Major League Baseball set an all time record for home runs in the middle of September, and there are still two weeks remaining in the regular season. Although no one is going to catch Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton, who is on pace to eclipse the sacred sixty home run mark, nearly every player is enjoying career highs in the power category.
Numerous theories have been discussed by the sport officials and participants, including juiced balls, smaller parks, flame throwing pitchers, and the development of new approaches undertaken by the players themselves. Whatever the reasons for the drastic increase, none of them have affected the rest of the hitting categories.
The batting average of each league,.257 in the American League and .254 in the Senior Circuit, is just about the same as it was last year. The total number of hits is similar to that of 2016, as is the number of doubles.
That last statistic, if indeed the ball is juiced or some of the other theories are true, should actually have decreased. Since more balls are leaving the yard, there should be fewer bouncing off the wall or landing in the gaps.
On average each hitter has the same number of doubles as he has throughout his career, even though the home runs have certainly risen. Other than Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez, whose fifty doubles has him on a pace to get the most in one season since 2006, players are hitting homers almost as frequently as two baggers. Players are slugging home runs at a pace of one in every 27 at bats, and they are averaging a double per every twenty at bats.
That trend, however, contains an almost uncanny exception, a player who has hit almost five times as many doubles as he has homers. You can find this former Most Valuable Player and perennial All-Star playing first base on defense, but occupying second quite often when the Minnesota Twins are on offense.
Mauer is on pace to do something no other player has done in the history of the game, and it has certainly been a big factor in his club becoming a surprise contender in the American League. He could very well finish in the top ten in doubles, in spite of not reaching double figures in round trippers.
In his 483 at bats so far this year, Mauer has 34 doubles but just seven home runs. His total in the former category has him on the fringes of the top ten in the American League, yet he would rank no higher than 289th in the category of home runs..
He will not likely add a fourth batting title to his resume this season, even though his .308 batting average is tops on the team. Even though every starter on the Twins have hit more home runs than Mauer, his talent to consistently hit the ball in the gaps has been a crucial contributor to Minnesota’s offense in 2017.