A Major League Baseball study has concluded increased home run rates since 2015 are not the result of changes to the structure of the baseball, the league announced Thursday.
The independent committee of 10 scientists, assembled by commissioner Rob Manfred, instead concluded, using Statcast data and lab testing of game-used balls before and after 2015, a change in the aerodynamic properties of the ball is at least in part responsible for the game’s recent power surge. Though they did not arrive to an exact cause, the committee’s hypothesis is that the rubber pill within the baseball may be more centered, resulting in the ball staying rounder while spinning and thus reducing drag.
In response to the results of the 84-page report, the league said it will monitor the temperature and humidity condition of ball storage locations, review the production specifications of baseballs with Rawlings, perform aerodynamic testing on the balls, create standards for mud rubbing for umpires to enforce and form a scientific advisory council to further research the topic.
“I thank the committee for all of its hard work on this important issue. Based on the results of their study, I am accepting their recommendations immediately and look forward to their continued guidance in this area,” Manfred said in a statement.
A single-season record 6,105 home runs were hit across the majors in 2017, shattering the previous mark of 5,693 set in 2000 in the height of the steroid era. The 2016 season saw 5,610 home runs hit. In 2014, the number was 4,186, the lowest total for a full season since 1993.
With the uptick in home runs, many pitchers have offered their opinions, often pointing to the positioning of the seams being different. Despite the claims, Manfred’s office has continued to insist the balls are within specified limits.