If you’re a late 80’s to 90’s baby, there is a good chance you grew up watching the steroid era. We both remember watching titans like Jose Canseco walk up and turn balls into dust. Barry Bonds sending 600-foot nuclear attacks into the cove, then come back to the dugout like it was a routine flip to second. These guys were animals. Until we started scratching our heads and doing some digging, it was the best entertainment for sports television. Who is juiced now?
(Youtube: Evan William)
Whole new ballgame?
Fans who watch closely know this season had the most home runs launched out of any year since Abner Doubleday picked up the stick. Alex Gordon hit number 5,694 for the entire league in September, and it certainly didn’t stop there. Is there something behind the curtain that we aren’t seeing? What is causing these monster seasons? A hot theory that took a new life this season– the balls are juiced. Tightly woven, stuffed with atomic bombs and whatever it takes to help Stanton hit 59.
Speaking of average Joe, Joey Gallo hit 41 home runs this year. In the two seasons Gallo played prior to this year, he hit a combined seven home runs. It’s possible to point a finger at the at-bats he’s getting, but the man is not a bonafide all-star. Forty-one home runs is not an easy milestone in a single season. The strikeouts he accumulated make it seem like there might be more helping Gallo’s power swing when he does make contact.
Gallo ended the season with a slight 196 in the K-department. Home run or strike out hitter is not a foreign concept to the game, but the gap Gallo saw this year is incredible. I’m no stats guy, but that means 53% of the time this guy was running the bases or striking out. Sounds to me like a guy who knows his baseball, swinging the big fly or bust, most times he steps into the box. This is just one example from hundreds of players in the MLB. When power hitters emerge, or there is a surge in power, the strikeout totals do add up. It’s been evident as the seasons have progressed past the steroid era.
“The average number of strikeouts per team per game has climbed every season since 2005, from 6.3 to the current 8.25. There are no indications the trend will reverse.” (USA Today, Jorge Ortiz)
The balls are juiced, or Joey Gallo is the new Matt Stairs of our generation. It seems like the rest of the league is starting to follow suit.
World Series 2017 Game 2
The playoffs came under the same theme of balls finding the stands pretty quick. Studs who get past the 7th inning without problems in the regular season get knocked out in three in the postseason. This, in part, has led to the concept of “bullpening.” No manager wants their starter wasting time watching balls leave the yard all day. After Game 2, there were fans who took to Twitter and other social media saying how sad it was to see the MLB juicing balls to gain viewers. This had me scratching a hole in my head.
The game, highlighted by eight incredible home runs, turned the tide of the battle. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen because I might have missed the next game-changing swing.
To me, this breaks down the entire concept of “Make Baseball Fun Again.” This game got people watching late into the night, just for the entertainment value of those guys swinging.
Dallas Keuchel felt the brunt of a Justin Turner colossal drive in Game 1. Then had front row seats to Game 2’s fiasco. This is what he had to say:
“Obviously, the balls are juiced,” said Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel, via USA Today. “I think they’re juiced 100%. But it is what it is. I’m just glad we came out on top.”
Keuchel, who lost Game 1 of the Series, says average guys are now hitting the ball out for the park.
“There are really powerful guys in this league,” Keuchel said, “and they’re going to get theirs. But where you can tell a difference is the mid-range guy who’s hitting 20-plus home runs now.
That doesn’t happen. That’s not supposed to happen.”- (Sports Illustrated)
To be honest, though, I’m okay with that happening Dallas. It’s exciting baseball. Not once have I complained about seeing a home run leave the yard, except when it was coming out of Chris Sale’s hand in Game 1 of the ALDS.
There are opposite ends of this spectrum! This isn’t a one way (Houston) street. I love watching those balls leave the yard, but seeing Clayton Kershaw send 11 guys packing in 7 innings is just as therapeutic for my baseball crave. It felt like I was watching Pedro wrap up those steroid users 313 times back in 1999. The cream of the crop will always rise, and if Keuchel’s right, I guess Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher of all time. Pitchers, like in the steroid era, should want the feeling of being known as Hercules for slaying the monsters at the plate, rather than falling victim to them.
As we sit back and wait for game 5, I personally don’t think I’ll see a better game than the firework show of Game 2. Wake me up when it happens, and hopefully the Red Sox won’t be on the bleak side of it.