March 26, 2019 9:01 pm

Wednesday, Investigate the Major Changes in Baseball with the Groundbreaking Women Behind Them

Last October, we ran the episode Juiced Balls, Broken Bats, & Breaking Records. It featured an interview with Dr. Alan Nathan, physicist and Chairman of the MLB Commission Report, who was responsible for leading the independent study, conducted by Major League Baseball, to investigate the rise in home runs from 2015-17. As Alan told us on that episode, they figured it was changes to the actual ball that caused the influx, but they couldn’t find the smoking gun.

On this week’s episode of Playing with Science, one of our guests seems to have found that smoking gun. Hosts Gary O’Reilly and Chuck Nice are joined by astrophysicist and baseball data scientist Meredith Wills, who is responsible for the study that shows the major impact of a minor change to the official MLB balls. Later on, our hosts are joined by Justine Siegal, founder of Baseball for All and the first female coach in the MLB.

Photo of Justine Siegal pitching, courtesy of Justine Siegal.

Photo courtesy of Justine Siegal.

But first, let’s get to what Meredith’s study tells us. She gives us a history of how small changes in baseball makeup can have major impacts in the sport, like using Australian wool instead of American wool during World War I. Then, we dive in to the subject at hand. You’ll find out why deconstructing a baseball is much more revealing than simply cutting or slicing it in half. Meredith tells us why the thickness of the laces has a major impact on the behavior of the ball.

We discuss why Major League Baseball and Rawlings, the manufacturer of the baseballs, have had such a surprisingly limited reaction to Meredith’s study. We also discuss the rise in “Pitcher Blister” and if it correlates to the changes in lace thickness. We try and determine what parts of baseball are boring and exciting and who decides which parts are which. You’ll also find out why Meredith’s work is far from over.

Lastly, we sit down with Justine Siegal, the first female coach in Major League Baseball. You’ll find out why she was drawn to baseball over softball. She explains what it was like to endure the pressure of the outside world watching her every move. You’ll also find out why her background in education helped her gain an advantage in the coaching dugout. All that, plus, she tells us about Baseball for All, the foundation she established that empowers girls to help break stereotypes and shatter the mold.

Please join us tomorrow night for Breaking Down Baseball Barriers, with Meredith Wills & Justine Siegal  right here on our website, as well as on our Playing with Science channels on Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, Spotify, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re an All-Access subscriber, you can watch or listen to this episode ad-free.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!
–Ian Mullen

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