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Sunday, April 11, 2021

An Early Look at the New Baseball

The results are a bit surprising. Having read The Ringer article, you might have expected to see the home run rate increase or remain stagnant. Yet, as far as home runs are concerned, league-wide offense has declined. If this rate remains constant throughout the remainder of the season, it would represent a return to around 2016 or ’17, seasons with environments slightly in favor of hitters but manageable for pitchers nonetheless. It also aligns with MLB’s goal of limiting offense some but not so much that the league is turned upside down.

So are Arthur and Lindbergh wrong? Not necessarily. It’s undeniable that MLB introduced a higher-drag ball during spring training, but several factors outside of their control may have contributed to the discrepancy. For one, the level of competition in spring games is different than that of actual major league games. Five teams reportedly added humidors to their stadiums this offseason, which could explain why the home run rate has been suppressed beyond what one might expect. Also, batted ball distance is influenced by the lower temperatures of April, as Arthur explained. When our sample is relatively small, even minor factors can have an outsized influence.

But there’s a twist. The rate of home runs is down, yes, but the higher exit speeds indicative of higher-drag balls are still there. They’re most notable in line drives, which I’ve defined as balls hit at launch angles between 10 and 25 degrees.

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 11, 2021 at 10:08 PM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: juiced baseballs

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The New Baseball Still Seems Juiced

The first important takeaway is that while spring-training home run rates on contact are generally a little lower than the corresponding regular-season rates—likely because of differences in quality of competition, weather, and other factors—the two rates tend to track each other closely: As regular-season home run rates have soared, spring-training rates have tended to follow (or lead). The correlation between the two over the past 15 years is .91, where 0 indicates no connection and 1 represents rates in perfect lockstep. The second takeaway is that the HR/Contact rate this spring is higher than it has been in any other spring on record. Spring dingers aren’t down; they’ve reached a record level, topping 5 percent of non-sacrifice batted balls. And in six out of the past seven seasons, the regular-season rate has moved in the same direction that the spring-training rate did.

One crucial caveat is that multiple models of ball are often in action during spring training, as teams use up leftover stock from the previous season (or seasons) and also integrate brand-new balls of the type that will be used in the regular season to come. Spring-training rates have proved predictive in the past despite that murky mélange of baseballs, but this year, for the first time, we can partially pierce the veil. Past exhibition seasons have generated little public information from MLB’s ball-tracking technologies. This season, though, Statcast is installed and producing publicly accessible data at spring-training parks (two of which host two teams apiece). That gives us a sample of roughly 43,000 pitches and almost 19,000 batted balls, robust data sets with which to calculate average exit speeds and derive estimated drag from the reduction in speed as a pitch makes its trip to home plate. A higher-drag ball encounters greater air resistance and loses slightly more speed as the pitch flies 55-ish feet (or someday, maybe more) from the pitcher’s hand to home.

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 31, 2021 at 06:08 PM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: juiced baseballs

Monday, February 08, 2021

The Athletic: MLB making changes to the baseball, deadening it — but by how much? [$]

The Athletic obtained an internal memo Major League Baseball sent Friday to general managers, assistant general managers, and equipment managers outlining minor changes that might combine to reduce offense slightly in the 2021 season. The combined effects might seem imperceptible to fans and perhaps even those on the field, but past history suggests very small changes to the ball’s construction can be a big deal.

“In an effort to center the ball with the specification range for COR and CCOR, Rawlings produced a number of baseballs from late 2019 through early 2020 that loosened the tension of the first wool winding,” the memo from the office of the commissioner reads, explaining that this change had two effects — reducing the weight of the ball by less than one-tenth of an ounce, and also a slight decrease in the bounciness of the ball as measured by the COR and CCOR.

COR is the coefficient of restitution, or the relationship of the incoming speed to the outgoing speed. So, in other words, this new ball will be less bouncy. How much less is a matter of science, but also opinion.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 08, 2021 at 01:58 PM | 40 comment(s)
  Beats: juiced baseballs

 

 

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