Mets batting coach Eric Chavez suggests MLB uses different baseballs for nationally televised games

Running scores and associated offensive outings are down in 2022, and there’s good reason to suspect the properties of baseball itself have a lot to do with it. MLB has a rich recent history of fielding baseballs that vary widely at these properties from year to year and even within the same season, and 2022 appears to be no exception.

In general terms, pitchers will not oppose “juiced” baseballs, just as batters will not shy away from “juiced” variations. However, both sets of players and their dueling interests appreciate consistency when it comes to this most essential gear.

This brings us to the latest conspiracy theory floated by the New York Mets. Mets hitting coach Eric Chavez recently told Tim Healey press day that his hitters suspect baseball is getting oddly less cushioned in nationally televised games, like a recent Mets-Phillies tilt last Sunday night on ESPN. Healy writes:

And then in late April, two days before playing the Phillies on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball,” several hitters warned Chavez: Watch how the baseballs move during the first televised game of the week at home. national scale. They had heard that the balls in these games were somehow different.

“I thought for a second, ‘You’re full of it,'” Chavez said.

And then what happened?

“The ball was traveling further – balls that weren’t being hit as hard. And I’m like, wait a minute, that shouldn’t have happened,” Chavez said. “The ball was just moving better. It was the sight test, but then we lined it up with what the scans were telling us.”

It’s worth noting that we heard similar whispers last year when it came to top-tier games or series. However, players’ perceptions on these issues can be considered questionable for the usual reasons: confirmation bias, small sample size, etc. Indeed, ball-tracking data from this game does not particularly confirm the perceptions of Mets hitters. It also follows that if MLB had determined that livelier baseball was good for business, then they would use that baseball in more than nationally televised games.

That said, this kind of “kvetching by anecdote” will likely continue until MLB develops better control over the quality of baseball or is less inclined to intentionally manipulate it. Yes, the cooler weather in April and the increased use of humidifiers to store baseballs probably play a role, but baseball itself continues to be the main character whenever the balance between throwing and hitting leans too much in one direction.

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