of waiting around.

The long delay in those situations are why a lot of players are against the pitch clock, they think pitchers won't have enough time to pitch after giving the extra-complicated signals.

And I haven't seen anyone mention it, but hitters probably want there to be enough time for the runner on second to flash them location (or the signal for the next pitch if they've stolen the signs) so they might not really want a faster-paced game either.
 
Sometimes it almost feels like it would be quicker for the pitcher and catcher to meet between the mound and the plate and talk to decide on a pitch - with the caveat that absolutely no one else was allowed to move from their positions (that is, none of that "the whole infield gathers together" junk. If the fielders need to know what the pitch is, the catcher can flash a quick sign to them, which would be one-and-done, since there wouldn't be anyone shaking it off).
 

In my lifetime

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You can't mic from catcher to pitcher since the batter is right there listening.

I am curious how many teams truly let the catchers call the game. In any event it seems analogous to football. 50 years ago, qbs called the game. Now a QB can audible to a set play, but it is the rare Manning that actually substantially calls the game.

And anytime someone is on base, the 10 signals put down then shaken off takes forever. Look, the coaching staff's job is to know the best pitch to call. 95% of the time, I would expect the pitcher to hear the call and just pitch. 5% - shake offs for the next pitch is fine and would still cut down the length if games. It would also cut down mound visits as well.
 

dhappy42

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I realize this isn’t a sign-stealing thread, but one solution to sign stealing is for the pitcher to throw the ball immediately after receiving the sign instead of waiting 3-4 seconds. It takes time for a stolen sign to be deciphered and relayed to the batter.