Major League Baseball plans small changes in baseball in an effort to reduce the wild fluctuations in the home run from year to year, reports The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Eno Sarris. Last week MLB issued a note to the front offices outlining the planned changes, which are intended to dampen the ball.
Here are the bloody details, from Rosenthal and Sarris:
“In an effort to center the ball with the specification area for COR and CCOR, Rawlings produced a series of baseballs from late 2019 to early 2020 that unleashed the excitement of the first wool wrap,” the commission said in a statement. explains that this change had two effects – to reduce the weight of the ball by less than a tenth of an ounce, and also a small reduction in the bounciness of the ball, measured by COR and CCOR.
COR is the coefficient of recovery, or the ratio between incoming speed and outgoing speed. So in other words, this new ball will be less bouncy.
Small changes add up. As Rosenthal and Sarris note, the Korea Baseball Organization increased the weight of baseball by less than one-twentieth ounce and moved COR by about 0.01 in 2019, resulting in a 33% reduction in home runs. That said, KBO increased the weight of its ball, and MLB’s note indicates that it will reduce the weight of the ball.
In addition to swapping baseball, five teams will store baseball in a humidor in the home park, according to the note. Tea Diamondbacks, Sailors, Food, Red Sox, and Rockies already stores its baseballs in humors, with Arizona in particular showing a decline in homers when the humidor was installed. The five layers that will add to the humidor are unknown.
In 2019, MLB team swatted a record-breaking 6,776 home runs. It happened just five years after the 30 clubs together hit 4,186 home runs in 2014. Here are the annual home teams of the last five seasons:
- 2020: 1.28 homers per team per camp
- 2019: 1.39 (records)
- 2018: 1.15
- 2017: 1.26 (record before 2019)
- 2016: 1.16
Ideally, any changes in baseball would bring home runs back to 2016-18 levels instead of 2014 levels, as there were only 0.86 home runs per team per game, and the league hit .251 / .314 / .386 overall. The risk is that fewer home runs will have minor violations because there are so many strikes in today’s match, and tightening together several hits in one round is so difficult.
A little over a year ago, MLB launched a study that said that baseballs were not “juiced” in 2019 (ie deliberately changed to increase the home runs), and that the league’s increasing home runs had to do with the emphasis on launch angle, and also a small difference in the seams of baseball. In 2018, MLB acknowledged that changes in baseball had an effect on offenses.
MLB owns Rawlings, the company that produces its baseballs, and each baseball is handmade. It is the most important equipment in the sport, and it can play very differently from year to year, and this is MLB’s first public effort to create a certain consistency.