During the seven games of the World Series in October, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers combined to crush 24 home runs, capping a record-breaking season that saw major leaguers leave the yard 6,105 times. That home run total – which surpassed the mark of 5,693 that was set in 2000 during the height of the steroid era – led to rampant speculation the “new” ball MLB introduced following the 2015 All-Star Game had been “juiced” to lead to more offense.
With help from the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Kent State University, ESPN Sport Science and FiveThirtyEight set to find out.
Previous studies have found the post-All-Star baseballs were bouncier and less air resistant than the baseballs used in the 2014 season, so the researchers decided they would try to add to those findings by examining the density and chemical composition of the “new” ball’s core. To do this, they put the balls through a CT (computerized tomography) scan as well as a TGA (thermogravimetric analysis).
The findings are complex, but the researchers determined the new balls are “more porous” and “less dense” than the old ones. According to estimates, those changes, combined with the increase in bounciness and decrease in air resistance, could lead the ball to fly up to 8.6 feet farther. We’d certainly call that “juiced” – and Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander seems to agree.