The first half of the MLB season is in the books and what a weird season it has been so far. Home Runs are being hit at an alarming rate, traditional leadoff hitters are dying out, the defending World Champion Cubs are under .500, and the Dodgers and Astros look like the real deal.
Home Run Crazy
People around baseball have said that they believe the balls are “juiced” wound tighter. Pitchers do not know how to explain it but they know they can feel the difference. The balls feel harder and the pitchers can tell that their pitches are not moving the way they should.
The balls being wound tighter makes them travel about 20 feet more when its in the air. You can tell by the players and announcers reactions that they think a lot of the Home Runs are routine fly balls. Not to take anything away from Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger but the MLB is part of the reason for their amazing seasons.
In the month of June there were 1,101 Home Runs hit breaking the record for most Home Runs hit in a month. The teams combined for a total of 3,343 HR at the All-star break. Which means they would be on pace for just over 6,200 HR for the season. The record for most Home Runs was set in the 2000 season, when there were 5,693 HR hit.
At the All-star break there are already 24 players with 20 or more HR. Last season at this point there were 18 players with 20 or more HR and in 2015 only 12 players hit 20 or more HR.
Then there are the pitchers who are not having as much fun as the hitters. Clayton Kershaw, one of the best pitchers of the generation, has already given up 18 Home Runs. This is the highest total of his 10 year career and he still has around 14 more starts.
What Happen to Leadoff Hitters?
The Home Run craze has caused a change in baseball. Leadoff hitters used to be hitters that would get on base and then steal bases. But now it is so easy to hit Home Runs teams see it as a priority. Teams are putting power hitters first in the order to give them as many at bats as possible during the game.
Leadoff hitters this season has consisted of players like: Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Jose Bautista, George Springer, Carlos Santana, and Michael Conforto. These players are all great hitters but none of them have the speed of a leadoff hitter and they strikeout to much to be a “traditional” leadoff hitter.
The month of June saw a record breaking 36 leadoff Home Runs to start a game. With a lot of help from Anthony Rizzo who hit 3HR in 7 games during his stint as a leadoff hitter. He was on fire as a leadoff hitter but it was a short stint of only 49 at bats.
Not every team has tried the power hitter as a leadoff hitter but it is happening more frequently. Some teams are desperate to score runs and resort to trying to hit as many Home Runs as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it happen more during the second half of the season.
First Half Champions:
American League: Houston Astros (60-29)
National League: Los Angeles Dodgers (60-29)