2001 was a magical year for the long ball – Bonds hit 73, Sosa cracked 64, Luis Gonzales launched 57, A-Rod slugged 52, and three others blasted 49 apiece. In all, 41 players hit 30+ home runs that season.
So far in 2016: we are on pace to see more long balls than that magical season.
But in the post-steroid era, how is it that we are seeing more bombs than the season in which more juice was pouring through clubhouses than a 5 year-old’s birthday party? It must be that hitting is up and pitching is down, right?
Not exactly – take a quick look around the league at batting averages and you’ll notice that they are actually quite low overall, while ERA’s remain consistent overall. The Chicago Cubs, who many consider to be the best team in baseball, only have one-regular hitter topping .300, while all their starting pitchers sport sub 3.50 ERAs. But then, what is leading to the home run explosion?
Bringing the heat?
It is a combination of an increasing number of hard-throwing pitchers along with hitters who are selling out for the long ball. The majority of starters in today’s game come in throwing at least 95 mph when the game begins. And it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a bullpen arm that doesn’t come in lighting up the radar gun at 98 mph+. This makes for a lot of swings and misses, leading to the relatively low batting averages. However, when the hitters do connect – look out.
Today’s hitters have adjusted to hit more pop flies off of these flamethrowers. Simple physics enables a 100 mph fastball that is hit in the air to have an above-average chance of leaving the yard. Why there are some all-around great hitters who are leading their leagues in home runs, such as Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, and Robinson Cano; there are many guys at the top of the list who fall under the Adam Dunn School of home run hitting, such as Adam Duvall, Mark Trumbo, and Todd Frazier.
The pitching isn’t falling off – in fact it is getting increasing “better” as genetics and technology allow more and more guys to enter the league tossing in the high 90’s. But the hitters have adjusted, and instead of even, line-drive swings, we now see many more upper-cut style swings.
Are less hits, more home runs, and harder throwers better for the game of baseball? 2016’s attendance numbers make a strong case that they are. Get free baseball picks at the PST Cappers section.
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