One of the biggest topics among players in recent years has been whether Major League Baseball is altering game balls to increase offense. A record 6,776 homers were hit during the 2019 regular season, which the league attributed to a decease in air resistance and inconsistent seam height.
Despite the 2020 season being shortened due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the rate of homers fell only slightly from the previous year. A record 6.6% of plate appearances resulted in home runs in 2019 compared to 6.5% last season.
Looking to avoid a repeat this year, MLB reportedly has tweaked baseballs for the 2021 season while acknowledging they expect the changes to be minor, via Jake Seiner of the Associated Press:
Major League Baseball has slightly deadened its baseballs amid a years-long surge in home runs. MLB anticipates the changes will be subtle, and a memo to teams last week cited an independent lab that found the new balls will fly 1 to 2 feet shorter when hit over 375 feet.
Specifically, MLB has instructed Rawlings to loosen the tension on the first of three wool windings within the ball, which will reduce its weight without changing its size:
The league mandates all baseballs have a coefficient of restitution (COR) — essentially, a measure of the ball’s bounciness — ranging from .530 to .570, but in recent years the average COR had trended upward within the specification range. In an effort to better center the ball, Rawlings has loosened the tension on the first of three wool windings within the ball. Its research estimates the adjustment will bring the COR down .01 to .02 and will also lessen the ball’s weight by 2.8 grams without changing its size. The league does not anticipate the change in weight will affect pitcher velocities.
In the wake of these adjustments, game balls figure to be lighter this season. MLB noted they don’t expect the changes to affect pitcher velocities, which have been on the rise in recent seasons as well.
Not only has the league changed the game balls for the 2020 campaign, but five teams also plan to add humidors to their stadiums, raising the total to 10 with humidity-controlled storage spaces.
MLB, Players Association reach agreement on health and safety protocols
With Spring Training on track to start next week, MLB and the Players Association reached an agreement on health and safety protocols for the 2021 season. The deal brings back seven-inning doubleheaders and the extra innings rule introduced last season, but not a universal designated hitter or expanded playoffs.
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