As much as baseball fans would like a simple explanation for the astronomical increase in home runs in 2019, it is becoming clearer that many factors have played into the surge. Among the possible reasons are batters prioritizing hitting homers more than ever before, pitchers having difficulty gripping the seams of the baseball, and of course the famous “juiced balls.” Last month, a committee released initial results of a comprehensive study attempting to determine the driving forces behind the home run rate growth.
I am particularly interested in the idea that fly balls were supposedly carrying more in 2019. On multiple occasions throughout the year, I listened to announcers observe that outfielders seemed to be severely misjudging fly balls. For instance, the center fielder would be drifting back toward the wall, as if he had a bead on it, and the ball would end up 15 rows deep. Although this may seem like evidence for increased carry of the baseball, such observations can easily be driven by confirmation bias. There was a tendency this year to believe that every ball in the air would be a homer, so when a ball would carry a lot, it fit with expectations and the belief continued to grow. It may just have simply been the case that the wind was blowing out that day, or that the batter struck the ball in a particular way, and the carry had nothing to do with the ball itself. To determine if the perception was in fact reality, I focus on the following question: Did similarly struck balls travel farther in 2019 than previous years? Read the rest of this entry »