NEW YORK – Nearly two decades after the height of the Steroids Era, Major League Baseball is on track to break its season record for home runs Tuesday — and not just top the old mark, but smash it like one of those upper-deck shots that have become commonplace.
There were 5,663 home runs hit through Sunday, 30 shy of the record set in 2000.
Juiced balls? Watered-down pitching? Giancarlo Stanton's renaissance? Sensational starts by Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger?
"I don't think that we are ever going to have a single explanation for exactly why we've see so many," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "But players are bigger and stronger. They're playing a little differently, in terms of the way they swing. Pitchers throw harder. The one thing I remain comfortable with: Nothing about the baseball, according to our testing, is materially different."
There were 5,610 homers last year, an average of 2.31 per game, and this year's average of 2.53 projects to 6,143. That would be up 47 percent from 4,186 in 2014.
In just three years, home runs will have increased by 1,957 — an extra 149 miles of long balls at this year's average home run length of 400 feet.
Already 107 players have hit 20 homers this year, just three shy of the record set last season — and up from 64 in 2015, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Along with sailing shots come strikeouts, which will set a record for the 10th consecutive year. There were 36,964 through Sunday, an average of 8.25 per team per game that translates to 40,099.
"The focus is hitting homers and tolerating strikeouts," Reggie Jackson said. "I don't really like all the strikeouts, and I was the king."