Offense is down throughout Major League Baseball this season. For the first time since 2015, there was less than one home run hit per team, per game, for the month of April:
A number of factors are responsible for the reduction in home runs, and one of those factors involves how baseballs are being stored. During the 2021 season, 10 teams around the league stored their baseballs in humidors. This season, in 2022, all 30 teams are storing their baseballs in humidors.
Humidors are climate-controlled chambers that emulate the boxes used to preserve cigars. Humidors ensure baseballs are stored at average humidity. In places like Colorado and Arizona, where the parks are notoriously hitter-friendly, humidors prevent baseballs from drying out. This practice, therefore, helps pitchers, since dry baseballs have more bounce and can fly farther off the bat.
One would think the opposite effect would be true in the more humid ballparks, like Miami or Tampa Bay — that keeping the balls relatively dry would provide an advantage to the hitter. However, physics indicates that this is not the case. True, the dryer baseball would come off the bat at a faster rate. However, that lighter, dryer baseball would be flying into comparatively thick, humid air, which increases air resistance and slows the ball down.
The effect of humidors can be seen when comparing offensive numbers from 2021 to 2022 for teams that previously had humidors versus those for whom the humidor is a new addition this year.
Offensive numbers in the ballparks that already had humidors in 2021 look similar this season. However, in places where the humidor is debuting, offense is noticeably down around the league.
It does make sense that all 30 parks should be playing with the same baseballs, stored in similar conditions, as that can help preserve a more even playing field and reduce the varying effects of certain parks. This change could also be construed as a concession to pitchers, as humidors can make baseballs easier to grip.
Notably, the use of humidors isn’t the only change to the league’s baseballs this year. In response to the high home runs rates in recent seasons, tension was loosened on the first of three wool windings within the ball itself. Rawlings’ research prior to the start of the season estimated the adjustment would reduce the ball’s bounciness and also reduce the ball’s weight by 2.8 grams without changing its size. These changes were designed to lose one to two feet of distance on balls hit more than 375 feet.
It’s hard to tell with any definitiveness which of these factors is impacting offense more. It will be interesting to see how the season progresses, and whether offensive numbers remain consistently down through October.
I used to spend a lot of time playing baseball on Wii Sports, but this looks so much cooler. In the video below, Zoned Sports tests out a virtual reality program designed to give players life-like batting practice. It seems to me that “batting practice” with a controller, rather than a bat, doesn’t quite seem the same. Perhaps that is the next step in the development of this product — a bat-shaped controller to add to the realism.
On November 3, 1953, the rules committee chose to end the practice of allowing players to leave their gloves on the playing field. Outfielders and infielders were now required to carry their gloves with them into the dugout after each half-inning. Before the controversial change, left fielders, right fielders, first basemen, and third basemen would leave their gloves in foul territory, while center fielders, shortstops, and second basemen would drop their gloves at their position. Plays on the field would take place around the scattered leather.
The rule is outlined in MLB’s Official Rules:
3.10 Equipment on the Field
(a) Members of the offensive team shall carry all gloves and other
equipment off the field and to the dugout while their team is at
bat. No equipment shall be left lying on the field, either in fair
or foul territory.
Major League Baseball fans watching a ballgame today can usually differentiate between the away team and the home team due to the color of the teams’ uniforms. Most teams will wear white uniforms (or team-colored jerseys with white pants) when playing at home, whereas when a team is playing on the road, uniforms are typically gray.
Much of this has to do with history. Looking back in baseball history, traveling teams did not have time or access to laundry service to wash their clothes in the late 1800s. As a means to hide the dirt and the mud that would accumulate on the road, teams opted to wear gray uniforms. Over time, with the expansion of the laundromat industry and the ability of teams to bring along multiple uniforms, hiding dirt became less of an issue. It became simply a matter of tradition for teams to wear gray for away games.
Here’s an interesting, even amusing, ad that I stumbled across from the June 1940 issue of Popular Science. The ad features an image of Joe DiMaggio kissing a Louisville Slugger baseball bat, the bat itself bearing a replica of DiMaggio’s signature. The text in the ad reads:
“A ballplayer and his Louisville Slugger are like a man and his dog —INSEPARABLE PALS”— says Joe DiMaggio, Famous Yankee home run slugger and A.L. Champion last season.
Go to your dealer’s and look over the 1940 Genuine Autographed Louisville Sluggers. Your favorite ballplayer’s personally autographed bat is among them!
Free 1940 FAMOUS SLUGGER YEAR BOOK
from your dealer or send 5c in stamps or coin to Dept. Z-34
Hillerich & Bradsby Co., Louisville, Ky.
GENUINE Autographed LOUISVILLE SLUGGER BATS
Hillerich & Bradsby Co.
I stumbled across the above image while browsing Pinterest a few nights ago, and it sent me down a rabbit hole looking at the history of aluminum baseball bats. For all the reading I did, I wish I could have found more details about aluminum bat history, but I’ll share here what I did manage to find.
William A. Shroyer patented the first metal baseball bat in 1924 (depicted in the image above), though metal bats were not actually seen in baseball until they started getting produced by Worth Sports Company in 1968 (Worth, Inc. is now a division of Rawlings and Jarden Team Sports). Little League Baseball approved of the use of aluminum bats in 1971, and the NCAA legalized the use of aluminum bats in 1974. By 1975, Worth held the majority of the U.S. aluminum bat market and had produced the first official Little League and NCAA Collegiate aluminum bats.
By today’s standards, however, Worth bats really weren’t that great. According to former Ithaca College baseball head coach George Valesente, “[The Worth bats] made a pinging noise. Grips were not comfortable because they weren’t using the proper leather on the grips. Sometimes, it would start to dent and ding.”
In the late-1970s, Easton introduced a bat made from a stronger grade of aluminum and with rubber grips. Louisville Slugger also soon joined the aluminum bat manufacturing business, and the popularity of aluminum bats skyrocketed, though they were not allowed in major league games. At the collegiate and amateur levels, the switch from wood to metal bats served primarily practical purposes. Because wooden bats were easily breakable, teams would often run dry of bats during games. Aluminum bats essentially eliminated this problem.
In 1993, both Easton and Worth introduced titanium bats, and in 1995 Easton and Louisville Slugger introduced an even lighter grade of aluminum bat. Given the continual improvements of bat technology, it is not hard to understand the popularity of metal bats. Compared to their wooden counterparts, aluminum bats allow for greater bat speed and distance on batted balls, primarily as the result of weight distribution and the ability to make aluminum bats stiffer and lighter. Aluminum bats can even be made to weigh up to 5 ounces less than their length in inches.
Metal bats continue to be banned in Major League Baseball for safety and competitive reasons. For players making the transition from using metal bats in high school or college ball to wooden bats in professional ball, struggles frequently abound. The “sweet spot” on an aluminum bat is much larger and the physics of using a metal bat versus a wooden bat are noticeably different. Players have to relearn their swing and retrain their muscle memory, if they hope to become successful at the big league level. Many purists argue in favor of the classic wooden baseball bat, but one can certainly see that aluminum bats have many appealing qualities for a ballplayer.
Here are some interesting numbers from the Public Lands Council, an organization that advocates for western ranchers. This infographic was posted on the Idaho Wool Growers Association’s Facebook page in November 2019. I did the math on the number hot dogs served, and if we assume that a hot dog weighs 76 grams, that equals over 3 million pounds of hot dogs per MLB season — and that doesn’t even include the bun and condiments!
These numbers definitely made me think back to this comic I posted back in December. Holy smokes, that’s a lot of animal products in our national pastime.
For the first game of a doubleheader played on August 2, 1938, Larry MacPhail had official baseballs dyed dandelion yellow, and the balls were used in the matchup between the Dodgers and Cardinals at Ebbets Field. The inspiration for this yellow ball came from a New York color engineer named Frederic H. Rahr, who developed it after Mickey Cochrane was severely beaned at the plate the previous year.
“My primary object is to give the hitter more safety and there’s no question that this will be achieved,” said Rahr. “That’s simply because the batter will be striking at a ball he can see instead of at a white object that blurs with the background.”
The Dodgers won that opening game with the yellow baseballs by a score of 6-2. The Dodgers went on to use up their yellow balls in three more games in 1939, but the yellow balls would not get used again after that season.
This little documentary is less than seven minutes long, and it is a fun watch. Not only do you learn some things about Nokona baseball gloves, you get to watch the process of a ball glove getting made. And I love the fact that the work shirts worn by Nokona employees are baseball jerseys.
I haven’t had a chance to do much more than skim all the information on this infographic, but what I’ve noted so far is certainly fascinating. Click on the image below for a (slightly) larger version — though even then, you might still need to zoom in on it.