Lindbergh/Arthur: Are juiced baseballs causing the recent power surge?

From SABR members Ben Lindbergh and Rob Arthur at FiveThirtyEight on July 20, 2016:

Maybe it was the 23 first-half homers hit by unknown outfielder Adam Duvall. Maybe it was when Giancarlo Stanton kept making Chris Berman say “back-back-back,” or when Bartolo Colon broke into a 30.6 second trot around the bases. But at some point this season, you’ve probably noticed: We haven’t just gone back to those homer-happy days of 1999 and 2000 — we’ve surpassed them.

In 2016, the typical major league plate appearance is more likely to result in a homer than ever before. And this onslaught happened quickly: Home runs on contact—the rate at which non-strikeout at-bats produce dingers — is up 35 percent compared with 2014, which has helped drive a scoring increase of 0.41 runs per team, per game.

Naturally, many fans are wondering why. (The rest have already decided it’s steroids.) And while we can’t quite settle the speculation, we can offer the strongest statistical evidence yet that it isn’t because of the batters, or the pitchers, or the ballparks, or even performance-enhancing drugs. Instead, the numbers suggest the ball itself is to blame.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: July 20, 2016. Last Updated: July 20, 2016.