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MLB: No, the baseballs aren’t juiced

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Major League Baseball has seen a serious uptick in home runs over the past two seasons. In 2015, the league saw just over one home run hit on average per game. Last season, that jumped up significantly to 1.16 and it stands at 1.18 so far this season — before summer, when more homers are typically hit. During the “steroid era,” the average peaked at 1.17 in 2000 but was mostly in the 1.10-1.14 area.

We’re not seeing outliers like Barry Bonds hitting 73 home runs anymore, but we are seeing the types of players who used to hit 10 home runs now hitting 20 homers (see: Freddy Galvis). For example, in 1999 and 2000, the league saw 100-plus players cross the 20-homer time for the first times in history at 103 and 102, respectively. Last season, 111 players did it for the third triple-digit season league-wide. We’re probably going to see it again this year, too.

With drug-testing as stringent as ever and penalties for testing positive stronger than ever, it’s unreasonable to think that the surge in power is due to players continuing to use performance-enhancing drugs. The most popular theory these days to explain the power surge is a juiced baseball.

Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer asked Major League Baseball about it and they shared their research on the matter. Lindbergh received an 11-page document which detailed the league’s testing methodology and the results. The tests measured the baseballs’ weight, circumference, and coefficient of restitution (elasticity). The results showed that current era baseballs are not noticeably different than baseballs in the past. The league also asked physics professor and baseball physics expert Alan Nathan to independently review their research. Nathan said, “I saw nothing in the data that was presented that suggests that the ball has been altered at all.”

So, that’s that. Both Lindbergh and Nathan are still stumped about the explanation for the power surge, but the data shows that it’s not due to juiced baseballs.

The Mariners and Cardinals make a minor trade

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The Seattle Mariners and the St. Louis Cardinals have made a minor trade. Seattle has acquired lefty Marco Gonzales from the Cardinals in exchange for outfielder Tyler O’Neill.

Gonzales, the Cardinals’ first round pick out of Gonzaga back in 2013, is in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. It’s been a good season, in which he has posted a 2.78 ERA and 64/17 K/BB ratio over 74.1 innings across two minor league levels. He’s pitched one game for St. Louis this year and got shelled, but we’ll leave that go.

O’Neill is a third rounder from 2013. He has hit .269/.344/.505 in five minor league seasons. He’s holding his own in Triple-A this year, smacking 19 homers in 93 games.

Topps has eliminated Chief Wahoo from both new and throwback card designs

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I’ve been out of the baseball card game for a good long time, but despite this — maybe because of this — I enjoy the posts from SABR’s Baseball Card Committee. A lot of that is old time stuff that old men like me enjoy — check out the airbrushing on the “Traded” cards! — but they talk about new cards too. Definitely worth your time if cards are now or have ever been your bag.

Today there’s an interesting post, pointing out something most of us wouldn’t have otherwise noted: Topps has dropped Chief Wahoo from Indians card designs. They’re doing it for the old Braves “screaming Indian” logo as well, though the Braves no longer use that themselves.

They’re not airbrushing these logos out of photos of players — that would be Orwellian even for my extreme Wahoo-hating tastes — but in card designs which have team logos, Topps is using the block-C logo, not Wahoo, and the Braves “A” logo in place of the old logo. This includes throwback issues like the Heritage sets which put modern players on card designs from the 1950s-1960s and on simple retro designs like their 1987 variations. Any cards which once featured Wahoo on the border or on the back now features the block-C.

As you may or may not know, Topps is now the official card producer for Major League Baseball. As such, I take their doing this as a sign that MLB is continuing the slow process of de-Chiefing in whatever areas it has ultimate say.

Now if only the Indians themselves would get on board.