If you’ve followed Major League Baseball this season, you know that something is off about the ball. Namely, it appears juiced, a fancy way of saying that the ball is constructed in a way in which it travels quicker and further due to its improved aerodynamic state. In fancier terms, the ball has less “drag.”
This week, commissioner Rob Manfred acknowledged as much when he met with reporters after an owners meeting. His explanation for the reduced drag? Rawlings getting “better” at constructing baseballs. Here’s part of what Manfred said, per Newsday:
“They [Rawlings] haven’t changed their process in any meaningful way. They haven’t changed their materials. 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.”
For more on what the “pill” is and how baseballs are constructed, you can check out our reference guide from earlier in the season. Basically, it’s what makes the ball go.
It’s worth noting that independent analysts have been all over the changes to the ball. Rob Arthur of Baseball Prospectus confirmed the baseball was different after a week of play, while Dr. Meredith Willis has proven that the thickness of the seams has changed in recent years.
The on-the-field result has been easy to spot, as home runs are being hit at record levels. According to Baseball Reference, about 1.36 home runs are being hit per team per game. The current record is 1.26, which was set in 2017 — or, the last time the ball appeared juiced.