Have you had enough of home runs yet?
Chicks may dig the long ball (thank you for that research, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine), but lord help us, even Baseball Annies couldn’t wish for this barrage.
Dingers are flying out of ballparks at an alarming rate. Alarming, that is, if you think there’s more to baseball than chewing and scratching and tossing the ball a little bit while waiting for somebody to hit the four-base gong bell.
In May, there were 1,135 home runs hit in the majors. That’s a record for a month, topping the old one of 1,119 set in August 2017.
My math may be dubious, but that comes out to 37.8 homers per team, even by fourth-grade skills. For one month.
Some teams aren’t as tater-happy as others, obviously. For instance, the Twins hit 56 homers in May, while the Marlins hit only 17. But the overall blend is one of a Mixmaster spewing out cherry pits and pineapple chunks.
The Brewers hit six home runs in their first two games this season. And their tall, skinny outfielder Christian Yelich already has hit 22 home runs.
It doesn’t seem that homers are going to slough off anytime soon. Not with very large, muscular players (Yelich is an anomaly and should be studied like a hybrid grain) and all the massive swings they take each at-bat.
I would offer that there is a direct correlation between the constant whooshing of strikeouts (the Cubs struck out 14 times Saturday) and the crack of home-run drives.
Swing big, miss big. That seems to be the prevailing mantra.
We can go back in time to when baseball was seemingly built around craft and basestealing and base hits and bunts and all the tricks that could be employed in such a simple yet shockingly complex game.
Get ’em on, move ’em along. Take two and hit to right. Hit behind the runner. Line drives. Grounders up the middle. Hit ’em where they ain’t. On and on.
There were always long-ball hitters, but they were more the exception than the rule. Now, anybody on your team might just crank one out.
Imagine that back in 1974, star sluggers Mike Schmidt (36 home runs) and Dick Allen (32 home runs) led their respective leagues in homers with a combined 68. Those guys would get left way behind this season.
I find it interesting that former marginal player Tommy La Stella, who had nine home runs in four years with the Cubs, already has 12 this year with the Angels.
Yes, the prospect of secret, craftily concealed performance-enhancing drugs — steroids, HGH and newer stuff — might be at the root of the homer explosion. Never forget Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Slammin’ Sammy Sosa and that turn-of-the-century fusillade. Also, are the balls supercharged? Could be.
But there clearly is something else at work here.
We now have so many stats and metrics to help batters figure out the best, most powerful swings that simply getting ball contact is not nearly enough. You want bat strength, bat velocity.
Launch angles, exit speed and hitting coaches who digest the numbers and come up with precise power techniques are changing the entire focus of the game. And here’s where I believe it gets interesting.
Just as Stephen Curry and his Warriors teammates have figured out how to shoot the three-point shot with crazy accuracy and from all over the court, and centers such as the Bucks’ Brook Lopez have become three-point marksmen, so, too, have baseball fiddlers realized that there is nothing like the home run. Singles and doubles are peanut shells compared to a guaranteed run.
Think of it. How many times do mere singles hitters get stranded on base? That never happens when you hit a home run. The home run is money.
A three-pointer in basketball is worth 50 percent more than a standard two-point shot, and the math makes it clear that ditching the two for three is logical. The only problem in the past was that nobody could shoot the three well. Mindset and practice and selecting for deep shooters changed all that.
Same with the home run.
You want a guaranteed run (or four)? Find a homer-hitting dude when he’s a youth, then throw in the magic stats and swing and cultivate him. Or take a vet such as La Stella and do . . . whatever.
Then sit back and watch all the silly action afield until somebody cranks one into the river or waterfall or city street.