‘Juicing’ certainly added MLB home runs

So here we are, the worst part of the year. The long stretch from November to February is almost certainly the worst four months that baseball fans have to deal with. But now that we are sadly at the end, there is something that everyone must discuss: juiced balls.

The league certainly won’t either deny or confirm the use of juiced balls, but numbers never lie. The home runs, both the amount and distance, is a tale-telling sign that something different is brewing.

Unseen since the steroid era, the long balls were record-breaking, and it didn’t take long to do it. Juiced balls, I think, make the game more fun to watch. In this era where attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, the juiced balls might be a good for the upcoming audience. However, I don’t know if it is best for the league in the long run.

This past season, the league combined for a record 5,707 home runs. This is after an increasing spike that started in 2015, and has continued through this year. The previous record was in 2000, smack dab in the middle of the steroid era. From that point on, the league faced a steady decline, that is until 2015 which faced a respectable spike compared to the previous four years.

That spike continued onto 2016, which faced the largest spike since the steroid era. The top 30 batters all averaged over 405 feet per home run and a whopping 200 players averaged over a 110 mph exit velocity.

In 2015, the longest home run was 495 feet hit by Kris Bryant. The exit velocity on that home run was 111.5, but compared to the longest home run hit in 2017 from Aaron Judge, that is eight mph slower than the average.

Not only does the longest home run have an increased exit velocity, but an incredible amount of balls hit have gone over 112 mph mark. If the balls were juiced, they would be able to speed off the bat like that.

The juiced part of the ball would be the cork in the middle that the rest of the ball is wrapped around. The jumpier the cork is, the more boost the ball would initially get off the barrel of the bat. That would be a great reasoning as to why the balls are coming faster out of the box.

You can also make the argument that pitching might be getting slower, and easier to hit. After all, mutually, I think majority of the sports journalism world would agree that this is not the age of the pitcher.

With players like Judge, Kris Bryant and other young powerful sluggers, strikeouts are coming in at extreme rates. Judge was 15 strikeouts away from the single-season record for strikeouts and also broke the record for strikeouts in a postseason.

And it’s not like Judge was getting on base a whole lot either. Compared to others around the league, his BA was just average. His .284 was nothing spectacular and is part of the new long ball era of power swings over contact swings.

Cody Bellinger is another example of juicing balls in the majors. The young superstar does not have a giant-like stocky frame that Judge has. Instead, he is built more like a Justin Hayward-type.

Bellinger’s season average was in the .260s, but he still was able to hit 39 home runs. He was electrifying part of the Dodgers lineup during their record-breaking performance during the middle of the season. Bellinger’s pop was not something that would have been as powerful two or three years ago. If both Bryant and Bellinger joined as rookies in the year 2017, things would different. Bryant’s stats would match Bellinger’s almost identically, and I don’t think it is from a year or two more in the minors.

There isn’t a whole lot of evidence that juiced balls are a thing, and I also don’t think that the league will ever come out and own up to the new baseballs. The fact that monthly newsletters are being sent out to players explaining that juiced balls aren’t real just seems like an intricate plan to cover up.

The information lies in the stats, which means systems like Statcast have a real-world implication. After gazing over oblivious stats and comparing years, I have seen something that is too obvious to be a coincidence. I do think baseballs are being juiced, but I also think that it is not necessarily bad for the brand. With people’s short attention spans, they want to see something exciting. The thing that is exciting is the longball.

If the MLB did decide that juiced balls for the way to go, I think they made the right decision in terms of getting ratings up and making the game more exciting for the youth.

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