Acuna Hits 40th HR, Now 3rd Player Under 21: Juiced Balls or Better Approach?

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A baseball has launched off Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr.’s bat 40 times this season and left the ballpark. The incredible display of contact for power makes him only the third player in the history of Major League Baseball to reach the feat at 21 years-of-age or younger.

Last night, during the third inning of the Braves’ 5-4 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, the youngster hit a homerun that travelled an estimated 432 feet into the second-deck of SunTrust Park. With the blast that helped the Braves clinch at least a first-place tie in the NL East Division race, he joins Mel Ott (42/NewYork Giants/1940) and Eddie Mathews (47/Milwaukee Braves/1953) as the only players to reach the milestone.

Balls are leaving the ballpark more frequently than ever before. Just last week, the league record for home runs in a season was broken with the 6,106 after being hit by Baltimore Orioles hitter Jonathan Villar. The record tops one set by the league just last season, and the two make for the only seasons to ever see the league reach 6,000 home runs total.

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Acuna’s milestone raises the question of whether or not the league’s spike in home runs is due to alleged “juiced” baseballs by the MLB or if it’s a direct result of the revolutionary change in philosophy regarding hitters’ approach while at the plate. Conspiracy theories suggest that the league, who became a part owner of Rawlings Sporting Goods (the league’s actual baseball manufacturer) in 2018 is consulting with the company and making changes to the ball in an attempt to increase scoring and long-balls during games, thus improving television ratings, increasing attendance, and growing financial profits.

Here’s my take. Because I believe the MLB maintains a certain level of integrity, it would be unfair to other players and legends of “America’s favorite pastime” to have their records fall due to scientific alterations of the baseballs used for gameplay. My belief is that the “Launch Angle” is responsible for the influx in power numbers. Players are more game-ready than ever before, as they are participating in highly-competitive competition at earlier ages and are also benefiting from increased participation in professional training programs. 

The internet is a wealth of knowledge, and these “millennials” are finding ways to gain an edge over the competition on platforms such as Youtube. Pair that hypothesis with the fact that pitchers are throwing harder than ever before, and it’s easy to understand why balls are travelling further. This is just the start, because one day a player is going to come along and decimate all the single-season and career home run records, because this sport is evolving into a futuristic version of the home run derby.

Header Photo Credit: Yahoo Sports

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