Justin Verlander

USA Today

MLB's Historic Home Run Rate

Justin Verlander is fully prepared to attribute a reason.

July 09, 2019 - 9:35 am

Vlad Jr hitting 91 home runs last night was a good reminder that guys are hitting a lot of home runs this year. A lot. Like nearly 3,700 before the all-star break.

And you don’t need to be “On Pace Guy” to recognize that at this rate, they will break the all-time season home run record of 6,105 set in 2017. Not just beat it, but smash it by roughly 500 home runs.

That’s not just a lot of home runs, that is an absolute BLEEP ton. That is comical. Unless, of course, you’re a pitcher. And in that case, it’s a reason to go. 

And in the case of Justin Verlander, it has him dropping f bombs. He told Jeff Passan that “it’s a bleeping joke.” Just another pitcher getting lit up, looking to blame anyone and anything while refusing to look in the mirror. Ehhhh... Not actually. Verlander has been light’s out in the first half. But he has been torched by the long ball. And he’s pissed. And he insists he knows the reason. And it’s not what the seamheads are selling. 

See, at this point, a lot of seamheads would come running in to say that there could be any number of different reasons why this is happening. Analytics, launch angles, spin rates, guys going for one of three outcomes – home run, strikeout, walk – more power pitchers, it could be anything.

But not if you ask Verlander. He’s pretty clear on why more home runs are being hit and who’s behind it: "Major League Baseball's turning this game into a joke. They own Rawlings, and you've got Manfred up here saying it might be the way they center the pill. They own the bleeping company. 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. We all know what happened. Manfred the first time he came in, what'd he say? He said we want more offense. All of a sudden he comes in, the balls are juiced? It's not coincidence. We're not idiots."

Hell yes. Verlander saying “Major League Baseball’s turning this game into a joke” is an incredible line. And then chasing it with him calling out the commissioner for saying that there might be something with the ball and then pointing out that MLB owns “the bleeping company” is so good.

And let me jump in here to say this isn’t some scrub, hack or wanna-be  complaining. This is a future Hall of Famer. An 8-time All-Star. An AL MVP and CY Young winner. This is the starting pitcher in tonight’s All-Star Game. And he’s shouting that MLB is turning the game into a joke, saying that the balls are juiced, and quote  “we’re not idiots.”

And he’s right. That’s not an expression or a figure of speech about major league baseball owning Rawlings. MLB bought Rawlings last summer. 

And this has been an ongoing issue for a while. MLB did do a study and came back with the results that the balls were performing differently, but didn’t attribute a reason.

Justin Verlander is fully prepared to attribute a reason.  The reason the baseballs are reacting differently is the league is intentionally juicing the baseballs: isn’t that what you’re saying, Justin? "Yes. 100 percent. They've been using juiced balls in the Home Run Derby forever. They know how to do it. It's not coincidence. I find it really hard to believe that Major League Baseball owns Rawlings and just coincidentally the balls become juiced."

I could not respect that any more. I don’t just love the take, I love the fact that he’s dropping f-bombs and idiots and not dancing around it and saying that it could be this or it could be that. He is 100 percent clear about what it is and why it’s happening. And of course this is the guy to come right and say it: and f bomb the joint while he’s doing it. A lot of people are trying to come up with a lot of reasons why more home runs are being hit, and Verlander is cutting straight to the point with f-bombs and idiot blasts. I respect the hell out of it.

And he would know a lot better than I would. The problem for Verlander is, I understand why baseball would be doing that. I understand why they would be juicing the ball…, because they want more home runs. They want more offense. They want more buzz and attention for the game and the best way to do that is with home runs.

MLB is losing a battle for attention. They’re losing the battle for headlines. For hearts and minds. And the way to win that back, or at least the way that’s worked in the past, is home runs. Bring on the 500-foot bombs and the fireworks. Competent pitching isn’t going to get headlines in July, but home runs will.

Everyone is battling for attention these days. And the way to win that battle is with highlights. And unfortunately, a strong six-inning outing isn’t going to get that attention. Neither is a well-fielded ground ball or a solidly executed sacrifice bunt.  Maybe they should, but folks don’t give a damn about that. You’re not dropping what you’re doing to consume some fundamentally sound baseball. Man… It’s all about home runs. The further, the better. The more, the better. Chicks still dig the long ball. Everyone does. 

And if Verlander is right, MLB has made that decision and they’re going to sacrifice pitchers and their reputations in order to get more buzz, more excitement and more people to look at them… I can’t say that I blame them. Sort of like the NFL changing the rules and leaving the defense, defenseless to create more offense, and get more eyeballs.  Offense sells. Offense puts people in the seats. In all sports.

I feel for the pitchers, but I see the league working. Because they chasing attention and chasing buzz right now and they’re currently fighting a losing battle. People will watch a pitcher’s duel in October. That’s awesome. But they aren’t getting hyped about a 2-1 game in mid-July . They will not come if you build THAT.

That’s why major league baseball bought Rawlings; so they could mass produce their own Super Bowl and put them into use across the board…errrrrr.  Wild to see the ball jumping out the yard the way it is right now! What a coinky dink. Just don’t bring that around Verlander because he knows better and for him, that IS a reason to go.