To Have More Success In The Second Half, The Cardinals Have To Join MLB’s Home-Run Craze

Many baseballs were vaporized in Cleveland on Monday night during the annual Home Run Derby power-ball display that’s become a popular feature of All-Star festivities.

Fans seemed deliriously gaga as Vlad Guerrero Jr., Joc Pederson, Pete Alonzo, went all rocket fuel to combine for an astonishing 312 homers. That annihilated the previous record of 221, set last year.

Of course the fans and TV viewers loved it. It’s not as if MLB hitters hit home runs,or anything. The homer is vanishing from the modern game. It’s a shame to see the longball becoming extinct.

Oh, wait.

That’s right.

The opposite is true, of course. Singles — not homers — are disappearing from big-league baseball.

MLB is a home-run haven.

Home runs are the sport’s drug. MLB hitters are obsessed with home runs, addicted to home runs, and are slowly turning into carnival-freak attractions.

Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa wouldn’t even recognize the game as it’s being played today.

OK, a slight exaggeration there perhaps.

But the competition has been boiled down to power pitchers throwing 99 mph fastballs to power hitters, and may the best muscle win.

The Home Run Derby isn’t my thing.

I’m a baseball fan. The game is tedious and boring and inhabited by athletes who stand around in between home-run trots.

So far this season, 35 percent of the total plate appearances have resulted in a home run, strikeout or walk. That percentage was 28.4 percent in 1996, and 29.4 percent as recently as 2010.

From  the Washington Post:

With 3,691 home runs hit in the first half of 2019, the game is on pace to see its single-season record shattered — by a lot. The current pace of 1.37 homers per team game translates to 6,668 over a full season — 563 more than in 2017, when a record 6,105 were hit. That’s like taking the most homers ever witnessed in one season and adding almost eight 2001 Barry Bondses to it.

Home runs have accounted for 15.9 percent of all base hits this season, up from 11.6 percent a decade ago and 8.5 percent 30 years ago.

In 2018, there were 82 home runs estimated at 450 feet or more, per Statcast tracking data. This year, there have already been 100.

Fly balls are turning into homers at a rate of 15.1 percent in 2019, up from 9.4 percent at the beginning of this decade.

Only six teams have ever hit 250 or more homers in a single season, led by the Yankees with 267 last year. But this year, no fewer than 10 teams are on pace to reach or surpass the 250 milestone, and the Minnesota Twins are on pace to hit a staggering 302.

This May, batters hit 1,135 homers, the most ever for a month in the sport’s history — a record that lasted only a month, when hitters bashed 1,142 in June. And the warmer months of July and August, when home run rates traditionally soar, are still to come.

 

Needless to say, the baseballs being used in competition are souped up. Lower seams. More aerodynamic. Less hang time. Ball go fast. Ball go far.

Commissioner Rob Manfred ‘fessed up in an interview with ESPN Radio.

“Our scientists have told us that this year the baseball has a little less drag,” Manfred said on ESPN Radio. “It doesn’t need to change very much in order to produce meaningful change in terms of the way the game is played on the field. We are trying to understand exactly why that happened and build out a manufacturing process that gives us a little more control. [But] our baseball is a handmade product, and there is going to be variation year to year.”

Oh, so MLB had nothing to do with the plutonium baseballs? It’s just a variation. This is just a random year. Never mind that the industry-wide home-run rates have been soaring for many years now. This is all just a coincidence.

Hard to look back to the 1980s and believe that Whitey Herzog’s STL-style baseball — pitching, speed, defense, singles, gap-hits, stolen bases –paif off with three NL pennants and the 1982 World Series title.

The ‘82 St. Louis Cardinals hit 67 homers all season.

The 2019 Atlanta Braves have hit 67 homers since June 1. Seriously. That’s a fact.

(My favorite home-run stat from the 1982 Cardinals: these boppers hit six homers, total, during the entire month of June.)

The 1985 Cardinals hit 87 bombs. The ‘87 Cardinals really went wild, teeing off for 94 homers.

I don’t think we’ll ever see the return of the complete “Whiteyball” track-meet experience. But the game goes through cycles, and hopefully the home-run craze will subside. And maybe we’ll be able to enjoy a happy medium — an in-between style — that features plenty of home runs but also lots of doubles, triples, singles and aggressive base-running.

(Yeah, I have a dream.)

For now, perhaps the 2019 Cardinals need to join this home-run derby. A shortage of power is a major factor in a boring offense that’s been running low on runs and homers for the last two months.

The Cardinals rank 23rd overall, and 12th in the NL, with an average of 1.22 home runs per game. Busch Stadium isn’t exactly a launching pad; the Cards have averaged a sickly 0.95 HR per home game.

The Cards have failed to homer in 27 contests this season; that represents 30.6 percent of their games. They’ve hit no more than a single home run in 56.8 percent of their games.

It figures.

With MLB going airborne with a barrage of home runs — it’s how you win these days — the Cardinals have a roster that’s more firecracker than missile.

There are too many home runs in baseball. But not nearly enough home runs in Cardinals’ baseball.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie