During the 2017 Major League Baseball season, teams hit 1.26 home runs per game for a total of 6,105 home runs, an all-time record that surpassed the previous year’s mark of 1.16 by a pretty good clip. The league subsequently called on a group of scientists to find out what was behind the sharp increase.
According to CBS Sports, in August of 2017, commissioner Rob Manfred brought together various experts in the fields of physics and quantitative analysis to study the baseballs from the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Focusing their study on the physical properties of the baseball, weather and climate conditions and player behavior, the group theorized that the ball’s aerodynamic properties, particularly the drag on its surface, was the culprit.
“Though there was a range in each measured parameter, in each case, both the new balls and authentication balls were consistently within specifications,” the committee wrote in a summary of its findings. ” In fact, for some of the tested parameters, such as weight, size, and COR, Rawlings achieved much greater precision than allowed by the MLB specifications. Any variation detected was relatively small on the practical scale, and there was no evidence that it could have produced an alteration in home run frequency on the order of the increase that has been observed. What’s more, the annual trends of weight and circumference do not correlate with the home run increase.”
Reportedly, the most intriguing theory to come out of the research involved the core of the ball. The scientists said the more centered it was, he more aerodynamically sound the ball would be. The core being as little as a centimeter off meant the ball would wobble just enough to add drag and make it less aerodynamic.