Major League Baseball fans have probably noticed a change in the game recently: fewer home runs, more players getting hit, unpredictable fly balls.
The cause, some experts say, is the balls themselves.
“This year, the balls are spongy,” Meredith Wills told CTV News. “The balls have flat spots. The balls have grip problems that are unusual.”
Wills, an astrophysicist and baseball deconstruction expert, thinks recent changes by the league requiring all teams to store baseballs in humidors for two weeks may be the root cause. Humidors are intended to keep the baseballs at a consistent humidity to standardize them across the league.
However, Wills said that baseballs flatten while they’re shelved, then warp as they expand in different temperatures, showing a deconstructed baseball to illustrate the issue.
“As soon as things dry out, the yarn gets flat, and the covers start pressing in, so the entire ball will get smaller physically.”
Essentially, the baseballs get lumpy from both sitting still for weeks and from the temperature shifts from storage to play.
“They’re basically changing shape in a couple ways,” she said.
The result, she said, is that more pitchers are losing control.
And it’s not only scientists that suspect the balls are the problem. The pros are seeing it too.
“MLB has a very big problem with the baseballs,” Chris Bassitt, pitcher for the New York Mets, said. “They’re bad. Everyone knows it. Every pitcher knows it. The MLB doesn’t give a damn about it, they don’t care.”
Batters complain that the baseballs are spongy, absorbing the bat’s impact and causing more fly balls and fewer home runs.
“Home runs down to less than one per team game,” Gabe Laques, baseball reporter with USA Today, told CTV News. “That’s the first time that’s happened since 2014.
“Everything is down, and by a lot. I think we’re too deep in the season now to see a real significant correction.”
The League says it’s aware of the issue, and is analyzing trends and stats.
In the meantime, fans and players will simply have to deal with this curveball.
With files from CTVNews.ca’s Alexandra Mae Jones