Mets Coach Eric Chavez Says Players Suggested Juiced Balls Being Used on National TV

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 8, 2022

New York Mets hitting coach Eric Chavez, left, talks with Pete Alonso, right, in the dugout before a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros, Monday, April 4, 2022, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Members of the New York Mets told hitting coach Eric Chavez they thought the ball would travel differently for the team's nationally televised matchup with the Philadelphia Phillies on May 1.

The Mets won that game 10-6, tied for the highest-scoring outing they've had this year.

Chavez told Newsday's Tim Healey he thought the concerns expressed to him were legitimate.

"The ball was traveling farther—balls that weren’t hit as hard," he said. "And I’m like, wait a minute, that shouldn’t have happened. The ball was just traveling better. That was the eye test, but then we lined it up with what the analytics were telling us."

Chavez laid out some of the numbers to which he alluded.

"We've been hitting balls 104, 105 [mph] at the right launch angle that aren't leaving," he said. And all of a sudden, now we're hitting balls 95—a little less hard than the other balls—and those balls are traveling on Sunday night."

MLB confirmed to Business Insider's Bradford William Davis last November it used two different baseballs across the 2021 season.

The league explained that Rawlings, which produces the balls, was adversely impacted amid the COVID-19 pandemic, so MLB had to dip into an inventory of baseballs that were made differently than their 2021 configuration.

Bradford William Davis @BWDBWDBWD

Dr. Meredith Wills, a <a href="https://twitter.com/sabr?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@sabr</a> award winning physicist analyzed over 100 MLB baseballs across 15 parks and made at 2 different weights. MLB told teams the lighter balls were deader and met new performance standards. So the heavy balls (lol) were quite the find. <a href="https://t.co/779HD4z1vA">pic.twitter.com/779HD4z1vA</a>

The offensive numbers to start the 2022 season are raising more questions about whether MLB is intentionally deadening the baseballs. Per FanGraphs, the league-wide wOBA has fallen from .314 in 2021 to .305 in 2022. The slugging percentage (.372) is also on pace to fall for the third straight year.

Matthew Pouliot @matthewpouliot

Lifetime OPS<br>.682 - Deivi Cruz<br>.679 - Dee Strange-Gordon<br>.676 - MLB teams in 2022<br>.675 - Miguel Cairo<br>.673 - Yuniesky Betancourt<br>.672 - Neifi Perez

Unlike in the "Steroid Era," when an offensive explosion helped boost baseball's popularity in the wake of the 1994 strike, the rise of home runs in recent years wasn't a welcome outcome for some fans. That was accompanied by an increase in walks and strikeouts, the other two of the "three true outcomes."

As a result, the ball simply wasn't being put in play as much.

One could argue making a ball that doesn't travel as far would help address this problem to a degree. Taking that course of action would presumably require informing the players, too.

Instead, the players are being left in the dark and searching for answers to explain what seemingly defies explanation.

Until MLB is more forthright on this topic, theories will abound.