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- MLB is directing teams to store balls in air-conditioned, closed rooms with climate sensors this season to combat the recent surge in home runs.
- Dry conditions can make the balls slicker and more lively, perhaps leading to more home runs.
- MLB will study the effects on the balls to see if teams should all store the balls in humidors next season.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, MLB is directing all 30 teams to store baseballs in air-conditioned, closed rooms to see if it affects the flight of the ball.
According to Verducci, teams previously stored balls at their own discretion, leading to variances in the temperature and humidity. Now MLB is installing climate sensors in each room to monitor the temperature and humidity and will study the effects in 2018 to see if all teams should store balls in humidors in 2019.
Dry conditions can make balls slicker, affecting their liveliness upon contact. According to Verducci, teams are going through over 200,000 balls per season, receiving new shipments throughout the year. Those balls can sometimes sit for months, untouched. Before they’re used, they’re rubbed with a substance to reduce shine and slickness.
Home runs have been up in recent seasons, and it’s unclear why. While MLB has denied doing anything differently to the balls, even some players have said the balls feel different. During the World Series, both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros complained that the balls were too slick, making them lose command of pitches, and thus, giving up hits and home runs.
While home runs are exciting, they’re also a problem for MLB, as they contain little action, compared to other hits. With strikes and walks also on the rise, that means more and more plays in baseball have little actual action.