One thing that we like to do in baseball is to compare what Player A did to what Player B did. When it comes to the Minor Leagues, we go a step further by trying to compare what those two guys did, in different years, at the same level. It makes some sense to do that. It gives some context to the comparison you are trying to make. The ballparks are the same, even if the competition isn’t exactly the same – it’s at least at the same level. But moving forward we need to be careful when doing that.

We need to be careful because in 2019 there was a rule change, and at least early on in 2019, it seems to be changing how baseball is playing out. This season Triple-A is using Major League baseballs. In the past they were using Minor League baseballs. And yes, there is a difference. As dumb as that may actually sound, there is a difference in the baseballs that are used. In the past, when a Major Leaguer was rehabbing as a pitcher he would use a different baseball than the other pitchers in the game would. He used a Major League baseball.

Triple-A is the only level in which the Major League baseball is used. And home runs are way up compared to the past. Baseball America notes that home runs are being hit at a rate of 135% compared to last season. And we need to be sure to also note that April is the month of the season in which there are fewer homers than any other month because the weather simply isn’t as conducive to home runs (mostly because it’s cold). What hasn’t changed is the BABIP. Or the rate of other extra-base hits. But boy oh boy are the baseballs flying over the fence unlike in the past.

You would expect players in Triple-A to hit more home runs than players at lower levels. Physical maturity players a decent part in why that would be the case. The average age of a player in Louisville is usually 26-years-old, while the average age of a player in Dayton is about 21-years-old.

With that said, we are seeing something wild happen thus far in the Reds farm system that backs up the new baseball is making it fly argument appear very correct. The Louisville Bats have hit 19 home runs as a team. The Chattanooga Lookouts, Daytona Tortugas, and Dayton Dragons have hit a combined 20 home runs this season.

Things could certainly change as the season goes along. But they probably won’t. For years there has been talk about how the Major League baseball was different from the one in the minors. It jumped off of the bat more. It flew further. These were, and still are common discussions in the scouting world. Now that Triple-A is also using those baseballs, keep that in mind when looking at the stats for the Louisville Bats in 2019. And keep it in mind when comparing what guys are doing this season compared to what guys in the past did in Louisville.

7 Responses

  1. ohiojimw

    In like the change because it should give teams a truer picture of how players, especially pitchers, may do when they take that final large step to MLB.

    The BA article Doug linked indicated that it seems likely that the MLB ball will be introduced at AA soon; but, that may be as far down the chain as it will go in the foreseeable future.

    Curiously there is a 2 pronged issue. One is the much higher cost of producing the MLB ball. The other is the that the manufacturing infrastructure to turn out the number of MLB balls required for all minor leagues simply doesn’t exist.

  2. Big Ed

    Interesting stuff.

    I had heard pitchers from the 1990s say that the MLB ball had evolved a bit since their days, with it being harder and having lower seams. It is hard to quite know what to make of these types of claims, but there seems to be some truth in it. This year, pitchers are complaining about the balls being slick, which may just be that nobody knows how to rub them up anymore.

    I wish Ken Rosenthal or somebody would do a deep dive into what is really going on with the balls. I don’t really see the point in changing the balls over time, or even if it is intentional. If MLB wants more balls in play, which it seems to want and which seems reasonable, then you would think that a simple partial fix would be to revert to the older ball, which may be just a hair softer.

    At any rate, there ought to be standardized balls throughout organized baseball. I have heard that it is a money issue (of course), but that seems a stretch. To save a few bucks, maybe they could hire the 8-year-old shoemaker that The Onion reported Nike to have fired after Zion Williamson blew out his Nikes and hurt his knee.

    • ohiojimw

      If I read the article correctly, one of the “infrastructure issues” is that the MLB is partially or totally handstitched; and, they are short on skilled stitchers.

  3. ToBeDetermined

    Big Ed
    “maybe they could hire the 8-year-old shoemaker that The Onion reported Nike to have fired after Zion Williamson blew out his Nikes and hurt his knee.”

    That’s funny

    8-year-olds have gotten soft with the liberalization of the school system. Back in Upton Sinclair’s day, 8-year-olds were tough.

  4. CFD3000

    Great info Doug. This might explain why so many were uncertain about Winker’s ability to hit in the majors and in particular to hit with power. I’d think this is a huge upgrade for minor leaguers, scouting departments, front offices, and everyone but the aging veteran Slugger who is still hanging on in part because minor leaguers don’t seem ready to replace them – until now. Looking at you Matt Kemp. I’m curious to see what the power numbers look like for Senzel and Ervin. Their time has come!

  5. Michael Smith

    God bless this thread. The Onion, muckrackers and I’m hoping that Oliver Twist makes an appearance