Rob Manfred admits change in baseballs may be behind home run spike
Home run rates in Major League Baseball are on pace to hit an all-time high in 2019, and lots of reasons have been floated for it. One target is the baseball itself, with studies showing that the balls being used in games have changed in recent years and contributed to the homer-friendly environment.
At the MLB owners’ meetings earlier in the week, commissioner Rob Manfred admitted that there was something to that — namely, that more precise manufacturing meant the rubber-coated cork inside the baseball, known as the “pill,” is now closer to the center.
“They [Rawlings] haven’t changed their process in any meaningful way. They haven’t changed their materials,” Manfred said, via David Lennon of Newsday. “There’s two points that I would make, even in the report last year: The scientists identified the pill in the baseball — not what it was actually composed of — but the centering of the pill in the baseball as something that could be a drag issue. To the extent that the pill is not perfectly centered, the ball wobbles when it’s hit, creates more drag. We think one of the things that may be happening is they’re getting better at centering the pill. It creates less drag.”
In other words, the baseball may not be intentionally “juiced,” but it’s juiced in its own way. There have been other explanations for the change in baseballs, but there’s a clear consensus developing that something about them has changed in the last three years or so, and that change is making them fly a lot further than they used to.