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December 11, 2019
A record 6,776 home runs were hit during the regular season. Due to the abundance of complaints, Rob Manfred commissioned a study of the balls.
A four-person committee of scientists found that baseballs this year had less drag on average than in previous seasons, contributing to a power surge that resulted in a record number of home runs. Their report released Wednesday blamed the spike on inconsistencies in the seam height of the baseballs, as well as “changes in player behavior.” Batters connected 6,776 times in the regular season, smashing the record of 6,105 set in 2017.
The committee says it did not find evidence that MLB intentionally altered the baseballs and believes the inconsistencies were due to “manufacturing variability.” The balls are hand-sewn by workers at Rawlings’ factory in Costa Rica.
Rawlings is now 50% owned by MLB along with Seidler Equity Inc., which purchased the company last year for $395 million. Peter and Tom Seidler are owners of the San Diego Padres. Thus, the suspicion among many is that the Lords of the Realm can do anything they want in the production of baseballs.
Among the solutions baseball could propose is a tightening of the specifications for an acceptable ball’s coefficient of restitution, or its bounciness. Eventually, if problems persist, the industry could change from hand-sewn and -stitched balls to synthetic balls, which would create more uniformity.