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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.

Jose Bautista is starting at third base for the first time in over four years

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Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista is getting a rare start at third base today. How rare is it? Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae notes that he last started at third base on April 14, 2013 against the Royals.

Bautista has played some third base already this year. On April 27 against the Cardinals, Bautista pinch-hit for third baseman Chris Coghlan and stayed in the game at the position. Last Saturday, Bautista moved from right field to third base as part of a handful of defensive switches. Overall, he’s played four defensive innings at the hot corner this season.

The Blue Jays have had to get creative at third base while Josh Donaldson has dealt with a calf injury. Darwin Barney and Chris Coghlan have drawn most of the starts at third base, but catcher Russell Martin started there on Sunday and tonight we’ll see Bautista there.

Braves’ bullpen hasn’t allowed a hit to last 54 batters, setting franchise record

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The Braves announced on Tuesday, citing Elias Sports, that the bullpen set a franchise record, preventing the last 54 batters faced from getting a hit.

The last reliever to allow a hit was Josh Collmenter to the first batter he faced against the Blue Jays last Thursday. Since then, the bullpen has logged 15 1/3 scoreless, hitless innings with a 10/4 K/BB ratio. Here are the logs since Collmenter gave up that hit.

Date Opp. Pitcher BF IP H R ER BB SO
May 18 vs. TOR Josh Collmenter 7 2.0 0 0 0 1 1
May 18 vs. TOR Ian Krol 4 1.0 0 0 0 1 1
May 19 vs. WAS Jason Motte 2 0.2 0 0 0 0 0
May 19 vs. WAS Jose Ramirez 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
May 19 vs. WAS Arodys Vizcaino 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 2
May 19 vs. WAS Jim Johnson 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
May 20 vs. WAS Ian Krol 2 0.2 0 0 0 0 1
May 20 vs. WAS Jason Motte 4 1.0 0 0 0 1 0
May 20 vs. WAS Jose Ramirez 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 1
May 20 vs. WAS Arodys Vizcaino 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
May 20 vs. WAS Jim Johnson 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
May 21 vs. WAS Luke Jackson 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 1
May 22 vs. PIT Jason Motte 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 2
May 22 vs. PIT Jose Ramirez 3 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
May 22 vs. PIT Arodys Vizcaino 4 1.0 0 0 0 1 1
May 22 vs. PIT Jim Johnson 4 1.0 0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL 54 15.1 0 0 0 4 10

Despite the hot streak lately, the Braves’ bullpen still ranks in the middle of the pack in ERA at 4.07. Its 21.3 percent strikeout rate ranks 18th out of 30 teams and its 8.6 percent walk rate is ninth.