Yeah, Baseballs Are Probably Juiced...So What?

Why it's ok to see so many home runs in today's game

Matt Koll
June 19, 2019 - 11:28 am
Josh Bell

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

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If you sit down to watch a MLB game in 2019, you’re likely to see a ball go over a wall and into the stands for a home run.

Good chance you see multiple, actually.

A recent article in the USA Today outlined some of the crazy numbers going on around the game in regards to power and the rate in which players around taking that trip around the bases with one mighty swing.

According to the article, the record for league-wide home runs in a season is going to be passed by a mile. Three teams are rocketing toward shattering the Yankees’ one year-old record for home runs in a season by a single team. It’s plausible for 4 players to hit 50 home runs or more, which hasn’t happened since 2001.

Related: Tigers slip by sloppy Pirates 5-4, snap 4-game losing streak

All of these things lead many to wonder if the balls are “juiced” in order to create more power.

Although MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has denied that the balls have undergone changes to increase offense, there’s plenty of research out there suggesting things like the core density and seam height on the baseballs have been modified over the past few years.

It’s a very interesting Google wormhole to go down if you have the time. But to me, even if they are juiced…so what?

I count myself a baseball purist of sorts. I don’t really want to see robo-umps and certainly don’t want to see any kind of overall game clock implemented or a guy standing out on second base to begin an inning in extras.   

But there’s no denying baseball’s integrity had already been tarnished long ago.

People claimed the balls were juiced in the 90’s and early 2000’s. There was juice, but it wasn’t the baseballs.

It was the players. The “steroid era” forever left a black mark in baseball history. Many of the prolific hitters like Sosa, McGwire, Palmeiro, A-Rod and even top pitchers like Clemens and Pettitte were linked to steroid use.

The point here is that if the worry is about the record books, the books are already tainted.

At this point, as the sport continues to lag behind football and basketball in most regions around the country, it’s all about entertainment with baseball.

What’s more entertaining than seeing a guy blast a baseball into the sky 400+ feet?  I mean how fun has it been as a Pirates fan to watch Josh Bell continue to pad his home run totals this season? He has forced us to tune in to every pitch of every at-bat just to see what he does.

Every time he steps in the box at PNC Park you wait to see if he puts another one in the river.

To me, the likelihood of a guy hitting a home run, no matter who it is, only creates more suspense for each at-bat. As a fan, you can’t look past that 8th hitter up there because if a pitcher makes a mistake pitch and leaves a meatball for him, he could change the game with one swing.

The home run barrage also comes at a time in baseball in which it might be harder now, more than ever, to consistently hit. More pitchers are hitting 95+ mph with their fastballs, they’re using off-speed pitches more frequently with more of them to choose from in their arsenal and teams are carrying specific relievers as “specialists” to match up to certain hitters in better ways.

Additionally, whether it is a result of players selling out their swings for more home runs or not, strikeout rates are sky high around baseball as well.

I would argue the game needs the home run ball to combat these trends and keep modern baseball alive.

So if the baseballs are juiced, they’re juiced.

Elite pitchers are still elite. There are still superstars who are pitchers in the league.

As of this writing, there are 23 starting pitchers across MLB with an ERA at 3.30 or lower (10 of which are 26 years old or younger: the future of pitching is safe as well). 

Let the home run balls fly.