The Backstory of MLB's "Juiced" Baseball

Visuals and statistics from the FiveThirtyEight article 

 "We X-Rayed Some MLB Baseballs. Here’s What We Found."

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Why did the "Juiced Ball" 

happen?

Viewership + Excitement

- The MLB is in the midst of a 12-year decline in annual overall attendance and and saw TV ratings shrink -- until 2019. 

- The home run is one of the most exciting aspects of the game, and fans tune in to watch them.

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Ratings and Financial Gains

- Pitchers were dominating the sport in 2014 and many speculate that the ball was changed to accommodate to help batters.

- The 2019 MLB season featured increased TV and digital viewership and growing participation in baseball and softball.

- League revenue topped $10 billion in 2018 and is up more than 70 percent from a decade ago in 2019.

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Changes in MLB Pitch Repertoire

(2017-2019)

OUR FINDINGS

PITCHERS:

- Higher fastball usage has resulted in more home runs in 2019 comparatively to 2017 and 2018, especially among those with <150 innings pitched (Starters).(11.8% ↑ between 2017 and 2019) 

- The curve ball and sinker are the only two pitches with consistently less home runs hit against them the more frequently they are pitched.

(More Curveball = ↓ 7.7% HRs, More Sinker = ↓ 6.5% Hrs)

- Curve ball and sinker saw less usage among pitchers with 150+ innings (Starters) 

(Curve =  1.49%, Sinker = ↓ 5.25%) while fastball usage has gone up (Fastball = ↑ 2.23%)

- Slider (↑2.72%) and changeup (↑1.71%) usage up among pitchers with <150 innings pitched (Non-starters).

 

BATTERS:

- There has been an increase in average breaking balls and off speed pitches to batters with more than 250 plate appearances in a season.(Breaking:↑ 3.79%, Off speed:↑ 6.70%)

- Batters with more than 250 PAs averaged 18.56 HRs in 2019, ↑ 2.84 HRs/player from the previous year

- Batters with more than 250 PAs are increasing their home run percentage most against the fastball. (66.1 fastballs/HR in 2017 and 57.7 fastballs/HR in 2019, a change of 15.6%)

Pitcher & Batter Adjustments 

in the

Juiced Ball Era

Pitch Type Faced by MLB Batters (2017-2019)

References

 

1. Allentuck, D., & Draper, K. (2019, September 29). Baseball Saw a Million More Empty Seats. Does It Matter? Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/29/sports/baseball/mlb-attendance.html.

 

2. Arthur, R., & Dix, T. (2018, March 1). We X-Rayed Some MLB Baseballs. Here's What We Found. Retrieved from https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/juiced-baseballs/.

 

3. Baseball Savant: Trending MLB Players, Statcast and Visualizations. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/.

 

4. MLB sees fan growth across the board in 2019. (2019, September 30). Retrieved from https://www.mlb.com/news/mlb-increased-viewership-attendance-in-2019.

5. Moran, E. (2019, October 7). Another Year Of Declining Attendance: How Worried Should MLB Be? Retrieved from https://frntofficesport.com/mlb-attendance-2019-2/.

 

6. Rymer, Z. D. (2019, May 3). MLB Should Fully Embrace Its Growing Juiced Ball 'Problem'. Retrieved from https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2834332-mlb-should-fully-embrace-its-growing-juiced-ball-problem.

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