Broadcast titan Bob Costas joined The Jim Rome Podcast and shared his multi-layer thought process on Major League Baseball’s spike in home runs this season. Costas initially shot down the notion that this is a repeat of the sport’s “steroid era,” which saw the ball travel out of parks at record paces because of the league’s lack of performance enhancing testing program.
“It’s obvious that the full blown anabolic steroids are out, or virtually out, of the game,” Costas told Rome. “People can’t turn themselves into cyborgs anymore, and even if total home runs are up, and there may be a variety of reasons for that which we will get to, nobody is hitting a home run once every seven or eight times at bat.
“It wasn’t just the total home runs during the McGwire, Bonds, Sosa era, it was really the home runs per time at bat that were so out of whack. You’re not going see that anymore.”
Costas admitted we’d be naïve to think that at least some players aren’t “fiddling at the edges of new science that drug testing hasn’t caught up with.” Things like low dose testosterone and HGH that’s in and out of your system pretty quickly could still be prevalent in the sport. Costas said, “It’s still in the game, but it’s not in the game to as great as an extent, and to the extent that it is in the game, it’s not effecting the game as much because it isn’t as full blown.”
Costas also talked about the theory of the actual baseballs being “juiced.”
“You hear when you are around clubhouses and dugouts is that there is something with the baseball and whether its juiced or not I don’t know,” Costas said. “Apparently the seams are lower and that’s causing pitchers to be unable to make it break and move quite as much and there’s less drag on the ball. Once it’s hit in the air, there’s less drag on the ball so it can carry farther.”
Costas believes improved diet and fitness along with the mentality of the hitter has changed too.
“You have legitimate weight training and improved hitting techniques. When you take a look at some of these hitters today, and the torque they get and the launch angle on their swings, and there’s no stigma what-so-ever in terms of strikeouts,” Costas said. “If you strike out a hundred times in the past, you led the league. Now you won’t be in the top hundred. Literally, a hundred strikeouts wouldn’t put you in the top hundred. So a lot of guys go up there just swinging for the home run, the true outcome is not frowned upon. Sabermetrics say you’re much better off with five hits and three of them being homers then trying to string a bunch of singles and stolen bases, and sacrifices together, so you’ve got a lot of factors besides PEDs that lead to an overall in home runs.”
Costas also said let’s not forget about how much the pitchers are contributing to increase in home runs.
“You got big strong guys who are adjusting to velocity and more and more guys throwing 95 and above to the point where no one even thinks of it as something that raises an eyebrow. 90 [miles per hour] use to be a decent fastball. Now, it’s considered subpar,” Costas said. “So if you’ve got guys who are adjusting, who no longer flinch at a 100 mile an hour fastball and they catch up with it, with the kind of legitimate strength they have and bat speed and now it’s coming in there at 98, 99 miles an hour, well, it’s just physics that the ball is going to carry farther.”
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