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I Wish MLB Would Stop Trying to Fix Baseball

MLB: Texas Rangers at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The folks that run MLB will drive you crazy.

Playing around with the ball, seemingly every year, is just stupid. This year, again, there are two different balls in use. One that flies, one that doesn’t.

Baseball Prospectus has a story on the change in baseballs. “Some balls, it seems like, are carrying more than ever and then some feel like duds.”

Specifically, if you take the launch angle, exit velocity, weather, and elevation, and use that to predict the batted ball distance (on fly balls only) each year since 2018, you’ll see that however much more accurate Hawkeye has been, we’ve actually gotten worse at predicting batted ball distance this year and last season.

I think we can see that ourselves. I’m sure you have seen times when guys have hit that ball, and you think, ‘that one is gone’ and then it is caught short of the track.

BP also tells us:

Regardless of MLB’s intentions or design decisions, because players don’t know which baseballs they’ll be getting on any given night, it becomes a game of roulette for pitcher and batter alike. Each ball can play differently, so what might be a good pitch up in the zone with a deader ball becomes a dangerous miss with a live one in hand.

There have been a lot more hit batters this year than normal. Pinstripe Alley has a post on it:

I don’t think it’s particularly outlandish to believe that batters don’t want to get hit by fastballs, and pitchers don’t want to give up record-setting levels of home runs year-after-year. Somehow, someway, though, the league needs to find a happy median, because what they currently have — a ban on sticky substances with a baseball that may or may not be trash — clearly isn’t working. After a tense labor negotiation that dominated the offseason and a commitment from Rob Manfred to fix the league’s relationship with the players, deciding on one baseball to use would be a good place to start. I can’t believe I just had to write that sentence.

I don’t know. You would think that by 2022 MLB would have a better handle on this. You would think they would know that running out two (at least) distinctly different baseballs would be a bad idea.

I get that baseball wants to turn the game back to what it used to be. But that’s not possible, and if it was, I don't particularly feel that it is a good idea.

I get that the Golden Age for anything is how it was when you were 12. I understand that, and I have great affection for the game of my youth. But now, players are faster, stronger, throw harder, and make better plays than ever. We understand the game better. We know that shifts work. That bunting doesn’t. Pitchers throw the ball harder than ever. There is more movement on pitches than ever before. Defense is better than it has ever better. You see spectacular plays every day. We know that a stealing success rate of 50% means you are hurting your team.

But I understand nostalgia.

Every game, you hear that the game was so much better in the past. Mainly because the TV and radio booths are filled with guys my age and older (most of who played the game years ago) who want to tell you how much better it was when they played or when they were young. As we get older, our past becomes so much better.

This isn’t new. Since near the beginning of baseball, former players would tell you how much better the game was back in the day. Bill James wrote a Historical Baseball abstract, looking at baseball, decade by decade, starting back in the 1870s. And he had a quote, for every decade, of a former player saying that ‘today’s game, today’s player might be stronger and faster, but in my day we cared more, understood the game better. All that crap.

And it is easy to fall into that trap. You hear it all the time, so you start to believe it.

I do have nostalgia for the game of my youth. But mostly, for me, I’m nostalgic for when there were fewer teams, and I knew all the players on every team.

Beyond that, it is a much better game now (or at least it was before this year). And I wish they would stop trying to fix it. Yes, games have been faster this year. But then, they have been boring this year. I’d rather a longer, exciting game, than a short, boring one.

I guess this says it much quicker: