Pitchers, scouts reportedly believe MLB using juiced baseballs in 2024

MLB juiced balls
Credit: Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball has a history of making rule changes and undisclosed alterations to increase run production and make the game more entertaining over the years. Now, reports have resurfaced that MLB might’ve brought juiced baseballs back for the 2024 season.

League officials have changed a variety of things in recent offseasons to speed up the game and make it more captivating for sports fans amid declining television ratings. The introduction of the major-league pitch clock, banning the shifts and increasing the size of bases are just a few modifications made in recent years.

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However, those are the changes that MLB publicly disclosed. Behind the scenes, many outside the league office have believed that the baseballs used in games have been modified to become more hitter-friendly. While league officials have denied allegations in the past, speculation is resurfacing in 2024.

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, several pitchers and team scouts are ‘stunned’ by how hard the baseball is being hit in 2024 and they are convinced MLB is juicing the balls once again. However, league officials have denied the accusations.

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“Those things are like golf balls the way they’re flying out.”

National League pitcher on the baseballs being used in 2024 (via USA Today)

History of MLB juicing baseballs

This would be the third time in the last few years that MLB has been accused of juicing baseballs. In 2017, independent testing found the baseballs used in MLB games were ‘juiced’ with The Athletic reporting in June 2018 that changes made to baseballs led to a home run surge.

A report by Business Insider found in 2021 that MLB used two different types of baseballs, including one set that proved to be more prone to result in home runs. One year later, Dr. Meredith Wills again found that the league used two types of baseball during the 2022 season.

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MLB home runs per game by year

  • 2024: 0.99 home runs per game
  • 2023: 1.21 home runs per game
  • 2022: 1.07 home runs per game
  • 2021: 1.22 home runs per game
  • 2020: 1.28 home runs per game
  • 2019: 1.39 home runs per game
  • 2018: 1.15 home runs per game
  • 2017: 1.26 home runs per game

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However, it’s worth noting per data from Baseball Reference that the per-game average for home runs is at 0.99 this season. However, that number is likely to change as the weather heats up with baseballs carrying further in the summer and home run output increasing.

As for why this is happening, it traces back to a deal made in 2018. MLB bought Rawlings, the previous manufacturer of baseballs, taking over control of the process. It allowed the league to control how the baseballs were constructed, giving them the ability to alter the seams and makeup of baseballs to influence how far they traveled. So, while it’s no surprise MLB is again denying that it ‘juiced’ baseballs, that has been the league’s response for years despite data suggesting something was changed to increase home run output.

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