Fans dig the long ball, they say. But maybe not to this extent.
Major League Baseball players hit 3,691 home runs during the first half of the 2019 season, putting the league on pace for 6,668 by season's end, far beyond the reaches of the record of 6,105 set in 2017.
Some of the increase has to do with players eschewing the old advice of keeping their swings level and trying to hit line drives or hard groundballs. Nowadays, upper-cuts, much to the chagrin of your Little League coach, are in vogue; it's all about the launch angle. But swing adjustments probably can't account for such a massive jump in homers alone. Something fishy is going on, and Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander, who will start Tuesday night's All-Star Game for the American League, is not afraid to call it as he sees it.
Verlander, despite an otherwise sterling stat line this season, leads the league with 26 home runs surrendered. To place that in perspective, Verlander gave up 28 in a full season of work last year and has never allowed more than 30 in what is likely a Hall-of-Fame career. He's "100 percent" certain the baseballs are juiced as a way to increase offensive production. "It's a f---ing joke," the right-hander said in an interview with ESPN. "Major League baseball's turning this game into a joke."
Verlander pointed out that MLB owns Rawlings, the manufacturer that produces the league's baseballs, and that the league's commissioner, Rob Manfred, has been calling for increased offense since taking the reigns. "If any other $40 billion company bought out a $400 million company and the product changed dramatically, it's not a guess as to what happened," Verlander said.