A view of an MLB baseball

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Bernstein: I Love Being Right

Just as one suspected, the baseball appears to be juiced in MLB again.

Dan Bernstein
April 05, 2019 - 2:29 pm

(670 The Score) ​I almost forgot what this feels like, but every once in a long while, I'm allowed to celebrate being right about something, and this one I had on the nose.  

If you have teenage children, you understand exactly what I'm talking about, because we dads exist in a perpetual state of wrongness, both actual and presumed as a default setting. This is exacerbated when pedantic and loquacious parents end up cursed to raise motivated and confident kids keen on pointing out each and every one of our apparent mistakes, even regarding a method of some kind that deviates from commonly accepted best practice they learned from YouTube.

"Dad, you chop garlic wrong."

"That's not where your hands are supposed to be on the steering wheel, you realize."

"Your head isn't behind the ball enough to see a good line for your putt, Dad. That's why you keep misreading them."

"Those bowls never get clean because you stack them too close to each other in the wrong part of the dishwasher."

"You are the slowest texter ever."

"Don't ever sing. Not around me. Don't even hum. It's so bad."

This is most of my life, is what I'm saying. The things I can do correctly at this point are pretty much down to being able to fill a car trunk with luggage efficiently, intuit perfect timing and doneness when cooking meat and reinstall the shower curtain rod when it falls down.

But I knew the MLB baseball was juiced again. Knew it, knew it, knew it. Told you last week, deputized you as honorary home run police officers to document ones that looked .... off: a flick of the wrist by some middle-infield flea who shoots one over the wall, the opposite-field rope off the end of the bat or an outfielder drifting over routinely to a spot only to keep shuffling backward in vain. It was clear that this was happening again.

And now we have the authoritative analysis and data to prove it. Rob Arthur of Baseball Prospectus has been doing much of the heavy lifting on this topic, going back to the home run explosion that began in the second half of the 2015 season and peaked with records in 2017. There was a lull last year, but the slick ball has made its return.

That's the issue experts determined to be the culprit then and now, the lack of drag that adds a significant amount of carry. It's not that they're wound tightly and springing off more elastically but that they're more aerodynamically slippery through the air.

Arthur has been tracking the drag coefficient of batted balls using the pitch-track radar in each MLB park, and the evidence shows current numbers mirroring those of the previous home run boom. There are fluctuations expected due to various factors, but the early trend is obvious.

As he concludes:

"It's possible that this one-week drop in drag coefficient subsides and the baseball returns to its 2018 levels. On the other hand, it's almost equally probable that the ball becomes even more slippery and flies ever farther. Either way, it's clear that the baseball's air resistance is something to keep an eye on for the remainder of the 2019 season.​"

Really, that's just a fancy way of saying I was right.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​​​