MLB is planning a slight change to the baseballs in 2021 that would produce a minor "deadening effect," per Ken Rosenthal and Eno Sarris of The Athletic.
The Athletic obtained an internal memo that was sent Friday to general managers, assistant general managers, and equipment managers detailing the change to the baseballs (produced by Rawlings) that will be very small, but should still impact what the balls do when they're put in play.
Per the memo, the "coefficient of restitution," which Rosenthal and Sarris describe as "the relationship of the incoming speed to the outgoing speed" could be impacted by the change to the baseballs, creating a less "bouncy" ball.
One analyst who spoke to The Athletic said the impact of the new ball will be "like adding five feet of outfield walls to every wall in the big leagues."
A GM who spoke with The Athletic noted:
“It sounds to me as it will result in more ball consistency and a very, very slight deadening of the ball."
During the last full MLB season, the ball flew out of the park at the highest rate in history.
An MLB-record 6,776 home runs were hit during the 2019 season, up from 5,585 in 2018. There had been a spike from 2016 to 2017 as well (5,610 home runs to 6,105 home runs), but 2019 was simply a different animal -- and the balls used in 2020 were similar to the ones used in 2019.
A study released by the league after the 2019 season shed a small amount of light on what caused the home run explosion (as did vague statements from the league during the season), but a few things were clear before that report came out. Among them: The 2019 baseball was different than any that came before it.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred vehemently denied that the league purposefully altered the baseballs before 2019.
In 2021, the baseball will be one that the league hopes will perform more consistently. And it will almost certainly mean fewer balls flying over fences.