Wear your tin hats as you immerse yourself well in the conspiracy of Major League Baseball. All the talk around baseball’s refreshing water proverb has been lately over brooding using sticky substances to increase its grip on baseball. However, according to Rookie of the Year NL 2019, Pete “Polar Bear” Alonso, it’s not the tight-fitting clothes we should be worried about. It’s MLB itself that awards balls (either squeezed or piled up) every year according to the next class of free agents.
Later during his press conference, Alonso explained what this theory – or “fact” according to Alonso – is diffuse among league players. He claims that in 2019, several brocades are set to hit the free agent market, so the league has pressed its balls to improve offensive numbers and bring down the market for pitching. Now in 2021, with several players in stellar positions who will enter the market this season, the league was dead balls.
Alonso’s assessment of the next class of free agents is accurate. Many of the game’s young stars are ready to hit the market including Corey Seager, Trevor Story, Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, and Marcus Semien among many others. After Francisco Lindor set the new market standard for young shortstop contracts in MLB, it makes sense for the league to try to limit offensive numbers before an offseason where six senior All-Stars – four of them under the age of 30 – at the position are destined to become free agents without restrictions. In order Tim Dierkes, Six of the first seven free agents to come are position players.
It’s no secret that offensive numbers in Major League Baseball have dropped this year. The league is currently at peace for his lowest average batting average in the entire league since 1968, his lowest slugging percentage since 2014, and his highest extravaganza rate of all time. But are these numbers a product of doctoral balls or a product of the way the game has changed recently?
Well, in 2019 – when Alonso claims the league was squeezing balls – the league saw its highest OPS since 2006 and the highest slugging percentage since 2000 (third highest mark ever). The batsmen were beating the ball all over the garden. Has the game changed so drastically in the last two years to cause such a drop in bat production? Unlikely. There has been a lot of talk about brooches using sticky clothes to increase their grip. Could there be something to see? It has been well documented that the brooches have been using adhesive materials such as pine tar, sun filter and Spider Tack for years at this point. It was definitely going to be in 2019 and it was happening for years before then, so once again … it’s unlikely.
The most likely reason for the growth in offensive numbers in 2019 is, in fact, MLB playing its balls. At least by 2020, the balls were almost certainly squeezed. In order Illustrated Sports: “After deconstruction and measurement [the ball’s] components, [Dr. Meredith Wills] found that a significant percentage of the 2020 balls were built in a way that could probably make them fly farther – and that the changes could only have been deliberate ”.
MLB has been under fire for squeezing its balls since league home inventory rates began to skyrocket around 2015. When pitchers began calling the league to use a ball that felt different from normally in 2019, MLB has launched its own investigation and determined that the balls were not intentionally squeezed – assigning the uptick in the pace of running at home to throw angles and low seams on the used balls. Now, if you think about it, this study is fishy. MLB investigating its own scandal? It is certainly not a conflict of interest. Sfinally, MLB admits in its 27-page report that the balls were different from previous years.
What makes the study even more suspicious is the fact that Rawlings was the MLB’s official baseball since 1976. However, MLB he bought Rawlings in 2018. So, it’s even more likely that the sudden change in baseball used by players was ordered by MLB. In its study, MLB stated that the reason for the change in stitching on the balls could not be identified. However, if the company that produces the balls was owned by MLB, and most of the balls used by the MLB game were different from previous years (when MLB did not own the company) – if you follow me here, i think we can all connect the dots.
Going back to Alonso, I think he’s absolutely right … in the middle of his statement. Major League Baseball is no doubt squeezing or silencing its balls every year, but I don’t think that’s for the reason Alonso says. In 2019, when the league was squeezing its balls. Only five early pitchers coming to market have been considered top players: Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Madison Bumgarner and Zack Wheeler. There were some other mid-level veterans who had been solid in previous seasons like Dallas Keuchel and Cole Hamels, but both players were far past their firsts by the time the 2019 season turned around.
The league saw an increase in home rates each year between 2015 and 2017 before a slight decrease in 2018. However, over the course of these four years, the offseason with the highest concentration of free agent pitchers was probably 2018 when players like Clayton Kershaw, Patrick Corbin, Craig Kimbrel, JA Happ, Andrew Miller and Charlie Morton were all hit by a free agency. Which is not in line with Alonso’s theory.
So why then does MLB decide to change its spheres every year? A much more likely answer would be for MLB trying to find a sweet spot between strong offense and pitching. The league tries different seam heights and ball interiors to find a Goldilocks area where the brocades can still dominate the games, but the batters can also make a great consistent touch. They didn’t find that area in 2021. They didn’t find that area in 2019.
Is it wrong for MLB to do this? Maybe. Should the league just leave the game alone and let it play as planned? Probably. Seranu? Probably not. That is the unfortunate truth.