If I had any skills I’d create some sort of interactive bingo card for the right-hand margin on which we’d put chips every time a player is reported this spring to (a) be in the best shape of his life; (b) be working on a new pitch that he thinks will make the difference; (c) have added some muscle to help his stamina; (d) have leaned up to increase his flexibility, etc.
Don’t get me wrong — I love these stories, if for no other reason than once they start appearing it means that baseball is right around the corner. And of course, they speak to that eternal spring optimism that makes baseball the wonderful thing that it is. But are they meaningful? Not particularly. This morning Rod Bradford has the latest entry in this eternal game. It’s about Mike Lowell, whose agent says that “this year he has been on a mission,” and that he’s been working out four or five times a week.
I like Mike Lowell so I hope that’s true. But at the same time, I’m assuming that he and the Red Sox have a pretty well-orchestrated plan to talk up how ready he is for the season, how quickly he’s healing and all of that. Indeed, I wouldn’t be shocked to hear something from the Sox soon talking about how, you know, they may just even keep him and play him a lot he’s so darn healthy.
After all, if they don’t, how else are they going to sucker someone into trading for him?
You know the baseballs are different. We know the baseballs are different. Pitchers have been saying the baseballs are different. And now Major League Baseball has acknowledged that the baseballs are different in a report of findings by a team of scientists from some of the top universities in the world, like Stanford, Caltech, and M.I.T.
You can read the whole thing here in PDF form. Here’s the gist …
The ball is not bouncier — or “juiced” — but it is most definitely carrying farther. From MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince …
Though the study did not discover meaningful changes in the ball’s lift, it found that the drag coefficient of MLB balls has decreased since 2015. The researchers used a physics model to calculate that if the change in home run rate was attributable entirely to changes in drag, one would expect the drag coefficient to have decreased by approximately 0.012. The exact change in drag coefficient in the time period studied — if you’re scoring at home — was 0.0153.
It’s not the seams or the core that has changed — those aspects were tested — and it’s not the weather either. In fact, the commision couldn’t figure out what is causing the decrease in drag, despite numerous tests on all elements of the ball. It might simply come down to manufacturing advancements. Looking at you, Rawlings …
“Rawlings is always trying to improve the manufacturing process to make it more uniform,” Alan Nathan, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told MLB.com. “So the interesting question that comes up is whether the goal should be to improve the manufacturing process or to keep the ball performing exactly the way it is, regardless of whether it’s improved or not.”
Baseball Prospectus began studying this three years ago, as home runs began to increase around the league. Their write-up on MLB’s report is a must-read.