Runscoring and related offensive performances are on the decline in 2022, and there’s enough reason to think the characteristics of baseball itself have a lot to do with it. MLB has a rich recent history of bringing baseballs into the game that vary wildly in those attributes from year to year and even within the same season, and 2022 seems to be no exception.
In general, pitchers won’t mind “jaded” baseballs, just as hitters won’t shy away from the “juiced” varieties. However, both sets of players and their dueling interests value consistency when it comes to this most important piece of gear.
Which brings us to the latest New York Mets conspiracy theory. Mets hitting coach Eric Chavez recently told Tim Healey about it Newsday that his thugs suspect that baseball is oddly less muted during nationally televised games, such as Healey writes:
And then in late April, two days before they played the Phillies on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball,” several hitters gave Chavez a hint: Watch the baseballs travel during the first nationally televised game of the week. They had heard that the balls in those games were somehow different.
“I thought for a second, ‘You guys are full of this,'” Chavez said.
And what happened after that?
“The ball has traveled farther – balls that haven’t been hit as hard. And I think, wait a minute, that shouldn’t have happened,” Chavez said. “The ball just went better. That was the eye test, but then we compared it with the analyses.”
It’s worth noting that last year we heard similar whispers regarding prominent games or series. However, player perceptions on such issues can be considered dubious for the usual reasons — confirmation bias, tiny sample size, etc. In fact, ball-tracking data from this game does not particularly support Mets batsmen’s perceptions. It also follows that if MLB realized that livelier baseball was good for business, they wouldn’t just use that baseball in nationally televised games.
However, this type of “kvetching by anecdote” is likely to continue until the MLB develops better quality control of baseball or is less inclined to deliberately tamper with it. Yes, the cooler temperature of April and the increased use of humidors to store baseball games probably play a role, butwhenever the balance between pitching and hitting tilts too much in one direction.
https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/mets-hitting-coach-eric-chavez-suggests-mlb-is-using-different-baseballs-for-nationally-televised-games/ Mets hitting coach Eric Chavez suggests that MLB use different baseballs for nationally televised games