There is a power outage in Major League Baseball.
Since the late 1990s, professional players have hit fewer and fewer home runs. In 2014, there were a total of just 4,186 home runs in MLB, down from 5,692 dingers across the league in 2000.
There are many reasons for the recent league-wide decline in power. Many people cite the league’s steroid testing, which now forces players to strengthen themselves naturally, without the aid of illegal substances. In 1998, sluggers Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire each hit over 60 home runs. Both were later discovered to be steroid cheats, as were many other hitters from their era.
However, better drug testing is only one of the causes of the drop in home runs. Other factors — including better relief pitching, new pitcher-friendly ballparks, rising strikeout totals, and increased pitcher velocity — have all played a part in dampening hitters’ power totals.
While MLB players did manage more home runs in 2015 than they had the previous season, many fans still miss the days of prodigious power hitters like Ken Griffey, Jr., and Barry Bonds.
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Just how much have home run rates dropped? In the following lesson, students can calculate the percent change in MLB’s total homers then repeat the exercise to see if their favorite player has been negatively affected by the recent run-scoring environment.