About This Episode
On this episode of Playing with Science, hosts Gary O’Reilly and Chuck Nice are back to investigate the mysterious rise in home runs in the 2015-2017 era of Major League Baseball. However, this time they have some answers and a whole lot more.Our hosts are joined by baseball data scientist and astrophysicist Meredith Wills, PhD, who has conducted a new study that found evidence of a change in the baseball used during this period of play. On our previous episode covering this topic, Juiced Balls, Broken Bats & Record Breakers, with Shawn Green, Dr. Alan Nathan, physicist and Chairman of the MLB Commission Report which investigated this uptick in home runs, concluded that their study could not find the smoking gun.
Find out why deconstructing a baseball gives you much more information than cutting or slicing it. Meredith explains how the thickness of the laces used in the baseballs differentiated during the 2015-17 era and could be accountable for the rise in home runs. You’ll learn some history about the impact of a small change to the balls, including the switch from Australian wool to American wool during World War I. Discover how long it takes to take apart a baseball and why you must do so very carefully.
We ponder the very limited response by Major League Baseball to Meredith’s findings. We also tear into “Pitcher Blister” and how a change in the ball can increase the risk of this type of injury. Then, we dive into what makes some parts of baseball boring and some exciting, as well as asking who gets to decide which is which. Finally, Meredith tells us why her work is far from over.
To end, we bring in our closer, Justine Siegal. You’ll learn why Justine was drawn to baseball over softball as she was growing up. She tells us what it felt like to deal with the pressure of being the first female coach in Major League Baseball. You’ll find out why her background in education and learning alongside experienced coaches gave her the advantage in the dugout. All that, plus, Justine shares information about her current role at Baseball for All, an organization that empowers girls to break baseball stereotypes.
NOTE: All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Breaking Down Baseball Barriers, with Meredith Wills and Justine Siegal.