There has been a lot of talk in the baseball world about the abundance of both home runs and strikeouts. The former seems to come from the “juiced” ball this year as well as increasing effort by players to focus on “hitting it outta the park.”
That effort also appears responsible for the increase in strikeouts — which obviously can’t be blamed on the ball. Some think the increased focus on high-tech stats, the ability to record “launch angle” and “exit velocity” (not to mention distance), is responsible. Players are chasing the “long ball.”
So I thought I’d make some charts and see for myself.
The bottom line is that the last hundred (and nineteen) years have absolutely seen a striking rise in both home runs and strikeouts.
The charts speak for themselves (click for big).
First the home runs:
And then the strikeouts:
Some of this is due to improvements in player training and skill. Some of the rise may be due to the use of steroids or other performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
The use of PEDs goes far back into baseball history, but seems to have become more prevalent starting around 1990. And, sure enough, there seems a notable rise from that time.
The leveling off around 2000 may be due to increased efforts on the part of Major League Baseball to eliminate their use. The most recent rise may involve high-tech steroids that manage to fly under the radar. (There is an arms race between steroid detection and undetectable steroids.)
In any event, home runs are definitely at an all-time high.
My Minnesota Twins have been a big part of the home run festival.
In fact, with 261 HR on the season, they’re currently number one of the 30 teams in the MLB. The number two team, our nemesis, the New York Yankees, has just 250.
Pretty good for a team that’s mostly sucked balls since 2010.
The last time they hit a lot of HR was in 1963, when they hit 225. (The very next year, 1964, they hit 221.)
What sweetens the deal considerably is that, despite the increase in strikeouts, the Twins rank seventh in least number of strikeouts (1091). They rank fourth in strikeout rate (20.76%).
FWIW, their HR rate is 4.97% — also the highest in the MLB.
(Rates are per Plate Appearance.)
My Twins have had a pretty good season — certainly a far better season than they’ve had since I started following them seriously in 2010.
Many of the intervening years are some of their worst seasons in franchise history. (2016 was their worst year ever.) So this has been very nice to see.
If they do take the title, they’ll likely face either (or both) the Houston Astros and/or the New York Yankees, the current clear leaders (by a lot) in their Divisions.
So I don’t have high hopes for making to the World Series, but you never know. They gone (and won!) with worse records than they currently have (a .525 win percentage in 1987 and .586 in 1991 — they’re currently at .617 and looking good).
That said, they slumped a bit in the middle third of the season and, while they look better in the last third, they’re still not back to where they were in the first third. (I figure they over-performed then, slumped in the middle, and may now be playing at roughly their true level.)
For the record, their win percentages for the thirds: .685, .537, and .591 (so far — 29 games remain to be played in the last third).
That mid-season slump, along with some other perceived weaknesses, caused me to never quite buy in to the idea of “going all the way.”
One conventional wisdom is to not buy in until the All-Star Game break in early July. If your team is still really strong then, you can believe. The Twins were in mid-slump then, so I held off believing.
And, sure enough, Cleveland is nipping at our heels.
They got ahead of us briefly in early August, but the Twins regained their lead, which is (as of today) 3.5 games.
I wouldn’t be surprised to win the Division. How far they go from their remains to be seen. But who knows! Baseball is funny that way.
Stay slugging, my friends!