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Increase in HR's

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Offline  Increase in HR's
#1

Posted: July 13, 2017, 4:11 PM Post
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Ok, I know, these types of discussions can get fairly argumentative, but I'm going to bring it up anyways.

Last year the HR rate per game in MLB was 1.16 (second highest ever). This year it's at 1.26 which would blow the old steroid era rate of 1.17 out of the water.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/bat.shtml

Do we assume that PEDs are being used in full force again and that the vast majority of players know how to mask it? Seems logical. However, I also know that at least one poster on brewerfan has tried to make the argument that PEDs do nothing to increase homerun quantities in MLB and it's all tied to periods of expansion in baseball. Well, there has not been any expansion since 1998 and yet the HR rate has gone up significantly over the last 4 years (0.86 in 2014, 1.26 this year). The recent HR derby reminded me of the HR derby freak shows from the late 80's and early 90's. Players are on 60 HR paces again. So, if it's not PEDs or expansion, what is it, juiced ball?

I know, this thread will bring out the "who cares" and "just let them use PEDs" argument. I don't agree with that sentiment, but that's ok. Let's just not pretend that PEDs do nothing to increase HR rates in baseball.


Last edited by Patrick425 on July 14, 2017, 6:33 AM, edited 1 time in total.

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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#2

Posted: July 13, 2017, 4:16 PM Post
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PEDs are probably just as rampant as ever, though I would assume the guys have moved on from the anabolic steroids of the old days which built muscle mass to HGH or similar substances that aid with recovery & are less detectable.

538 & the Ringer recently ran pieces suggesting that the ball may be juiced, which I believe accounts for most of the surge. An increasing number of players & organizations are also shifting their hitting philosophies to attempt to get more balls in the air as that is where the overwhelming majority of extra base hits come from.

538 link: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/in ... e-juicing/

Ringer link: https://theringer.com/2017-mlb-home-run ... 5cd21108bc


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#3

Posted: July 13, 2017, 4:30 PM Post
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There is strong evidence for the juiced ball hypothesis.

Hitters also appear to be catching up to the explosion of statistical analysis that initially benefited pitching and defense. They are getting feedback on things like launch angle and exit velocity now. The obvious solution to those pesky defensive shifts is to just hit it over all their heads.

Any PEDs being used now are completely different from the 90s ones, and they tend to be more useful for things like injury recovery than hitting HRs. I'm not concerned about it at all.

As for HRs, Manfred has noted that fans like to see home runs. I agree, I like the juiced ball to be honest. But I would like to see fences get moved back a bit which would increase the number of doubles and triples at the expense of HRs. It would also make speed and baserunning more valuable. I'm also looking forward to the pitch clock next season which should chop 20-30 minutes off the game time if implemented the same as the minors.


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#4

Posted: July 13, 2017, 4:40 PM Post
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I wouldn't rule out better bats. I've heard that floated here and there, and it does make some sense. Similar to the tighter laced ball theory. Hard to prove in either case, one way or the other.


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#5

Posted: July 13, 2017, 4:43 PM Post
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Balls certainly seem different, the articles linked by sveumrules are well worth reading and make a good case for that. And if the balls fly further, why not try to hit more flyballs? Add those together and you'll see a big increase.

Remains to be seen where this goes. If the balls are different, was that something that was intentional by the MLB? Or a result of changes in material, production methods or testing? What, if anything, will they do about it? Some suspect the new balls of causing more blisters as well, which could perhaps do more to force their hand. You'd also think that pitchers will adapt to the "flyball revolution", and it'll be interesting to see how that plays out.


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#6

Posted: July 13, 2017, 4:49 PM Post
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I often wonder what impact foreign leagues have on it. It just seems intuitive that having more players have longer chances to become major league players we would see better overall production. Add how much international scouting has progressed over the past decade and I wouldn't be surprised to see surges like this over time without any PEDs, improved bats or tighter wound balls.

There needs to be a King Thames version of the bible.


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#7

Posted: July 13, 2017, 4:50 PM Post
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I thought this was an interesting article by Ben Lindbergh at theringer.com

https://theringer.com/2017-mlb-home-run ... 5cd21108bc

Basically shows that the ball is slightly bouncier, the seams are a little smoother (meaning less drag on the ball), and the ball is slightly smaller.

All these things are quite small in of themselves, but the calculations show it adds 7 feet of distance to a hit ball.

Makes for more HRs.


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#8

Posted: July 13, 2017, 5:03 PM Post
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...what about the disappearance of the low strike?

For years, the mantra for a pitcher in avoiding the HR ball has been to keep their pitches down in the zone. With those pitches now being increasingly called non-strikes, one would have to expect more of the pitches that miss the bottom of the called strike zone are going to be "mistake" pitches driven out of the park.


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#9

Posted: July 13, 2017, 6:38 PM Post
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reillymcshane said:
I thought this was an interesting article by Ben Lindbergh at theringer.com

https://theringer.com/2017-mlb-home-run ... 5cd21108bc

Basically shows that the ball is slightly bouncier, the seams are a little smoother (meaning less drag on the ball), and the ball is slightly smaller.

All these things are quite small in of themselves, but the calculations show it adds 7 feet of distance to a hit ball.

Makes for more HRs.

Marcus Stroman stated many more pitchers were getting blisters as opposed to previous years. He concluded the change in the mlb ball was causing it. It's absolutely juiced, Mlb wants high offense and no PEDs,


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#10

Posted: July 13, 2017, 6:57 PM Post
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As others have mentioned, there are now two different studies from this season indicating a juiced ball, along with some comments from pitchers agreeing with that fact (they obviously have a vested interest in that theory).

However, Rob Mandred (who was very instrumental in making sure the blame for the PED era fell entirely on the players while enablers like Selig and LaRussa were enshrined in the HOF) claims that the ball is fine and causally mentioned that they will begin to investigate the bats. Which, besides the fact it again points the finger at the players, would be nearly impossible. Unless you find some sort of evidence that Louisville Slugger (who makes the vast majority of bats for MLB and MiLB yet the HR rate is only up significantly in MLB) created some kind of Franken-wood that they are now using in their bats without the players knowledge, levying that accusation is frankly laughable.


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#11

Posted: July 13, 2017, 7:21 PM Post
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There has been a revolution in swing mechanics. Players are utilizing technology to measure launch angle and exit velocity and are training smarter and more intensely. They are rejecting the old maxims of "swing down to contact" and are now utilizing an "elevate to celebrate" approach.

There are more pitchers throwing 95 mph+ fastballs, less crafty pitchers using deception and movement.

Both of those factors are part of the increased HR rate. There may be other factors that we don't know about, but those are the known knowns

The David Stearns era: Controllable Young Talent. Watch the Jedi work his magic!


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#12

Posted: July 13, 2017, 8:14 PM Post
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Athletes are constantly becoming better at what they do and the science and technology of sports continues to evolve. Better conditioning, better nutrition, better equipment, better information, better analysis, etc.. Hence more strikeouts, more homeruns. Maybe they're doing something with the ball but I would guess that has little influence compared to the general advancement of the sport.


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#13

Posted: July 13, 2017, 8:24 PM Post
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Every team has pitchers throwing 90+. At bat hitting a ball thrown that fast goes further.


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#14

Posted: July 13, 2017, 8:28 PM Post
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I think a good comparison is the game of golf - advances in ball and more importantly club technology have made hitting a golf ball 300 yards trivial on the pro tour, when several decades ago it was something that only a handful of the best golfers in the world could consistently do.

Alterations to the baseball are definitely possible and frankly probable depending on changing materials and manufacturing techniques - I think it's more a product of today's athletic training/sports science and drastic improvements to bats, particularly maple. The wood is more dense and it allows for thinner handles and more aerodynamic barrels that help with batspeed and solid contact. Couple that with the way baseball is played today with much less care about striking out and giving yourself 3 strikes to swing hard in case you hit one solid, HRs are going to increase.

I'd like to see the mound raised a bit to give pitchers a bit more downward angle toward the plate


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#15

Posted: July 13, 2017, 8:31 PM Post
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It's the ball. And I'm certain the change is on purpose to spur more scoring.

Anyone who plays competitive softball knows how easily changes in ball COR and compression can alter how far the ball travels.


Last edited by 502 to Right on July 13, 2017, 8:32 PM, edited 1 time in total.

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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#16

Posted: July 13, 2017, 8:32 PM Post
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Certainly athletes are improving, and certain techniques have changed with recent trends in swing mechanics, but we're talking about a HR spike that became very noticeable beginning late last year which has continued into this season. If the studies that have been done so far this season are based on sound science, that sort of dramatic shift can't be explained by anything other than a juiced ball. I won't claim it as fact since MLB won't own up to it, but my opinion is that there is something going on with the baseballs based on the scientific evidence presented so far.


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#17

Posted: July 13, 2017, 8:44 PM Post
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Well strikeouts are also at an all-time high, players are swinging for the fences more and hitting more HRs. Joey Votto is like the only player in the league who even slightly changes his approach with 2 strikes.

So far this season across MLB there have been 52,687 PA with 2 strikes and 1039 HRs, 1.97%

In 2001 there was a 1.84% 2 strike HR rate, so that is a .1% HR/PA difference and PAs with 2 strikes occur about half the time. With 76 PA/game, that would cause about a .03 HR/game increase, so it doesnt explain it all


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#18

Posted: July 13, 2017, 9:15 PM Post
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Lathund said:
Some suspect the new balls of causing more blisters as well, which could perhaps do more to force their hand. .

Here's an article about the sudden rise in blister problems in baseball.

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/blisters ... -new-ball/

No hard data - just a lot of anecdotal information about how many more people are getting blisters. The theory is that the lower seams are causing players to have to work to get a little better grip on the ball - thus more blisters. Disabled stints are up 50% for blisters since early 2016 - when the lower seams were reportedly first detected.

Again, no real scientific work here. But some interesting testimony (even if most of it is anonymous).


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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#19

Posted: July 13, 2017, 10:08 PM Post
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The primary factor for the HR bump is the ball just like it was back in the 90s during the steroid era where the juiced ball, team expansion and steroids were all probably equal contributors to the HR spike.


Last edited by Ennder on July 14, 2017, 1:02 PM, edited 2 times in total.

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Offline  Re: Increase in HR's
#20

Posted: July 14, 2017, 12:43 PM Post
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reillymcshane said:
I thought this was an interesting article by Ben Lindbergh at theringer.com

https://theringer.com/2017-mlb-home-run ... 5cd21108bc

Basically shows that the ball is slightly bouncier, the seams are a little smoother (meaning less drag on the ball), and the ball is slightly smaller.

All these things are quite small in of themselves, but the calculations show it adds 7 feet of distance to a hit ball.

Makes for more HRs.


Although the bounce (COR) of the ball has the largest contribution to distance flown, the seam height has the largest percentage change (5% vs ~1% for COR and ~0.1 for circumference). With that much change in seam height, shouldn't there be a difference in break for curves and sliders, and rise in fastballs? Has there been any check on this from Fangraphs or elsewhere?


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