Monday 8 July 2019

Centering The Pill

As I have mentioned before, sports change - rules change, tactics change, and sometimes equipment changes.

I have written many times about the NBA and the increase in three-point shooting, and the consequent increase in scoring, and a similar change, though perhaps less noticeable, is being seen in the MLB.

The MLB, or at least professional baseball in the United States, has been around for a while, starting in 1871. 

In that season, the average number of Home Runs per game was 0.19, and between that inaugural season and 1920, the average ranged between 0.06 and 0.39.

In 1929, there was half a Home Run per game, and in 1950 the 0.75 per game mark was reached. 

And then came the 'steroid era' which resulted in an average of one Home Run a game being reached in 1987, and again in 1994 where it stayed until 2010. 

Since then it has averaged 1.06, but very recent seasons have seen the average at 1.26 (2017) and 1.15 (2018).

All this is a long-winded build up to pointing out that this season, the average is at all-time high of 1.37, helping push the Runs per game average to 4.81, a number not seen since 1950 other than in the 'steroid era'.  

The reason given by MLB for this huge increase in Home Runs is that the balls have less drag, i.e they fly further, due to an improvement in the manufacturing process.

More drag means that the ball doesn’t travel as far. Now, according to Manfred, one of the things that may be happening is “they’re getting better at centering the pill. It creates less drag.” That helps the ball travel farther to create more opportunities for home runs.
It's also been observed that players have changed their swings in recent years to take advantage of this, and that pitchers are throwing more off-speed pitches, which is not as easy as throwing a fastball. This leads to more mistakes, and while a pitcher can often get away with a mistake heading to the batter at 95+ mph, a slower pitch can end up over the fence.
Indeed, Statcast reveals that only four of the 450-plus homers this season were on fastballs 95-mph or harder
More Home Runs means other changes to the way the game is played, for example the numbers for Stolen Bases and Caught Stealing are at lows not seen since 1971 and 1940 respectively. Clearly there's less incentive to make the effort to steal a base, if the hitter is going to belt a Home Run.

All good for anyone playing an Overs System, and the one I've mentioned is making record profits this season as we go to the All-Star Break.  

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