If you tune in to an MLB match on any given night, there is a good chance that the conversation will shift to the topic currently dominating the sport.
The most recent exploits Shohei Ohtani? Nope. Are you ready for the hot starts that both New York team are making in 2022 You can try again. The loaded Los Angeles Dodgers? It's not this spring.
Instead, everyone is focused on the baseball, specifically, how MLB has affected the ball being used this year and its impact on the on-field product.
We look at what's really happening with the ball, what it is doing to the game, and what it means in the future for MLB.
The majors are seeing a decrease in offense
For April, MLB teams averaged 4.0 runs/game, which is the lowest average monthly run total since 1981. Additionally,.26 runs per player per game was less than a season ago.
The leaguewide batting average of.231 was the lowest in MLB history through April, while the OPS of.675 was the lowest since 1968, also known as The Year of the Pitcher.
The offensive team is averaging the fewest runs per match in 40 years, posting the worst OPS in 50 years, and posting the lowest batting avg ever just one month into the season. But the numbers are even more impressive when you add in the addition of the universal DH this season.
The season's worst pitching mark was.110. However, the league-wide batting average and OPS have all declined from last April to this April.
2022:.231 BA,.675 OS.137 ISO
2021:.232.BA, 699 OS,.157 ISO
It is the loss of long balls that is to blame
Baseball's decline in batting average is not new — in fact, each of the four lower April leaguewide marks for the past 40 seasons can be attributed to the last four seasons. But it's baseball’s falling home run rate that has decimated offense this year.
Only 36% of April's runs were via home runs. This is the lowest total since 2015. Remember 2019, the Year of the Home Run? This was the year that MLB hitters had the most homers ever recorded. The April of 2019, 43.5%, was the home run month. This is a drastic drop in three years.
“Something is different when we look at the metrics. We look at the metrics to see how hard it is hit, and when it gets caught. Chicago Cubs infielder Patrick WisdomESPN. “It begins raising eyebrows, raising questions.”
For the first month in a row, less than one homer was hit per game by each team for 2015:
The ball travels in a different direction
We looked for balls that had an exit velocity of 102 to 105 mph, and a launch angle of 27 to 29 degrees. These batted balls are comparable to the Statcast's average 103.6 exit velocity, and 399.7-foot distance traveled. We restricted our research to indoor venues, including Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field and Milwaukee's Miller Park (now American Family Field). This was done in order limit the impact of weather conditions on the outcome.
Sixteen of seven batted balls from previous seasons that fit our criteria ended up being home runs. This compares to only three of the 2022 balls. Even though each ball that falls within our parameters traveled significantly less than its counterpart from previous seasons, it had a similar exit velocity at the same launch angle in the same conditions.
“The ball isn't as good as it used to be. I used to weigh 165lbs and was soaking wet here, flinging balls out.” Brewers outfielder Andrew McCutchen said. “I've hit some which don't allow me to continue to go. We have conversations about how he had an exit Velo of 96 and a launch angle 31 and his ball went out and how I had an exit Velo of 100 with a launch angle 28 and my ball didn't go out. … The strength of the baseball players is not diminishing.”
Baseball is a completely different game
Yes, 2022 is a fundamentally different baseball season. That's intentional.
This memo was sent out to all the teams during this offseason. MLB outlined a planIn response to rising home run rates, the ball was changed. The record 6,776 home runs were scored during the 2019 regular season. The rate has fallen slightly from 6.6% to 6.5% plate appearances, which resulted in homers in 2019, to 6.5% in 2019.
Tension was relaxed on the first wool winding within the ball to improve its centering. Rawlings research prior to the season showed that this adjustment would lower the coefficient of restoration (a measurement of bounciness), and also reduce the ball’s weight by 2.8g without changing its size.
These changes were made to reduce the distance between balls that are hit over 375 feet. But a comparison of recent Aprils to the most recent Aprils shows that the impact is much greater.
“There have been many times this season when I was like, ‘I can’t believe that ball didn’t go out.'” stated a Dodgers pitcher. Daniel Hudson. “I don’t know the right answer, whether they have to tighten their backs up or do whatever they want. That was the problem with guys. There's no openness.
A major role is played by the humidor.
All 30 teams now use humidors to store their balls for the first time — up from 10 last year. Humidors help uniformize the humidity around the ball to make it uniform. The 2022 total changes in offensive rates between the 10 stadiums with humidors and those that have one are vastly different.
This is quite stark. This is quite stark. The home runs per fly ball have fallen 0.7% in humidor holdsovers while falling 2.4% in new humidor parks. This means that while the number of at bats per home run has not changed in the old humidor parks, it takes an average of 13.1 additional ABs to hit a homerun in the new ones.
“There was one Minnesota track that I hit like 106 at about 29 degrees. It caught me at the track. It should have been a homer. Another one was 104 at 27, and it should have been a homer. It was caught. Dodgers infielder Gavin Lux said. “Talking with some guys in Atlanta [the second]When the ball is hit, it's almost like a boom. They then get up and die in the air.
The offensive in the ballparks with humidors in April 2021 is similar to this season. However, the decline in humidor-debuting areas is driving the loss in production.
There is still hope for offense
Fans of offense will be happy to know that it tends to pick up as the seasons progress and the weather warms. Here is a look at the month-bymonth offense for 2015-2021.
March/April:.244/.317/.403,.720 OP, HR every 30. AB, 4.39 RP
May:.250/.319/.413,.732 OP, HR every 28.9 AB. 4.45 RPG
June:.255/.321/.423,.744 OP, HR every 27.6 AB. 4.61 RPG
July:.253/.321/.421,.742 OS, HR every 28.3 AB and 4.57 RPG
August:.254/.322/.426,.749 OS, HR every 26.7 AB and 4.63 RPG
Sept/Oct:.249/.320/.416,.736 OS, HR every 28.2 AB and 4.56 RPG
“We've had so much to do with the warning tracks, for us as well as against us. … They're dying at their wall, but they've only played in cold conditions, ” said White Sox infielder. Jake Burger. “We need to wait until May/June.”
Our MLB experts were asked by us to discuss what we can expect from the remainder of the season, and what the league should do regarding its ongoing drama.
Brad DoolittleWe need to see consistency from the ball from year to year and batch to batch. It's good to see home run rates down this year, but they could still decline. Although runs are low, they will rise as the weather warms. But the problem is more about how runs were scored than how many. The home run rate has been declining, which is leading to an increase in non-homer score. This is a small step in the right direction that we must continue.
Jesse Rogers: Perhaps baseball should not do any of these things. Joe Maddon, Angels manager, noted that the opposing-field long ball of non-homerun hitters has slowed so far this season. This is the right way. True power hitters will still get theirs. If this trend continues, then the current launch angle era could be overshadowed by the return of a more complete player. While it may take some time, this might be MLB's ultimate goal.
David Schoenfield:The question that baseball should ask is “What kind of game is best?” What number of runs do we need per game, how many home runs and stolen bases, and how many balls are in play? All of this and more. But the ball is only one component of this equation. This is not new. Take a look at the history of the game. It is not uncommon for run scoring to fluctuate from one year to the next (although inconsistencies over the past few years can be frustrating).
I expect run scoring will increase the rest of the season, particularly once the pitcher roster limit is back to 13. Honestly, if the answer is “more runs,” then the limitations on pitchers should eventually be back at least 12.
Alden Gonzalez:Transparency is what players have been clamoring for the past few weeks. MLB should provide more details about the types of baseballs used, their storage, how they are handled and why they can sometimes seem very different from one another. New York MetsPitcher Chris Bassitt lent his voiceHe's not the only one who has done this recently. Lux revealed to me that he found two foul balls in the dugout, and was shocked to see the seams on one. Lux explained that “some balls seem like they're carrying more than usual” and “some feel like duds.” This is a problem. MLB must be consistent with its most important product, the literal ball.
Information from ESPN Stats & Info and ESPN's Bradford Doolittle, Alden Gonzalez, Jesse Rogers and David Schoenfield was used throughout this story.