Tune in to an MLB game on any given night, and there's a good chance the conversation will turn to the topic that's dominating the sport so far this season.
The latest exploits of Shohei Ohtani? Nope. The red-hot starts both New York teams are off to in 2022? Try again. The loaded Los Angeles Dodgers? Not this spring.
Instead, the theme on everyone's mind is the baseball itself -- namely, what MLB has done to the ball being used this season and how it is impacting the on-field product.
We dig into what is really going on with the ball, how it is shaping the game and what it means for MLB's future.
Offense is down across the majors
MLB teams averaged 4.0 runs per game in April, which is the lowest average for a month since 1981, and 0.26 runs per team per game fewer than a season ago.
In fact, the leaguewide batting average of .231 was the lowest through April in MLB history, and the .675 OPS was the lowest since 1968 -- aka The Year of the Pitcher.
Offenses are scoring the fewest runs per game in four decades, posting the worst OPS in more than 50 years and hitting for the lowest batting average ever one month into the season -- but the numbers are even more eye-opening when you account for the fact that the universal DH was added this season.
Pitchers hit just .110 a season ago, the worst mark in a full season in MLB history, and leaguewide batting average, OPS and isolated power have still all decreased from last April to this April:
- 2022: .231 BA, .675 OPS .137 ISO
- 2021: .232 .BA, 699 OPS, .157 ISO
Loss of the long ball is to blame
The decline of batting average is nothing new in baseball -- in fact, the past four full seasons account for each of the four lowest individual April leaguewide marks in the past 40 full seasons -- but it's baseball's home run rate falling off a cliff that has killed offense so far this year.