Triple-A homers increased by nearly 60 percent this season thanks to juiced baseball

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Minor league broadcaster and writer Tim Hagerty tweeted last night that the now-concluded Triple-A season absolutely shattered its all-time home run record. Last year there were 3,652 homers in the top minor league. This year: 5,749. The only significant difference between this year and last year: the introduction of the major league ball to the minors.

As Jayson Stark of The Athletic notes this morning, that number includes a 59 percent increase in homers in the Pacific Coast League over last year and a 57 percent increase in the International League.  Stark talks with a baseball executive who tells him that, from a development perspective, the PCL has now become essentially useless, and they are sending prospects to Double-A instead because the juiced ball is preventing clubs from accurately assessing players.

As J.J. Cooper of Baseball America convincingly argued a month ago, it is 100% the ball, too, in case any of you feel like claiming it’s about “launch angle” or what have you. The numbers in all the other minor leagues, which did not adopt the big league ball for 2019, are on par with the past several seasons. If there was some philosophical shift (a) it wouldn’t happen simultaneously for the Triple-A affiliates of all 30 teams; and (b) it would extend to Double-A and single-A.

Meanwhile, Major League Baseball’s last comments about the very obviously juiced baseball were about how the “pill” is maybe more perfectly centered now, reducing drag, as if it’s some near undetectable flaw causing only slight change. These numbers — as well as the multiple studies showing clear changes in the seams and flight characteristics of the ball and the many, many complaints from big league pitchers about how the ball is obviously different on feel alone — present a pretty strong rebuttable to the claim that this is a tiny difference.

UPDATE: From Cooper, some numbers showing just how stark the Triple-A home run explosion has been:

Free agent slugger José Abreu signs 3-year, $58.5M deal with Astros

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HOUSTON — Jose Abreu and the World Series champion Astros agreed to a three-year, $58.5 million contract, adding another powerful bat to Houston’s lineup.

Abreu, the 2020 AL MVP, gets $19.5 million in each of the next three seasons.

He spent his first nine major league seasons with the Chicago White Sox. The first baseman became a free agent after batting .304 with 15 home runs, 75 RBIs and an .824 OPS this year.

With the Astros, he replaces Yuli Gurriel at first base in a batting order that also features All-Star sluggers Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker.

Gurriel became a free agent after Houston defeated the Philadelphia Phillies this month for its second World Series championship.

The 35-year-old Abreu becomes the biggest free agent to switch teams so far this offseason. Born in Cuba, the three-time All-Star and 2014 AL Rookie of the Year is a .292 career hitter in the majors with 243 homers, 863 RBIs and an .860 OPS.

The Astros announced the signing. Abreu was scheduled to be introduced in a news conference at Minute Maid Park.

He would get a $200,000 for winning an MVP award, $175,000 for finishing second in the voting, $150,000 for third, $125,000 for fourth and $100,000 for fifth. Abreu also would get $100,000 for earning World Series MVP and $75,000 for League Championship Series MVP, $75,000 for making the All-Star team and $75,000 for winning a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger.

Abreu gets a hotel suite on road trips and the right to buy a luxury suite for all Astros home games.