According to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal and Eno Sarris of The Athletic, Major League Baseball sent a memo to teams on Friday detailing a slight change to the baseballs in 2020 that produce a minor “deadening effect.”
It was certainly a change of tune of the league, as least publicly, as Commissioner Rob Manfred has previously adamantly denied anything was done to alter the ball before the 2019 season.
Count Yankees’ ace Gerrit Cole among those in the game who aren’t too happy about MLB now saying changes are in store for baseballs in 2021.
“I was happy that there was some [admittance] that there was some tinkering. I mean, all the players have known it for the last three or four years, to say the least,” Cole said on Tuesday. “That’s just kind of another look behind the curtain of the Wizard of Oz, and it’s just smoke and mirrors and stuff. It’s like, let’s be a little bit more honest about that kind of stuff.
“I’m glad that it’s out in the open and we’re tackling it now. As far as the improvements, or whatever the improvements are, I don’t know so much about the drag efficient or what that stuff is, I just generally saw that the production was being manipulated, and now it’s being manipulated another way.”
Per the memo obtained by The Athletic, the “coefficient of restitution,” described as “the relationship of the incoming speed to the outgoing speed” could be impacted by the change to the baseballs, creating a less “bouncy” ball.
For now, though, Cole isn’t even sure of which version of the baseball is being used during spring training.
“I’ve been trying to get my hands on the balls here. Nobody can tell me if we’re using the real balls for this year or the balls from last year,” Cole said. “Nobody knows the answer to that yet.
While the home run rate has been trending upward for years, the 2019 season saw a huge jump to 6,776 home runs, up nearly 1,200 long balls from the year before, as the ball was flying out of the park left and right.
But now the hope for pitchers is that whatever MLB has done will help make things more pitcher-friendly in 2021.