From Joe Sheehan:
“MLB announced the results of a study of the baseball. These confirm the work that’s been done over the last few years by outside researchers, who concluded that the baseball is the driving force behind recent increases in home run rates.
All I can do is wonder what the baseballs were like in 1998.
It’s certainly gratifying to see MLB validate the work done by independent observers, but it’s the mere existence of the conversation that I find interesting. Smart people dug into data and tested baseballs and looked everywhere to find reasons why home runs were up.
We didn’t do that 15 years ago. We decided, and history wrote, that the offensive spike of 1998-2001, or more broadly 1993-2004, was entirely because players were using sports drugs. By acclamation, mind you, and in opposition to the research (by Nate Silver in Baseball Between the Numbers, to pick one study) and despite the presence of alternate theories, both observed (smaller de facto strike zones) and researched (the double expansion, the changing distribution of pitcher innings).
We’re not going to write off this generation of superstars because instead of doing so, we did the work this time. I’m just wondering if, having seen such an effort go into digging up the root causes of the current power surge, it shouldn’t make us even more skeptical about the way we wrote up the last one.
In 2000, there were no drug tests and 5,693 home runs.
In 2017, there were 10,237 drug tests and 6,105 home runs.
Maybe it was never the drugs after all.”