The Los Angeles Dodgers have seen first hand the effects of baseballs that are possibly altered. Clayton Kershaw has already set a career high with 18 home runs allowed, while Rich Hill’s blisters returned. The latter was less surprising than the former.
On top of the unusual spike in Kershaw’s home run has been an increase in home runs throughout Major League Baseball. For some fans, it’s made games more enjoyable and entertaining. To some others, it’s reason for suspicion.
Some of the game’s top pitchers fall in the second category. Particularly those who are dealing with blisters for the first time in their respective careers. MLB has worked hard to erase a past that includes PED usage, and they may now have another controversy on their hands.
Boston Red Sox left-hander David Price and Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer were among those who believe something is amiss, via Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports:
No one is publicly accusing Major League Baseball of secretly juicing the baseballs, and testing is still is assuring that most players aren’t juicing their bodies, but the majority of pitchers interviewed by USA TODAY Sports believe the balls used this season have changed from a year ago.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred maintained testing is consistent throughout the season and baseballs are identical to those of years past:
“As a quality control effort,” MLB said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports, “we routinely conduct in-season and off-season testing of baseballs in conjunction with our consultants at UMass-Lowell to ensure that they meet our specifications. All recent test results have been within the specifications. In addition, we used a third-party consultant (Alan Nathan) to test whether the baseball had any impact on offense in recent years, and he found no evidence of that.”
An MLB-record 5,693 home runs were hit during the 2000 season. Through play on Sunday, teams combined to 3,366 homers and are on pace to shatter the record set at the turn of the new millennium.
New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge leads all players with 30 home runs. Houston Astros center fielder George Springer is second with 27 homers, while Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger, Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton and Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto are tied for the National League lead and third overall with 26 home runs.
Last season, Mark Trumbo led all players with 47 homers. Judge and perhaps one or two others should eclipse 50 home runs this season. Chris Davis was the last player to hit 50 home runs, doing so for the Baltimore Orioles in 2013.