If you’ve paid any attention to the MLB this year, you know that the rate of home runs is currently through the roof. Some blame shifting hitters’ tactics, some blame shifts and sabermetrics, and a rising number of people are pinning this squarely on the balls themselves. In addition to home runs, there has also been a dramatic increase in the other two “true outcomes,” namely walks and strikeouts, as analyzed by Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer. Batters are on pace to hit over 500 home runs more than last year’s total alone to smash the previous record, set in 2000.
In a different article, Lindbergh provides a bit of perspective for the rise in home runs this year:
“MLB teams are on pace to break the record for home runs in a season, set in 2000, by 493 dingers, and 493 dingers in a single season sounds like a lot. That’s 420 more than Barry Bonds’ best single-season total! But it’s also only a little more than 16 per team. And since each team plays 162 games, we’re talking about 0.1 more homers per team, per game, or one extra homer per team every 10 games.”
Reasons aside, there has been mixed reactions on the part of baseball purists, who are against the rising tide in home runs and are against the delight on the part of other fans, who view home runs as more exciting. Some posit that this dramatic rise is signaling the beginning of a terrible new era of baseball, in which the game is no longer played “the right way.”
The rising rate, however, is indeed a good thing for baseball right now. Mike Trout’s rapid ascent this decade failed to capture the fascination of the entire baseball community. Is it because he played for a terrible team in a small market? Partially. But this is a generational talent that we’re talking about. His primary appeal as a player does not stem from home runs, but rather from doing virtually everything right on the field. But that is not what sells tickets.
Everybody has been shocked by the rise of Aaron Judge, and why shouldn’t they be? He’s a hulk-sized machine. With 29 home runs through the beginning of July, he has become the most captivating player in the MLB today. That’s not just because he is a crazy talent playing for the Yankees. It’s because he hits home runs, and he does it bigger and better than anybody else.
Will baseball be changed forever? Of course not. The pitchers will adapt, and the rules will change; everything in baseball works in cycles. However, nothing can match the excitement in the game when a batter really rips into a pitch and you can hear the beautiful contact, just knowing that the ball is going a long way. Bad for baseball? Only if you want baseball to be boring.