Zombie Baseballs and MLBs Home Run Problem – The Wall Street Journal

Baseball is tinkering with its baseball, taking some of the oomph out of its official game ballthe concern being that the sport has turned into a little too much of an all-or-nothing home run derby, and it would be nice to see major-league talent swing for a polite double, or a line shot into the gap, or a sizzling grounder down the line, or, to get ooey-gooey baseball nostalgic for a second, a long, loopy single on a lazy summer afternoon.

The new 2021 major-league ball, according to a recent report from the Athletic, is slightly deadenedlaboratory testing (one imagines aerodynamicists in helmets, spitting sunflower seeds) is said to have concluded a 375-foot drive will fly 1 to 2 feet shorter. Thats not exactly a radical change, but maybe enough to keep a few more balls in the park, away from the cheap seats and into the mitts of outfielders.

If youre asking Why?, its a fair question. This is a funny riddle for MLB caretakers. The new ball isnt, as has been suggested, the sport declaring war on home runs. MLB knows that no one has ever gone to a baseball game and left saying: Wow, that was a lot of fun, except for all the home runs we had to watch. The homeraka the four-bagger, the bomb, the dinger, the long ball, the moon shot, or my favorite, the taterremains baseballs signature physical act, whether youre playing in the friendly confines of Wrigley, or doing some backyard Wiffle with three kids and two dogs on the Fourth of July.

(I know the triple likes to call itself Baseballs Most Exciting Play, and I love a thrilling, into-the-corner, beat-the-tag triple just as much as the next baseball nut, but home runs really are atop the marquee.)

The problem is the all-or-nothing part. As the Journals baseball writer, Jared Diamond, has written convincingly about over the past few years, baseball is amid a broad strategic revolution, in which many hitters are stepping to the plate trying to clobber the ball out of the park, doing so with great regularity (MLB set a home-run record in 2019, its last non-pandemic shortened season) but also striking out at a record rate, too. Baseball is becoming a game of two outcomes: dingers and whiffs. Teams have concluded that the home run is the most efficient way of scoring, but focusing on homers leads to fewer balls in play, a feast-or-famine approach which isnt terribly fun to watch.

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Zombie Baseballs and MLBs Home Run Problem - The Wall Street Journal

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