Different Baseballs and Betting
Investigative reporter Bradford William Davis revealed in a story for Insider published a little over a year ago that Major League Baseball (MLB) had used two distinct baseballs throughout the 2021 season. Following up on the topic again this year, Davis discovered (with the assistance of renowned astrophysicist Dr. Meredith Wills) that there were probably three separate balls in play throughout the 2022 campaign. The Insider piece claims that MLB's answer was dismissive and called into question the award-winning astrophysicist's underlying study.
If MLB baseballs produce diverse reactions when struck, there may be integrity issues with the gambling industry that merit discussion. If more than one ball is utilized, legitimate concerns regarding the accuracy of the data supplying the betting markets arise. Baseball has linked at the league and team level with different gambling-related businesses, and it is the creator of official league data, despite the fact that it does not appear that MLB is an equity owner of a gambling company after purportedly selling its investment in DraftKings several years ago.
Of course, skilled sports bettors, whether they be in Las Vegas or elsewhere, are concerned about the situation as well, as they regularly rely on similar data to what the bookmakers use to set the various betting lines.
The investigation by Davis revealed that there were several balls in play throughout the 2022 season, seemingly in contrast to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's preseason claim that the league will use a single ball during that season.
According to some reports, the goal was to make the balls dead during the 2022 campaign. After the All-Star break in 2015, there were earlier claims that not all balls were produced equally, with discernible variances in the ball appearing at various times through 2019. The introduction of a new ball in 2021 was intended to decrease the production of the "more homer-prone" balls the year before. Nevertheless, purportedly COVID-19 production and supply chain challenges made it impossible to produce enough of the deadened balls, therefore some previously produced balls were used during the 2021 season.
Last season was supposed to be unique. One ball, a deadened ball, was planned for 2022. While there is only one ball in play, uniform MLB baseballs balance expectations; batters, pitchers, fans, and bettors know what they are up against. Notwithstanding the fact that Dr. Wills' research and the Davis account identified different balls, they all came inside the league-acceptable weight range of 5 to 5.5 ounces, it is important to note. Three balls were discovered by the investigation, including older balls from the "juiced era," dead balls, and balls they called "Goldilocks balls" since they were just the right weight.
It's interesting that the study only discovered Goldilocks balls at major occasions like the postseason and New York Yankees games. Whether by coincidence or not, Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge was trying to break the American League record for most home runs in a season in 2022. The various balls stand in for a possible integrity problem. There are serious concerns regarding the competitive fairness of different games using different equipment, even though it is hoped that nobody outside of MLB and possibly even the league office knows for sure whether certain games received more deadened or homer-friendly balls.
An unexpected departure from predetermined conditions (even if it is within a predetermined range) raises important concerns about fairness to bettors and bookmakers alike, as well as whether those standards are reasonable, when it comes to betting markets that depend on a set understanding of the conditions of the game to set and adjust lines.
Fair information access is what it all comes down to. MLB has made a point of highlighting the significance of official league data from their standpoint as essential to the integrity of betting markets, among other leagues. These efforts have paid dividends for the leagues in a number of states. While every ball may meet MLB requirements, it may be time to examine those requirements more closely as at least one research indicates that balls meeting the requirements can perform rather differently.
The same standards need to apply to all. Betting markets should be viewed more similarly to financial markets in this regard. Adequacy disclosures must be made on a regular basis in the financial markets. MLB contests the veracity of Dr. Wills' study's findings, but this does not lessen the case for treating sports leagues similarly to other market participants in the world of sports betting.
“Opinion: It Matters To Sports Betting Markets If Different MLB Baseballs Are In Play” , John Holden, legalsportsreport.com, February 23, 2023.