2017 is Record Year for MLB Homers

Jerry Witte, 1951 Houston Buffs
Jeff Bagwell, 1B, 2001 Houston Astros
MMP (then Enron Field)
August 3, 2001

 

“When Alex Gordon hit a home run for the Royals in the eighth inning on Tuesday, it was the 5,694th home run of the season, breaking the record for most home runs in a single season set in 2000.” ~ And with that droll sentence for openers. writer Khadrice Rollins began this linked article on a moment in MLB history last night:

https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/09/19/most-home-runs-one-season-record

We have no specific tally on the number of homers that may have followed Gordon last night, but the Royals were playing in Toronto when his record-breaking pop exploded and there most probably was a homer or two that got launched elsewhere later, especially since there were some games going on from the west coast.

How long can something that happens at a record pace, one that pops in about a dozen games shy of season’s end, stay exciting? Yeah, we do get it, folks. The answer to that question forever shall remain a contextual one. It all depends on “who hit it” and “when” – in relation to our personal fan interests in the outcome of a game.

What about the impact of this home run record year?

The question we ought to be asking is what does the volume of home runs we see today mean to the game of baseball as an in-depth play of strategy? Or has it simply become the strategy of the game? If all you have to do to win is hit more home runs than your own rag-arm, short-time pitchers give up, than any of us can put on a baseball uniform, have them stencil “Earl Weaver Wannabe” on the back of the jersey and start managing today.

Two other thoughts: Some of us long-of-tooth former players and fans grew up when baseballs were far more rare, but a sight to behold when they left the park. I realize my bias here, but there was a visually-inspired biochemical high we got when a slugger like the late Jerry Witte used to hit with those high arching, Ruthian parabolic homers he struck in Buff Stadium – each far surpassing anything I ever saw Albert Pujols hit at Minute Maid Park. Let me try to find the words to separate the two images:

Pujols at MMP in 2005; The Brad Lidge Playoff Game Bomb. The ball left the park at night so fast you couldn’t even very well see or follow its high arching departure from MMP amidst the high walls of the park. It detonated a deadly silence that was mostly mental. From the “Oh, My God!” lip movements we saw later in videos of Andy Pettitte’s face as he watched from the Astros dugout to the stunned look on the face of Astros pitcher Brad Lidge and the rest of us fans it all boiled down to a psychological explosion of hope. In a nanosecond, we all had gone from the belief that we were about to clinch our first Astros pennant that night to – “OMG, now we have to go back to St. Louis and use our presumed World Series starter, Roy Oswalt, just to have any chance of actually getting there.” – What a letdown.

Jerry Witte at Buff Stadium in 1951: On a Few Sunday afternoon games. The Buffs were Texas League Champions in 1951 and they played like it. SABR’s current member Larry Miggins also was the left fielder on that club. He also hit 28 line drive homers for the ’51 Buffs, but his teammate, first baseman Jerry Witte, had 38 of those mostly rainbow-arching moon shots that just seemed to disappear into the wide-open summer skies. The balls took off with rocketry ascent. We can only imagine the g-force upon a baseball hit at that gravity-defiant angle with such total brute force. The ball transformed instantly into pea size as it ascended fifty times higher than the left field fence itself into the mixture of cotton candy clouds and summer blue canvas skies. The space-hurdling pea continued to change as it finally leveled to now covering more distance than altitude – and rapidly becoming more of a short-lived black dot. Before it could descend, the black dot would always disappear from our stadium view. If it ever came down, I’ve yet to meet another witness who saw it happen.

Bottom Line: As best I am able, I’ve just tried to share one the most sacred (and I do mean “sacred”) baseball memories of my younger days. And I wonder today: Do the home runs the kids see today still hold that special magic for them, as well. Or have they simply become something that happens so often that they are expected? And what is special today about baseball to our current younger generation – if and when they are actually watching what is happening on the field – and not staring at their electronic devices?

A Parting Random Thought. The first home runs were not helped by fences. There weren’t any fences until people started trying to contain the game so they could charge people for watching. But once they had fences up for a game somewhere in the 19th century, regardless of whether or not there was a an admission charge, we wonder what the first fans thought when they saw a batter hit one over the fence and then, we presume, leisurely ran home to score?

Did any of them think: “Is that legal? …. Do you get a free run for hitting the ball over the fence? …. Why can’t the fielder run over the fence and try to get the ball for a play on that arrogant runner?”

You never know what people may think.

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HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE RACES, GB IN EACH

THROUGH GAMES PLAYED 9/19/2017

CLUB W L W%   AL   NL   WS
DODGERS 96 55 .636   ~   L   L
INDIANS 94 57 .623   L   ~   2.0
ASTROS 92 58 .613   1.5   ~   3.5
NATIONALS 91 59 .607   ~   4.5   4.5

 L = LEADER BY LEAGUE AND WS OVERALL.

Overall Leader gets home field advantage (HFA) in World Series.

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 HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE SERIOUS CONTENDER SCORES

THROUGH GAMES PLAYED 9/19/2017

ASTROS 3 – WHITE SOX 1

ANGELS 6 – INDIANS 3

NATIONALS 4 – BRAVES 2

PHILLIES 6 – DODGERS 2

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AMERICAN LEAGUE BATTING AVERAGE LEADERS

THRU GAMES OF TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2017

RANK PLAYER TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
1 JOSE ALTUVE HOU 558 194 38 4 24 .348
2 AVISAIL GARCIA CWS 480 160 23 4 17 .333
3 ERIC HOSMER KC 563 182 29 1 24 .323
4 JOSH REDDICK HOU 464 147 32 3 13 .317
5 JOSE RAMERIZ CLE 548 172 50 6 27 .314
6 JOE MAUER MIN 491 151 34 1 7 .308
7 JOSE ABREU CWS 582 178 39 6 31 .306
NR * CARLOS CORREA HOU 384 116 20 1 21 .302
8 ELVIS ANDRUS TEX 596 180 42 4 20 .302
9 LORENZO CAIN KC 546 164 26 5 14 .300
10 JONATHAN SCHOOP BAL 584 174 33 0 32 .298
RANK OTHER TOP 40 ASTROS TEAM AB H 2B 3B HR BA
12 YULI GURRIEL HOU 492 145 38 1 17 .295
13 MARWIN GONZALEZ HOU 423 124 30 0 22 .293
17 GEORGE SPRINGER HOU 509 148 28 0 32 .291
26 ALEX BREGMAN HOU 516 144 36 5 16 .279

NR * LOST TIME ON THE DL HAS TEMPORARILY REMOVED CORREA FROM AN OFFICIAL QUALIFYING PLACE IN THE RANKING OF TOP 40 HITTERS.

 

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Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

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4 Responses to “2017 is Record Year for MLB Homers”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    According to some analysts, baseballs are wound tighter and have less raised seams for pitchers to grasp for throwing breaking balls. Umpires seem to squeeze the strike zone on some pitchers who live in the black or in the lower areas of the strike zone, and batters get upset if the pitchers throw inside.

    Combine this with the obsession on sports channels of highlighting home run after home run after home run and you have nothing more than home run derby–with less emphasis on pitching, defense or situational hitting. Truly boring for real baseball fans.

  2. gregclucas Says:

    Everything Tom says I have heard before as far back as 2000 when Shane Reynolds actually showed me a baseball from 1999 and the one used in 2000. The seams were most notable–and lower in 2000 thus making it more difficult for pitchers to get the best grips. How much of that was a result of different manufacturing methods or purposeful can be debated. Being more tightly wound is a little tricky because that would mean more material packed inside and thus keeping the required weight and circumference would be hard to do.

  3. Cliff Blau Says:

    Actually, in the 19th century outfielders could go over the fence and try to retrieve the ball in time to get the batter/runner out.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Cliff,

      How long was that true? And when did it change to being a HR once the ball cleared the fence in fair territory? And do you have any good references you may share with us on the history of “over-the-fence” home runs?

      Thanks!

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