MLB secretly used two different types of baseballs last season, according to report

Can we not have a scandal in Major League Baseball? Six months is a long time. That is all I am asking for.

Baseball culture has become more and more dependent on cheating. Players have always found ways to get an advantage on the baseball diamond. The governing body of the sport is supposed to be Major League Baseball. They are supposed to punish anyone who breaks the rules. Major League Baseball did some cheating of its own in 2021.

The report states that MLB used two different styles of baseball in different parks throughout the year, but they didn't tell a single soul. MLB team executives had no idea. There was something off with the game-used balls last season.

Sean Doolittle told Business Insider that he and his teammates were surprised when certain balls left the yard while watching fly games from the pen. It happened so many times that Doolittle wondered what was going on.

There were a few times during the season where we were sitting in the pen and watching the game. When a home run is hit, you are surprised that it got out. You are looking at it and you think it is weird. It can happen many times before you start questioning things.

The memo sent out to all 30 Major League clubs in February stating that the production of game-used balls was going to be altered for the 2021 season is supported by the observation from Doolittle. Multiple sources told The Athletic that the change was being made in order to reduce the rising home run rates the league had seen in previous years. When Joey Votto had a seven-game home run streak last season, heads turned and tilted at how some of his balls actually appeared off the bat. Several of his home run swings were seen as weak flies. The launch angle and exit velocity on Votto's first home run of the streak indicated that the ball had less than a 10 percent chance of actually being a home run. Votto ended his streak when he hit a long single off the wall with an exit speed of over 120 mph at an angle of 24 degrees. Only two of the balls hit at that speed ended up as singles, and almost all of the balls left the ballpark.

The Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) award-winning astrophysicist, Meredith Wills, was led to measure hundreds of different game-used balls from half the league's ballparks by the results on two very differently hit balls. The league allowed older model balls to remain in the rotation even though the new ball had a lighter center. The kicker? The league didn't tell its owners, players or fans which balls would be used.

It was expected that Major League Baseball would back people up. After MLB purchased Rawlings, many thought it was only a matter of time before the league started manufacturing balls to fit whatever narrative the league wanted to push. The narrative MLB wanted to push in 2021 was, "Hey, we know there have been a lot of home runs." We are trying to fix it, but we don't want to.

I wondered if Wills would be able to show how many ballparks experienced huge drop-offs or rises in home run rates. The graph shows the difference between the home run rate in the same ballparks from 2016 to 2020 and the home run rate in the same ballparks from 2021 to 2020.

The perfect line is the faded red line. We would see every team on that exact line if the game played out perfectly. That is too much to expect. The teams look good. The line follows the graph fairly well. The Washington Nationals fell in line with the tenth spot in the league, and the teams near the top of the league from 2016 to 2020 tended to be near the top of the league last season.

The Chicago Cubs ranked 22nd in home run factor between 2016 and 2020 but ranked sixth in 2021, the highest home run factor since 2015. The Detroit Tigers were dead last in home run factor in 2021, but they were 17th in home run factor between 2016 and 2020. The home run factor at the park has been falling since 2016 but it is still too big a drop to be coincidental.

There are some issues with the graph. The Texas Rangers moved across the street from Globe Life Park to Globe Life Field in 2020, but I measured the home run factor for them between 2016 and 2021. Globe Life Park was one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league from 2016 to 2019. Globe Life Field has been below average in home run factor both seasons since the team moved. The Atlanta Braves moved from Turner Field to Truist Park. Turner Field had a home run factor of 72 in 2016 which was the second-lowest in the league. Truist Park has had a home run factor over 80 since.

As much as Mets fans might want to blame their poor offensive season on their players being forced to hit lighter center balls that don't fly as far, the home run factor in 2021 wasn't that different than years past. It doesn't seem like MLB's decision to use two different styles of balls really affected how hitter/ pitcher friendly each ballpark was in 2021.