Carleton: Let’s assume the ball isn’t juiced …

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on May 16, 2017:

Let’s begin by assuming that the ball isn’t juiced. Over the past two years, we’ve seen a rather obvious spike in the home run rate, such that suddenly Ryan Schimpf and Yonder Alonso are getting mentions in articles about home runs. In 2014, runs scored per game (4.07) had dipped to their lowest rate since 1980, and the game, according to people who watch it for a living, had become un-watchable.

This season, thanks in large part to the aforementioned spike in the home run rate–they’re being hit at a rate around the all-time high set in 2000–runs are back in fashion. The 2016 season featured a home run rate that was just off the all-time record set in 2000, and as of the time I write this, if the 2017 rate to date holds, it would best 2000. Not bad considering that in 2014, home runs were at their lowest rate since 1992.

Thus was born the great juiced baseball conspiracy. With other forms of juicing now being tested for via blood and urine, perhaps MLB was quietly altering the ball ever so slightly. Not to the point where 100-foot pop-ups would suddenly become 500-foot moonshots, but just enough to encourage a few more balls to go over the right field wall rather than into the right fielder’s glove. It wouldn’t take much to put a thumb on the scale. Even the increase from 2014 to 2016 rates going from record lows over the past 25 years to record highs only represents an extra home run every three games for each team.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: May 16, 2017. Last Updated: May 16, 2017.