Home Run Totals Are Up, and It's Because the Ball is Juiced

The Ringer‘s Ben Lindbergh published an article alongside former MLB consultant Mitchel Lichtman today with findings that suggest the massive increase in home runs since the 2015 season is partially due to changes in the balls construction.

For those that are unfamiliar, league-wide home run totals have spiked since 2015. In 2014, there were 0.86 HRs per game; then 1.01 in 2015, and 1.16 per game in 2016, which is only topped by 1.17 in 2000, the height of the steroid era. This season, we’ve already seen a total of 2,394 home runs, putting the league on pace to break the all-time single season record of 5,693, set in 2000, by almost 350 dingers.

Writers, pundits, statisticians and the like have spent countless hours trying to explain this phenomenon, leaving us with more questions with answers. Many of the obvious explanations have been dismissed, from higher temperatures and widespread PED (performance enhancing drugs) use, to pitchers throwing harder and optimized batting orders. With the above in mine, The Ringer returned to the theory that a “juice ball” is the cause, despite MLB officials claiming that the ball hasn’t changed.

Lichtman commissioned his own independent ball-testing experiment with help from the Sports Science Lab at Washington State University, comparing “coefficient of restitution, or COR — basically, its bounciness,” circumferences and seam-heights on game-used balls from 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Here’s what was said of their findings:

The testing revealed significant differences in balls used after the 2015 All-Star break in each of the components that could affect the flight of the ball, in the directions we would have expected based on the massive hike in home run rate.

The newer balls have higher CORs and lower circumferences and seam heights, which would be estimated to add an average of 7.1 feet to their distance, equivalent to the effect we would expect to stem from a 1.43 mph difference in exit speed. Although those differences don’t sound enormous, Nathan has noted that “a tiny change in exit speed can lead to much larger changes in the number of home runs.”

In reference to the seam height and circumference of the balls, The Ringer received a quote from FiveThirtyEight writer, Rob Arthur, who is conducting similar research.

“An analysis by Arthur that will be published this week at FiveThirtyEight does show that even after accounting for exit velocity and launch angle, balls hit in the first half of 2016 produced a higher home-run-per-fly-ball rate than balls hit in the first half of 2015, which supports the suspicion that the 2016 balls carried farther. “Balls hit with the same exit velocities and launch angles were much more likely to become home runs in 2016 than in 2015, suggesting that their air resistance might have decreased,” Arthur told us via email.”

Lindergh and Lichtman’s report is much more analytical and stat-driven than the excerpts we chose to include, so please check out their excellent exposé for an in-depth breakdown.

The article concludes however with the notion that the spike in homers being a result of “one contributing cause, so the single smoking gun that addresses every issue is probably a pipe dream.”

We know that some hitters in recent seasons have intentionally tried to hit more balls in the air, and several of them have made themselves much more dangerous at the plate. The idea of elevating the ball isn’t new, but in the past year or two it seems to have made major headway in combating the common belief that it’s better to hit down on the ball. That could be because hitters are trying to avoid increasingly common infield shifts, or it could be because Statcast has made it easier to identify hitters who could benefit from lifting their launch angles.

At the end of the day, more home runs, as well as strikeouts, which are also up, sells more tickets, and arguably makes the game more exciting.

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The 'John Wick' Franchise Is Set to Become a Television Series

In addition to already being a successful film franchise, it looks like John Wick will also be heading to the small screen. Entertainment publication IndieWire just released some key details about the show. For one, Lionsgate is the production company behind the series and it will be given the title The Continental — the name is taken from the hotel where the universe’s hitmen and assassins stay. Executive producer Chad Stahelski also explains that the title is not centered upon John Wick, but on different characters.

“They’ve got a really good structure. It’s very tied to the film [in that] it’s about the Continentals all over the world, how certain people come into that world, and what happens in relation to those people, which is cool. I think the world is very vast, and everything I’ve heard from it is very positive. […] It’s something that studio seems very, very intent on [making] and very, very behind… You can be with the consigliere, concierge, the sommelier — you can be with all these different characters and walk through the world in different aspects; ones that I’m a little limited [from exploring] by staying with my lead guy.”

As for the action that will be on the series, the Stahelski equates it to what is seen on Game of Thrones:

“Look at ‘Battle of the Bastards’. As an action designer, I think that’s the best battle I’ve ever seen on TV. They did a great job, and they weren’t careless with their money. They planned it, they boarded it — you watch the behind-the-scenes, [it’s clear] the guys did everything right. Granted, they’re the biggest budgeted show on TV right now, but could we do something interesting with John Wick with what we have? Yeah. I’d like to give it a go and prove to the TV world that you can have feature action on a TV show. It would be a nice little feather in my cap, sure.”

No word on a network yet or release date so stay tuned with us as we get more information.

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John Cena Plays a Not-So-Vicious Bull in New 'Ferdinand' Trailer

20th Century Fox is back to share the story of a bull who happens to be different from the rest. Thanks to an unfortunate bee sting, your polite bull is mistaken for an animal of rage. Voiced by John Cena, Ferdinand is then captured and brought into a life of bull fighting he’d rather not be in. During his journey, Ferdinand befriends a trio of hedgehogs and other animals as they all plan to escape.

Directed by Carlos Saldanha, join in on the adventure as Ferdinand hits theaters on December 15.

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J.W.Anderson's 2018 Spring/Summer Collection Has Plenty of Heart Prints and a Converse Collab

Respected British designer J.W.Anderson just presented his 2018 spring/summer menswear collection in Florence. Shown at the lush Villa La Pietra, the range boasts a plethora of lively colors and silhouettes — there are colorful hearts, fashion-forward cuts, Coca-Cola inspired logo scripts, as well as a tease of an upcoming collab with Converse. Gigantic tote bags are also the main accessory of choice with patchwork elements and knits being standouts for the garments. Circling back to the Converse partnership, we see an All-Star model in shimmery green and a frayed seam One Star in blue.

All-in-all the full range isn’t a big departure from what Anderson has done, but the energetic vibe of the fashion house has definitely increased from last season to now.

Stay tuned as we give you more from Florence Men’s Fashion Week.

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The McGregor vs. Mayweather Superfight Has a Date and Location!

According to Yahoo Sports and its “a well-placed source,” Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather Jr. have finalized the terms of their blockbuster, cross-sports bout: they will square up on August 26 in Las Vegas. The report goes on to state:

Terms of the deal were not available, but it will either be at the MGM Grand Garden or T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The Nevada Athletic Commission on Wednesday approved the request from Mayweather Promotions to put on a boxing card on Aug. 26 at the MGM Grand. The venue could change, however, to T-Mobile.

Although Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe, UFC President Dana White, or Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza have yet to comment on the news, McGregor took to his IG to savagely tell us “THE FIGHT IS ON,” while Floyd took a more professional route.

THE FIGHT IS ON.

A post shared by Conor McGregor Official (@thenotoriousmma) on Jun 14, 2017 at 2:21pm PDT

Be sure to stay tuned as news around the fight continues to develop.

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Bodega Looks at the Bones Beneath the Streets for Its ASICS GEL-Mai Collaboration

Fresh off the release of its own Spring/Summer 2017 collection, Boston’s Bodega has revealed its latest collaborative endeavor: a special edition of the ASICS GEL-Mai. Dubbed the “Underground,” the release sees the late ’90s design done up with the likes of orange suede and reflective overlays, not to mention an icy rubber outsole. According to Bodega, “Choosing a techy, performance model deliberately suggests the dynamism of human movement, and the skeletal structure as the foundation of this physical vitality. Even the colorway recalls the athletic roots of the GEL-Mai more than it does a creepy cemetery.” The Beantown imprint continues:

What unites all the portrayals of death across cultures and time is the same thing that unites all people past, present, and future as a fact of life. Death is universal and inexplorable. Everyone is going to die, and everyone means everyone. The king and the pawn will be swept off the board in the end, without distinction between the two… By presenting the skeletal imagery in anatomical form, the skeleton is presented as two sides of one coin, as an agent of motion and mortality; It is a visual representation of the juxtaposition between one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and the legions of human bones beneath its streets.

The more universal message is that no matter who you are, or what journeys you take in life, everyone ends up as a skeleton in the end.

Bodega’s “Underground” ASICS GEL-Mai — complete with custom packaging and lace options — drops on June 23 for $170 USD in-store and online at 11 a.m. ET.

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