Another year, another whirlwind of distrust over just what the heck is going on with Major League Baseball's baseballs.
In the back half of the 2010s, there were questions abound about whether the ball was juiced as home run rates soared to record highs. Three years after buying Rawlings, which manufactures MLB's baseball, the league responded by intentionally deadening the ball ahead of the 2021 season. However, Bradford William Davis of Business Insider revealed that balls from previous years were also in circulation last season.
In June of last year, MLB also suddenly began enforcing its ban on pitchers using foreign substances on the ball. Add it all up, and consistency hasn't exactly been the name of the game where the baseball has been concerned.
As the New York Mets will be glad to tell you, so it goes in 2022. Nobody more so than right-hander Chris Bassitt, who explicitly blamed the state of the ball for the fact that Mets hitters have already been hit by a league-leading 19 pitches.
And yet, the more common complaint about the ball right now concerns how well it's traveling. Or, more accurately, not traveling.
"I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but it just seems like something's different," Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, per USA Today's Bob Nightengale. "... There's been a handful that I felt off the bat, the sound, the trajectory, the velocity, that I thought would be home runs that didn't get out of the ballpark."
This makes for a handy explanation for why offense is down at the outset of the 2022 season. Home runs have gone from 1.22 per game in 2021 to only 0.88 this year, while the leaguewide batting average is at an all-time low .231.
To the extent that MLB is requiring balls to be stored in humidors at all 30 stadiums—up from 10 as of last year—there's at least one tangible explanation for why the ball seems to be behaving differently. But as for whether the ball itself is different, the official answer is no.