Lindbergh/Lichtman: The juiced ball is back

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman at The Ringer on June 14, 2017:

Whether it’s Scooter Gennett going deep four times in one game, Chris Carter waving a one-handed homer, Marwin González surprising himself by clearing the fence with what he thought was a flyout, or a record seven grand slams on one day, the 2017 baseball season has supplied constant reminders that we’re watching a game featuring unprecedented power. This year’s MLB batters have hit 2,395 home runs, which puts them on pace to break the all-time single-season record of 5,693, set in 2000, by almost 350 homers.

This fusillade has left league-wide totals looking a lot different from just a few years ago: Although we’re through less than 40 percent of the season, this year’s home run count has already exceeded 57 percent of 2014’s full-season total. The three-year increase in home runs per batted ball from 2014 to 2017 dwarfs the largest over any previous three-year span, including the notable increases that arose at the end of the dead-ball era and World War II, during the 1930 and 1987 “rabbit-ball” years, after the switch from Spalding to Rawlings as MLB’s baseball supplier in the late 1970s, and during the dawn of the PED era in the early-to-mid-1990s. We’ve never seen the home run rate soar anywhere close to this quickly without an answer other than “the batters got better” suggesting itself. Although the latest (and most extreme) spike’s origins are more murky, new data procured by The Ringer and presented below points back to the ball being involved again.

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Originally published: June 14, 2017. Last Updated: June 14, 2017.