- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The New York Yankees tied a major league record Monday when they went deep twice in a win against the Toronto Blue Jays — matching the 2002 Texas Rangers for 27 straight games with a home run. But don’t expect that to surprise Yankees center fielder Aaron Hicks.

“It’s kind of what we do,” said Hicks, who hit one of New York’s two homers. “We hit home runs here.”

The Yankees are far from alone. Home runs are flying out of the park left, right and center this year in Major League Baseball — the league is on pace to shatter the record for most homers in a season.

In 1,171 MLB games through Monday, there have been 3,185 homers — an average of 2.72 per game. That would top the record set in 2017 — when there were 6,105 homers in 2,430 games, or an average of 2.51 per contest.

The reasons for the league’s surge in home runs in recent years have been long speculated. Is the baseball “juiced?” Are players just stronger than they used to be? Is it velocity? A lot of strange things are happening with the long ball, and many think the baseball is wound tighter in the past.



Commissioner Rob Manfred has his own theories, telling Newsday that “the pill” — or the core of the baseball — has less drag in this year’s batch of balls manufactured by MLB’s supplier, Rawlings.

“To the extent that the pill is not perfectly centered, the ball wobbles when it’s hit, creates more drag,” Manfred said. “We think one of the things that may be happening is they’re getting better at centering the pill. It creates less drag.”

Whatever the case, pitchers are suffering from the uptick. Just look at San Diego pitcher Craig Stammen, who gave up four consecutive homers to a quartet of Washington Nationals hitters on June 10. Last season, he allowed just three homers to 317 batters.

Entering Tuesday’s series opener in Miami, the Nationals had 107 home runs in 77 games. That ranked eighth out of 15 teams in the National League. But at 1.38 homers per game, Washington, too, is on pace to break its franchise-record of 235 home runs, set in 2017.

Coincidentally that year, the Nationals also hit four home runs in a game.

“It’s just one of those things,” Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton said, “If you know how that happens, and how you can hit four in a row again, let me know because we’ll write a book and we’ll be rich.”

For all the hype around home runs, there’s an entirely different debate about whether the increase is “good” for the game. While many fans love homers, attendance is down across the majors.

Through the first 1,171 games this year, MLB’s average attendance was 27,439 people, according to Baseball Reference. That would be the lowest mark since 1996 when the average was 26,509 for MLB games.

Home runs also arguably make games longer. If a pitcher allows too many home runs, he’ll get the hook — further slowing games with pitching changes. Managers are increasingly obsessed with specific at-bat match-ups in an attempt to get the desired outcome.

Entering Tuesday, the average time of game was 3:07. The average was 3:00 last season and 3:08 in 2017.

Regardless, the home run boon doesn’t appear ready to slow down anytime soon.

While Barry Bonds’ all-time mark of 73 home runs in a season doesn’t seem to be in jeopardy, Milwaukee Brewers star Christian Yelich is on pace to become the sixth player in history to hit 60 home runs in a season.

Further, as ESPN pointed out, 22 players are on track to hit at least 40 home runs — which would shatter the league’s 1996 record of 17 players to reach that mark.

Only three players hit 40 home runs last season.

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