Knight: What you didn’t know about this year’s baseballs — all 1.1 million of them

From Molly Knight at The Athletic on August 29, 2019:

As you may have heard, home runs are flying out of ballparks across the land this season at a record clip. The all-time MLB team mark for home runs in a season was set last year by the Yankees, who hit 267. If batters keep whacking dingers at the same pace over the next six weeks, four teams will break that record. Unsurprisingly, all four of those teams — the Yankees, Dodgers, Astros and Twins — boast at least a 98 percent chance of making the playoffs this October.

The baseballs are so broken that I could hit one out this year, but this isn’t a story about that. Back in July, I was flipping through channels aimlessly and settled on a White Sox vs. Tigers doubleheader because I was curious to watch the pace of play between two awful teams. What struck me immediately was how many baseballs every pitcher required to get through an inning, even when things were going well. And it wasn’t just because of the seven home runs hit that day.

According to MLB spokesperson Michael Teevan, this season the league is averaging 249.99 pitches per game through late August. The half-dozen teams I spoke to for this article estimated they go through 12 to 15 dozen balls per game. If we center that mean to 13.5 dozen, that means the average major league game ball’s life expectancy is a sad 1.53 pitches. Relatively rare is the baseball that dies as a home run; more are laid to rest as weak foul ball souvenirs or, even worse, as slippery curveballs ingloriously spiked in the dirt.

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Originally published: August 29, 2019. Last Updated: August 29, 2019.