Wills: The search for answers about the 2019 postseason baseball

From SABR member Meredith Wills at The Athletic on November 13, 2019:

In the same way that 1968 is known as “The Year of the Pitcher,” 2019 will likely be remembered as “The Year of the Home Run.” A staggering number of records were broken, not the least of which was the single-season record. The 6,776 home runs hit this year surpassed the previous record — 6,105, set in 2017 — by 11 percent. By the end of the first week of April, Baseball Prospectus analyst Rob Arthur found that the 2019 ball had lower drag, a result that was corroborated by MLB officials. Players also said that the feel of the ball had changed dramatically. Over the course of the season, further research by Arthur, myself, and Barton L. Smith confirmed that the ball’s construction was indeed different and the decreased drag was likely due to lower seam height. After denials from MLB of any intentional change,  discussion of the ball reached a fever pitch at the All-Star Game, when AL starting pitcher Justin Verlander opined that MLB had intentionally “juiced” the ball, citing the league’s purchase of Rawlings in 2018.  Verlander’s comments were sharply rebuked by MLB officials, who ultimately promised a new exploratory committee report in the offseason.

Then October arrived, and the ball seemed to change again. A week into the postseason, Arthur found that the ball appeared to be “de-juiced,” with a drag coefficient three times higher than that of the regular season. The Cardinals’ analytics department also found that the distance that balls traveled had decreased by an average of 4.5 feet.

Read the full article here (subscription required): https://theathletic.com/1356835/2019/11/13/the-search-for-answers-about-the-2019-postseason-baseball/

Originally published: November 13, 2019. Last Updated: November 13, 2019.