TheÂ New York Yankees and the other MLB teams were surprised when MLB changed the baseball that was in play mid-season. Understandably the baseball is the most important piece of equipment in the game. It affects the pitcher, as does the hitter.
Over the last several seasons, the ball has changed from year to year. Players were both surprised and disturbed that it was changed mid-season during 2021. It appears that keeping the ball the same is not a priority for MLB. It should be something to be discussed during the present CBA talks for a new contract. In just the last few years, we have gone from an ordinary ball to a juiced ball and then to a dead ball in 2021.
Take a look at these numbers:
- 2014:Â 0.86 home runs and 4.07 runs per team per game (lowest-scoring season since 1981)
- 2019:Â 1.39 home runs and 4.83 runs per team per game (most prolific home run season ever)
- 2020:Â A juiced ball that saw more home runs than in the past decade.
- 2021:Â MLB introduced the dead ball, the results were noticeable. There were 873 home runs in 2021 compared to the last 162 game season with 1,144 in 2019.
Changes in the ball shift the game beyond what most fans realize. Launch angle changes, defense, and offense also both change. In 2014, the league slugged .386, but that has increased to 4.35, a 58 point increase over the past five years. Another problem for pitchers and hitters alike is the MLB is not always transparent with these ball changes. They did announce before the 2021 season that there would be very minor changes to the ball, it deadened it for 2021. The result was fewer home runs, but then they changed the ball again mid-season leading to more home runs in the second half.
The deadened ball was a boon to pitchers but didn’t please hitters as fewer balls traveled over the fences. Just a minor change in the ball can keep it from going just a few extra feet, resulting in fewer home runs in all parks. One player that commented on the change was the Yankees’ first baseman, Anthony Rizzo.
Free-agent first basemanÂ Anthony RizzoÂ claimed during a podcast appearance this week that he noticed the change in the baseball last season that MLB used.Â
“I would take the balls this year and feel on them and be like, ‘Man, this seems harder,'” Rizzo said onÂ Compound Podcast, hosted by his formerÂ Chicago CubsÂ teammateÂ Ian Happ,Â per NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty. “And then you take some of them, and you’re like, ‘Feel how soft this is compared to what they were.’ It’s crazy.” Happ, agreed with Rizzo. He added: “They started flying in the middle of the year and you’re like, what’s going on?”
Commissioner Rob Manfred has been criticized for many things during his tenure, and this was just another one. Manfred and MLB have experienced some controversy over how the baseballs are made or weighted for years now. The league even investigated in 2019 when they commissioned their look into the subject. They found that the ball was not intentionally changed, and instead, it credited the change to hitter behavior, causing more home runs. Since then, we learned the ball was fiddled with, making it travel further.
Fans, pitchers, and hitters all believe the ball should not be tinkered with from year to year and that in no case should it be changed during the season. MLB and the players union should decide on a ball and stick with it. After originally saying there wasn’t a change in the ball, this season finally admitted that the ball changed but not on purpose. Due to the pandemic, there was a shortage of balls, and MLB had to change suppliers.
Rizzo, who played for the Cubs and Yankees this past season, is now a free agent. He has let it be known that he would like to stay in New York, but the Yankees have made no decision on who will be the starting first baseman this coming season. They did retain Luke Voit, leaving him as an option.