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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) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: juiced baseballs

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