• 59°

All or nothing: Homers, strikeouts on record pace

By Ronald Blum

AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Cincinnati manager David Bell notices the difference from his playing days.

“There’s just no question that swings are geared for more home runs,” he said. “The swings are different than they used to be. It’s pretty obvious when you pull up a video of 20 years ago, 30 years ago.”

Baseball’s all-or-nothing trend accelerated in the season’s first full month, as batters binged on home runs and pitchers thrived on strikeouts.

Players hit 1,144 home runs in 874 games through April 30, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, an average of 1.31 per game. That is on track to break the record average of 1.26 set two years ago.

“I think we’re starting to see more and more, some of the miss-hits are going pretty far, too,” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said.

Even more significantly, the barrage took place during a time when cold weather in much of the country usually causes many fly balls to die on warning tracks. There were 912 homers in 838 games through April last year, an average of 1.09 in a season that ended at 1.15 — the second-highest ever. This year’s weather was better to some degree; there have been 15 postponements, down from 28 through last April.

There was an average of one home run every 25.6 at-bats in April for the second-highest rate in any full month of games in major league history, according to Elias. The only higher average was one home run every 25.4 at-bats in June 2017.

“The ball’s been flying here more than I’ve ever seen,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said after New York and Minnesota combined for a Citi Field-record 10 long balls. “This time of year, the balls don’t usually travel like they are.”

Perhaps more alarming to baseball officials is the rise in strikeouts. Batters are averaging 8.86 strikeouts per game, up from 8.48 last year — the 11th consecutive record year for whiffs. Strikeouts are on pace to top 43,000, up from 41,207 last year and 30,644 in 2005.

“Pitching just continues to get better and better, more wipeout stuff. Just nastier pitching,” Los Angeles Dodgers infielder David Freese said.

“Younger age guys are starting to learn even in their teens to get the ball in the air, not necessarily to hit the ball up the middle, other way type of stuff.”

Before 2017, strikeouts never exceeded hits over a full calendar month. There were more whiffs than hits in April, June and September last year, and there were 187 more strikeouts than hits over the full season.

This year already there were 949 strikeouts and 848 hits in March and 6,799 strikeouts and 6,371 hits in April, leaving strikeouts 529 ahead.

“Relief pitchers are throwing 95-plus (mph). Starters are throwing 93 or higher with movement,” Mets third baseman Todd Frazier said. “Balls are going left and right, and up and down, and sideways.”

And perhaps because batters are crowding the plate, there have been 368 hit batters, an average of 0.42 per game on track to be the highest since 1900.

Frazier notes swings have changed as batters try to go deep.

“People got to understand, it’s not how it used to be,” he said. “When I was younger, they taught you to get on top of the ball, backspin.”

With more strikeouts, requiring lengthier plate appearances, the average time of nine-inning games backtracked to 3 hours, 3 minutes, 48 seconds, up from 3:00:50 through April last season.

___

AP Sports Writers Josh Dubow and Dave Skretta contributed to this report.

___

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Comments

High School

High school football: Some anxious moments, but Hornets win state title

Local

Photos: Salisbury High Hornets win big in 2AA championship game

Local

County manager outlines projections for the upcoming fiscal year budget, suggests uses for stimulus money

Business

Miami-based Browns Athletic Apparel opens second screen printing location in Salisbury

News

At funeral, fallen Watauga deputies remembered as ‘heroes’

Coronavirus

COVID-19 cluster identified at Granite Quarry Elementary

Coronavirus

More than half of North Carolinians have now taken at least one vaccine shot

Local

City hopes to cover expenses in 2021-22 budget with surplus revenue generated this year

Local

Fallen tree proves to be a blessing for local nonprofit Happy Roots

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Health department drops quarantine time from 14 to 10 days

Crime

Blotter: More than $100,000 in property reported stolen from Old Beatty Ford Road site

Local

City fights invasive beetles by injecting trees with insecticide

Local

City names downtown recipients for federal Parks Service grant

China Grove

China Grove Town Council weighs 2021-22 budget priorities, supports buying body cameras

Education

Educators reflect on Teacher Appreciation Week

Education

Livingstone College wins $30,000 Home Depot grant

Education

Shoutouts

News

Shield-A-Badge With Prayer program enters 26th year, accepting volunteers to pair with officers

Education

COVID-19 infection, quarantine numbers in Rowan-Salisbury Schools reach new highs

High School

High school football: Offensive line came together for Hornets, who play for state title tonight

Local

Pro baseball: White makes pro debut and says, ‘It felt amazing to be out there’

Education

West Rowan Middle eighth grader wins investment writing contest

Local

YSUP Rowan invites agencies to participate in youth-focused training