In 2017, Major League Baseball players launched a record 6,105 home runs. This season, they're on pace for nearly 6,500 after a record 1,444 were hit in March in April (2.62 per game).
- For reference, 5,528 homers were hit in 1999 — the height of the steroid era.
Why it matters: This home run explosion has caused lots of speculation throughout the baseball world, with fans and players alike wondering if the balls have been "juiced."
The backdrop: MLB has repeatedly denied this, insisting that there has been no change in the manufacturing of the baseball.
- However, multiple independent studies have shown that, beginning in the middle of the 2015 season, MLB's balls changed.
- Scientists X-rayed the baseballs last year, and they concluded that the "new" balls had, on average, 10% less silicon and 7% more polymer.
And now this: On top of the skyrocketing home run numbers in the big leagues, what's happening in the minor leagues is arguably even weirder — and further proof that something fishy is going on.
- MLB baseballs are being used in the Pacific Coast League and International League for the first time this season, and their home-run rate has increased by an alarming 47.1% from a year ago.
What they're saying: USA Today Sports conducted interviews with multiple pitchers, and they all seem to agree that something is up. They're not even mad, they just want an explanation.
- Red Sox pitcher David Price: "Come on, just tell us. We all see it. Just come clean and say it."
- Yankees pitcher J.A. Happ: "I hate to dive too deep into conspiracy theories, but it's pretty wild what's happening. … It used to be that you kind of knew for sure when a guy got you, and now you don't know. You see hitters get frustrated, put their head down, and think they missed it, but the ball still goes out."
- Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle: "It's a bummer we're even talking about this because of how poorly it was handled in previous years. ... It just stinks that we're able to ask this question, 'Did they change the balls again?' If the balls are juiced, just tell everybody so everybody knows."
The bottom line: It certainly seems like MLB juiced the baseballs ... and decided not to tell the players.