The road from Opening Day to the All-Star break produced an abundance of entertainment and storylines. Max Scherzer was unhittable, Lance Lynn led AL pitchers in fWAR, and Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger found themselves in an MVP race. However, no headline drummed up as much controversy as the increase in home runs resulting from juiced baseballs. To provide some context, the home run to fly ball ratio has risen 2.4% since last season. Additionally, Buster Olney provides us with a different but still shocking angle:
From Jason Joseph and the folks at ESPN Stats and Information:
During the 2014 season, 57 players hit 20 or more homers.
in 2019, 37 players already have 20 or more homers, and another 15 have 18 or 19.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 7, 2019
Even if you deny the introduction of juiced baseballs, the increase in home runs is undeniable.
Presumably, if league-wide home run rates inflate, individuals should experience a similar increase. Of course, there is luck and small sample sizes involved, but increases should be relatively constant across the board. However, there has been one extreme outlier who will be the main focus of this work.
Justin Verlander was the ace of a world champion team, has won a Cy Young Award and an MVP Award, and has posted 67.8 career fWAR. Recently, in an interview with ESPN, Verlander expressed his frustration and accused MLB of juicing the baseballs. “I find it really hard to believe that Major League Baseball owns Rawlings and just coincidentally the balls become juiced,” he said. Surprisingly, very few, if any, pitchers have been more affected by the uptick in home runs as much as Verlander, who gave up 26 in the first half. Read the rest of this entry »