How the dual-ball season may have affected the Yankees

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If you haven’t yet read Bradford William Davis’ reporting on MLB’s usage of two different baseballs during the 2021 season, you’ll want to do so now. It’s essential reading. Davis, along with Dr. Meredith Wills’ research, showed clear cut evidence of two different balls being used in 2021. The league admitted as such, but blamed it on COVID-19.

The two different balls had different specifications and thus resulted in different performance outcomes. The league didn’t inform anyone about this, players included, though the players may have had a hunch something was awry. The original plan was to introduce a single and more consistent ball in 2021. Instead, balls from prior year specifications were circulated. There’s already plenty of speculation about how the league could have done this — I have a Yankees-related theory to present, too — but first, some hypotheses about how the balls were mixed in, straight from the report:

While the league blames COVID-19 for the dual-ball season and says it won’t happen again, some of the players reached by Insider entertained more conspiratorial hypotheses. For example: What if MLB sent a disproportionate number of either ball to a specific park or for a specific set of games, putting its thumb on the scale to create incentivized to introduce two baseballs” to try to produce higher- or lower-scoring games.

The National League pitcher who replicated Wills’ study believes MLB “is more or less incentivized to introduce two baseballs” to try to produce higher- or lower-scoring games.

“You know, send a bouncier baseball, lighter baseball — whichever flies more — to a primetime series,” he told me, listing off marquee matchups like Yankees-Red Sox and Mets-Phillies. “Then,” he suggested, send more dead baseballs to “Texas versus Seattle. Or, you know, Detroit versus Kansas City. No one’s going to bat an eye.”

On the other hand, he speculates, the league could flip that approach around and send high-octane balls to low-profile games and “produce more offense,” which might “put more seats in the stands. Just continue to bring up fan engagement.”

Again, these are merely unproven hypotheses. But they sure are interesting, no? Here’s my theory: MLB consistently supplied the new balls to games played at Yankee Stadium. In other words: the baseball that doesn’t travel as far was used exclusively in the Bronx, whereas the Yankees played with a mix of the two elsewhere. Here’s some data I was able to pull via Baseball Savant:

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Thoughts as the lockout looms

The current CBA expires at 11:59pm eastern tonight. As the clock winds down, it doesn’t look like a new deal is coming. Maybe things will change in the coming hours, but considering the recent run on free agents, the writing is on the wall. The owners are expected to lock out the players, thereby freezing transactions, not allowing players to use team facilities, and more. You won’t see pictures like this for a while:

@JoeyGallo24

From everything I’ve read, it doesn’t sound like regular season games are in jeopardy. There’s still a ways to go until spring training, after all. That said, prepare yourself for radio silence in terms of hot stove news for the next few weeks and months. All that buzz and excitement over the last few days? A product of an anticipated lockout, sure, but good for the league nonetheless. And yet, the owners are ready to shut that down to gain negotiating leverage.

As a result, it’s going to be pretty difficult to discuss anything Yankees-related in the near future. This could be the last Yankees-related thoughts post for some time, so let’s jump in:

Yankees Free Agent Target: Trevor Story

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I’m just as frustrated as you likely are about the Yankees sitting on the sidelines during this recent free agent frenzy. Nearly all of the top shortstops are now off the board, with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien going to Texas and Javier Báez off to Detroit. The top starting pitchers are gone too. And yet, there are still two big name shortstops out there for the Yankees to grab: Carlos Correa and the subject of today’s post, Trevor Story.

Now, am I confident that the Yankees actually play at the top of the market for Story (or Correa)? Not very at the moment. In spite of Brian Cashman telegraphing the team’s intent to spend and address the shortstop position, reports have now trickled out over the last couple of weeks that the Yankees are more likely to go the stopgap route. I hope that’s not true given Correa and Story’s availability. Nonetheless, I’m having a hard time giving the Yankees the benefit of the doubt given recent seasons’ behavior.

Still, until the ink dries on a new contract, the Yankees are not necessarily out on Story. We already know there’s interest in the shortstop — the team wanted to trade for him at the deadline and Jaime profiled him then — but the Rockies tripped all over themselves instead. Colorado will get some compensation once he signs elsewhere because Story rejected the qualifying offer, but perhaps a deadline deal would have suited them better. Anyway, that time has come and gone, so let’s turn to Story’s free agency outlook.

Mailbag: Gallo trade, matching free agent signings, and more

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Good morning everyone. I hope you all had a great weekend and an enjoyable Thanksgiving. If you haven’t worked since Wednesday, this is one of the tougher Mondays of the year to get through. If that’s the case for you, at least the MLB hot stove is ablaze with plenty of news to keep you distracted. The Mets made a bunch of signings and may be near a deal for Max Scherzer. The Rangers just inked Marcus Semien. Kevin Gausman is headed to Toronto. And other big names could agree to deals before the CBA expires this week. Whew.

Hopefully, a new CBA can be hammered out in reasonable time. Otherwise, the inevitable lockout will really stink. So for as long as there’s little to no MLB news after this week, we’ll need some of your most creative questions to keep the mailbag fresh week-to-week. Send them to viewsfrom314 at gmail dot com. We’ll pick and answer our favorites each Monday. Here are this week’s:

A Holiday Wishlist

Before getting into things we may wish for, given the season and what not, let me start off with a message of thanks. Thank you for reading these pieces and our tweets, thank you for listening to the podcast, and thank you for finding space in your busy lives for Views From 314 Feet. We appreciate it and all of you more than you know.

Now onto the wishful thinking.

Most importantly, I wish for a season, an uninterrupted season. As we’re all aware of, the CBA between the league and the MLBPA is about to expire and we’re staring down a lockout. Hopefully it gets resolved quickly and there’s no interruption to Spring Training or games. Am I holding my breath on this one? Not exactly. But I am crossing my fingers.

When it comes to the Yankees, my wish is pretty singular: just make meaningful change. We know the specifics: a shortstop, a first baseman, a centerfielder, a starter. There’s not much need to go down each path again and again, but it’s still a wish (really a goal) worth repeating.

The last few years have been a blend of success and frustration, with not quite enough of the former and way too much of the latter that probably could’ve been avoided. The last few years have also seen the Yankees lean on the same method they have been for…a long time. It’s time to change that.

Change the way the pitching staff is constructed.

Change the emphasis on player skills and attributes.

Change the way depth is achieved.

Change the way decisions are made.

The Yankees are close to giving us what we all want, what we all really wish for: a 28th World Series championship. All things considered, they don’t have to take too many steps to get there. But doing so will require answering some uncomfortable questions about themselves. If the holiday season is a time for reflection on what you have, what you need, and how to get the latter, the Yankees need to take advantage.

The changes they need to made are small and simple, but significant. This holiday season, I’ll be wishing for them to do just that.

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