Major League Baseball (MLB) has a big problem — too many home runs.
I can almost hear kids saying, “How can too many home runs be a problem?” That’s like saying too many three-pointers are a problem in basketball. Or too much cake is a problem at a birthday party.
After all, home runs are pretty cool. The ball comes spinning in at 95 miles per hour. There’s the crack of the bat, and the ball goes sailing over the fence and into the crowd.
See . . . you . . . later!
But let’s look at the numbers. At the current slugging rate, the 30 MLB teams will break the record for most home runs in a season — 6,105 set in 2017 — by more than 500 homers. That’s a lot.
The teams already set a record for most home runs hit in a month when they smashed 1,135 homers in May this year. But that record lasted only a month. MLB players hit 1,142 long balls in June.
All these home runs affect other parts of the game. For example, more players are striking out because almost every batter is swinging for the fences. MLB players are on pace to set a record for most strikeouts in a season for the 12th consecutive year.
In addition, there are fewer singles and other kinds of hits. Home runs make up 15.9 percent of the hits in MLB games. That means almost 1 in every 6 hits is a home run. Thirty years ago (1989), home runs were 8.5 percent of all the hits. That means only 1 in 12 hits was a home run. Big difference.
More strikeouts and fewer hits (and base runners) mean less action and more players standing around waiting for someone to hit a home run.
Some players, especially pitchers, think the baseball they use in MLB today is different from the balls they used to use. They think the ball is “juiced” to fly farther.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred denies that the leagues have done anything to change the ball. “Baseball has done nothing, given no direction for an alteration in the baseball,” he said recently.
Throughout the history of baseball, there has been a tussle between hitters and pitchers. In 1930, the hitters were on top. The average player in the National League that year hit .303. This year the average hitter is batting .252.
In 1968, the pitchers were in charge. That year Carl Yastrzemski won the American League batting title with a batting average of .301.
MLB has always made adjustments to help either the batters or the pitchers. They had better make some adjustments to keep the baseballs inside the parks. Because right now there are too many home runs.