Add Justin Verlander to the growing number of players and coaches who believe “juiced” baseballs are the reason behind this season’s record-setting home run explosion.
The 34-year-old righthander took to Twitter Sunday evening to respond to ESPN’s Buster Olney, who addressed the eye-opening rate in which players are hitting home runs this season.
“Seventy-five players with 20 or more homers this year,” Olney wrote. ” In 2014, there were 57 for the entire season.”
“Just say it @Buster_ESPN,” Verlander wrote, including a syringe and a baseball emoji.
A total of 4,664 home runs have been hit this season, heading into Sunday, according to ESPN’s home run tracker. At a rate of 2.43 home runs per game, teams are on pace to hit 5,905 home runs – a figure that would shatter the previous season-high of 5,693 homers that came during the peak of MLB’s steroid era during the 2000-01 season.
Three years ago teams hit a total of just 4,186 home runs, at a measly rate of 1.72 homers per game. At this year’s current rate, players will hit an astounding 1,719 more home runs this season than during the 2014-15 campaign.
Verlander, himself, has given up 20 home runs so far this season.
The home run extravaganza that has taken place this season has called into question whether baseballs have been altered in order to become bouncier and create more flight, thus, allowing for balls that would normally result in a flyout to carry into the stands.
Red Sox pitcher David Price told USA Today Sports in late June he is certain that doctored balls is the reason behind this season’s home run surge.
“One hundred percent,” Price told USA Today Sports. “We have all talked about it.”
It’s not just the sheer number of home runs being hit that has led to skepticism of this year’s balls being in MLB’s specified regulations, it’s who is hitting these homers as well.
As one NL scout told Daily News columnist Jon Harper before the All-Star break: “The one that left no doubt something is going on was (Jacob) deGrom hitting a ball out to left-center (at Citi Field). I almost fell out of my seat when I saw that one.
“He’s not a bad-hitting pitcher but he’s not a guy with any real pop. To see him hit one to the opposite field like that, I had to laugh.”
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has repeatedly denied these accusations, telling reporters during the All-Star break he can say with “absolute certainty” that the baseballs are not juiced.
Manfred, however, could not provide a definite explanation for the large number of home runs being hit.
“Will we ever know the whole answer? Probably not,” Manfred said at the time.
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