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: