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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Major League Baseball used two balls again this year, and evidence points to a third

According to Wills’ data, MLB deployed this third baseball alongside the dead ball in 2022, with production starting as early as January – six months before Manfred promised a one-ball season. This new third ball’s weight centers somewhere between the juiced ball the league phased out last season and the newly announced dead ball: It is on average about one-and-a-half grams lighter than the juiced and one gram heavier than the dead. According to the league’s own research, a heavier ball tends to have more pop off the bat, meaning the third ball would likely travel farther than a dead ball hit with equal force.

While we accumulated 204 baseballs from 22 big league parks in 2022 – more than Wills has obtained in any of her previous studies – MLB also made sure it wasn’t easy. One player told Insider that one of Manfred’s top lieutenants warned a players’ union official not to let players send any balls to Wills for “third-party testing” and warned that the league could fire any non-union team employees who helped her research. Nonetheless, we amassed baseballs from sources around the league, and supplemented our sample by purchasing balls caught by fans and from licensed vendors at ballparks.

(It is worth noting that all the balls we obtained fell within the legal specifications in MLB’s rulebook. But as league-commissioned physicist Alan Nathan once said, “The specs on Major League baseballs, they almost don’t deserve to be called specs…They’re so loose that the range of performance from the top end to the bottom end is so different.”)

But perhaps even more interesting than the apparent existence of the third ball itself is where we tended to find it. Though the overwhelming majority of baseballs we obtained were dead, 36 of them fit the bill for what Wills dubbed the “Goldilocks ball” (not too heavy, not too light — but just right). Of those, most were found in one of three situations:

• Postseason games, including the World Series;

• The All-Star Game and Home Run Derby;

• Regular season games that used balls with special commemorative stamps (i.e. Texas Rangers 50th anniversary ball) on the outer leather.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 06, 2022 at 06:42 PM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: balls

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   1. Krusty Posted: December 06, 2022 at 09:34 PM (#6108396)
Amongst the many, MANY other questions this raises (62! Integrity!), the first question that came to my mind was, of all things.... what's this mean for Baseball Savant measurements?
   2. The Duke Posted: December 06, 2022 at 10:05 PM (#6108408)
WTF. Why would they do this and not expect to get caught. Is this Luhnow again because it sure looks like something Luhnow would say Luhnow is gone? Hmm. I wonder who it could be. Did Judge get a big hunk of metal for his achievement?
   3. A triple short of the cycle Posted: December 06, 2022 at 10:10 PM (#6108410)
Surely it is within human capability to manufacture baseballs to within any tight tolerance that is wanted.
   4. The Duke Posted: December 06, 2022 at 10:29 PM (#6108414)
It's like the old Seinfeld routine about holding a reservation

They know how to design a spec, they just don't know how to produce to a spec and producing to a spec is the most important part.
   5. The Duke Posted: December 06, 2022 at 11:16 PM (#6108420)
If it turns out Pujols got juiced balls too, I'm going to be seriously unhappy.
   6. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 07, 2022 at 12:42 AM (#6108424)
If it turns out Pujols got juiced balls too, I'm going to be seriously unhappy.
He passed every test for 20 years, but you never really know, I suppose.
   7. Hombre Brotani Posted: December 07, 2022 at 04:18 AM (#6108430)
   8. TomH Posted: December 07, 2022 at 04:34 AM (#6108431)
- the article mentions Yankee games often for Goldilocks ball, in addition to the post-season games. So yeah, 62*
- but Will's research needs independent confirmation before taking it to the bank. Lots of things seem solid when first presented (ref Proverbs 18:17)
- MLB's pushback against getting insight, as revealed here, is very disconcerting. Open Kimono, Manfred, or you're just acting like those who shut the doors on abuse investigations.
   9. Dolf Lucky Posted: December 07, 2022 at 06:54 AM (#6108433)
#8 is well said. The story struck me as thin from a scientific research perspective but incredibly damning in terms of reporting on the management of MLB.

Is this league becoming WWE?
   10. salvomania Posted: December 07, 2022 at 10:01 AM (#6108471)
The story struck me as thin from a scientific research perspective

How so? They were able to predict how much a ball would weigh by its date of manufacture. The balls that weighed more traveled further when hit. The batches of balls that weighed more were typically used only for special events (All Star game, postseason) and Yankee games.
   11. Dolf Lucky Posted: December 07, 2022 at 11:00 AM (#6108488)

My primary thought is that this isn’t a structured experiment but is based on whatever data was available (in this case, gathered baseballs). There could be a selection bias or there could be an issue related to small sample sizes.
   12. cardsfanboy Posted: December 07, 2022 at 11:07 AM (#6108489)
- the article mentions Yankee games often for Goldilocks ball, in addition to the post-season games. So yeah, 62*

The balls were still within regulation/specs, so no need for an asterisk.
   13. TomH Posted: December 07, 2022 at 11:16 AM (#6108493)
Did Yankee games feature more home runs than expected? The data support that only weakly.

In 2022, Yankees hitters hit and pitchers allowed 71 more dingers than lg avg. From 2019-21, those numbers per 162 games are 90, 62, and 12, respectively (all positive).
   14. Walt Davis Posted: December 07, 2022 at 04:34 PM (#6108582)
Open Kimono, Manfred

I suspect you are the first person to express the desire to see Manfred in an open kimono and the last thing Manfred needs is a Harvey Weinstein moment.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: December 07, 2022 at 04:37 PM (#6108585)
The balls were still within regulation/specs

I'm pretty sure that everything from a rock to the superballs that came out of Sammy's bat are within spec.

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