Everyone knows the Steroid Era and the juicing that ran rampant through the game. Now, we’re living through and serving witnesses to a new kind of juicing: the juicing of the very baseballs used in MLB games.
Major League Baseball will alter the balls used in 2021, according to a release from the league. After a record number of home runs in 2019, a study showed that seam height inconsistencies led to less drag on baseballs, allowing them to travel through the air with reduced resistance. Now, the Padres and every other team will wait and see what the changes will mean on the field.
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Here’s what the league – and Rawlings, who makes the balls and whom MLB has an ownership stake in, are doing with game balls:
"Rawlings has loosened the tension on the first of three wool windings within the ball. The company’s research believes this adjustment will bring the COR down slightly, while also lessening the ball’s weight by 2.8 grams without changing its size. According to the AP, MLB does not anticipate the weight change to impact pitchers’ velocity."
Last season, the Padres averaged 5.42 runs per game – their most ever in a single season. The team belted a team record 219 home runs two years ago – and would have shattered that mark last year had the season not been shortened.
Will this change impact the Padres and their powerful offense?
It’ll be interesting to see what impact these changes have on teams. The Padres have one of the most dangerous offenses in the league (the team averaged the fourth-most runs in the game in 2020) – and a pitching staff that has tremendous upside and its share of questions.
The Associated Press reported last week that these new balls will fly one to two feet shorter on anything that carries more than 375 feet. If you’re looking at Petco Park, here’s how the dimensions play out: right field measures at 322 feet, left is 336 and center is 396. The alleys measure up at 391 and 390 feet, respectively.
This is just one more change ahead of the 2021 season. After the league and the MLBPA agreed to health and safety protocols and with an expanded postseason field a very real possibility, this change in the balls is simply the cherry on top of what looks like another atypical MLB season.