New MLB Baseballs Causing Record Lows in Offense

While trying to increase youth viewership, the league has taken a step in the wrong direction


Major League Baseball and its commissioner, Rob Manfred, has been under heavy scrutiny. In recent years, the league has seen viewership drop to all time low levels, and something needed to be done. In 2019, Manfred and the rest of the MLB found a solution, which increased offense without compromising the game; “juice” the baseballs.

Coming off of the worst viewership numbers of a World Series in 5 years, the league knew they had a tall task ahead of them to bring new fans in during the 2019 season. The solution to this issue was “juicing” the baseballs, or making them in a different material that travels farther, creating more offense.

The effects of new baseball were shown almost instantly. Since 1903, the beginning of Major League Baseball, there have been 119 seasons of recorded baseball. In 2019, the MLB set a new record in home runs hit per game, at 1.39. The Minnesota Twins, nicknamed the “Bomba Squad”, also broke records, becoming the team with the most home runs hit in an individual season, at 307. Highlighted by sluggers Nelson Cruz, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, and Mitch Garver, who all posted 30+ home runs, lead the Twins to a whopping average of 1.89 home runs per game. 

Whilst continuing to deny changing the baseballs, Manfred could not ignore the obvious shift in numbers from previous seasons. And while many enjoyed the new style of play, it was heavily debated. Some baseball purists were outraged, claiming that this is not how the game was meant to be played. But as viewership increased going into the 2021 season, nothing was expected to change, and the game would continue to grow. However, this was not the case.

In the middle of the 2021 MLB seasons, something felt different to fans. Baseballs that had previously been launched into the stands were being caught, and offensive numbers were down. Sure enough, into the 2021 offseason, Manfred admitted to using 2 different balls in the 2021 season.

This leads us to present day baseball, 2022. The new baseballs that were introduced last year are the only ones being produced, and offenses are suffering. As of May 4th, 2022, the average number of runs and home runs per game have both significantly decreased, to the lowest numbers since 2014.

One reason for this sudden drop off in numbers is the introduction of a humidor in all 30 MLB parks. The dryer the baseball, the farther it travels, and with the humidors, baseballs in all different climates will have the same amount of moisture in them, decreasing the average distance traveled. 

But why is this? Why does it seem as if the game is going in the wrong direction? This is the question that no one is able to answer. It would appear that the increase in offense and viewership numbers over the years would be fantastic news for baseball, but that is not how the league has interpreted it. 

In the new, pitcher friendly setting of baseball in 2022, fans are not happy. A decrease in offense means a decrease in excitement, which leads to lower viewership and popularity. Manfred, already unpopular for his antics around the game, has been under fire by fans for seemingly destroying all progress the league has made in the past 2 years. 

However, with change, there is usually a positive. And whilst it may not be entirely obvious, the MLB’s overall goal is to increase balls in play. With the shift set to be banned in 2023, and the balls not allowing for obscene travel distances, the effects of this will be more batted ball events. 

The effects of these changes are already being seen on the field. According to Ken Rosenthal, as of May 5th, “2022 has the highest rate of plate appearances resulting in a ball in play since 2017”. 

But will this be effective? Why attempt to fix something that did not appear to be broken? No one is able to see the future, but the league obviously believes that this is the best way possible to please both purists and new fans, a mix of an increase of batted balls, but also more strategy within the game, which is eliminated with home runs. 

While it may be unpopular, I am not against the changes yet. True, the decrease in offense has been annoying, but this is a multi-year plan that is supposed to set baseball up for success for years to come. All in all, I am able to trust Manfred and the rest of the league officials, at least for the time being.