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MLB's home run barrage amid hot World Series spurs debate over juiced balls

The 2017 Major League Baseball regular season saw a new record for total home runs, and the home run blitz has continued during the World Series.

MLB teams combined to hit 6,105 homers this season, easily surpassing the previous record of 5,963 from 2,000, according to the Associated Press.

Through two games of the Fall Classic, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros have combined to belt 11 balls out of the park. Game 2 saw the teams swat eight long balls, a new record for a World Series game.

Both games in Dodger Stadium were contested as record heat unfolded over Southern California. Game 1 set a record for warmest MLB postseason game ever with a high of 103 F. For the second game, highs were in the mid-90s around first pitch.

justin turner dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers' Justin Turner hits a two-run home run during the sixth inning of Game 1 of baseball's World Series against the Houston Astros Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)


Atmospheric conditions can play a role in how far a ball can fly. Warm, less dense air can allow the ball to travel farther, while cold, dense air can inhibit ball flight.

Alan Nathan, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Illinois, previously told AccuWeather that air density has a few major components including elevation, temperature and humidity.

“People know, players even know, understand intuitively if nothing else, that the ball simply does not carry as well in cold weather as it does in warm weather,” Nathan said. “The temperature effect is not as huge [as elevation], but it’s a big effect.”

While the warm weather may have provided for more home run opportunities in Games 1 and 2, experts have yet to decide what has led to the increase in homers in 2017.

A popular theory among some baseball players and observers about the jump in home runs is that the ball is juiced. A juiced ball means that the ball has been altered in some way to make it go farther in the air.

A report from The Ringer in June said the higher the ball's coefficient of restitution, or bounciness, the faster and farther it can move off the bat. Seam height and the circumference of the ball can also play a role, The Ringer said.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in July that he did not know why there was an uptick in home runs, but he said the league has been regularly testing baseballs.

“Let me tell you what I do know: I do know that we have done more testing of the baseball in the last couple of years than ever has been done historically,” Manfred told MLB.com. “I do know with absolute certainty that the baseball falls within the tolerance of the specifications that have existed for many years."

Manfred said baseball is being taught and played differently, with a greater emphasis for scoring runs being placed on homers. He also said the MLB is also looking into the role bats are playing.

"One thing we're thinking about is bats," Manfred said. "We've kind of taken for granted that the bats aren't different, so we're looking at the issue of bats."

Following the record barrage of home runs in Game 2, Astros Pitcher Dallas Kuechel told USA Today that the balls were juiced.

“Obviously, the balls are juiced,’’ Kuechel said. “I think they’re juiced 100 percent. But it is what it is. I’m just glad we came out on top.’’

The next three games of the series are slated for Houston’s Minute Maid Park, which has a retractable roof. Game 3 is scheduled for Friday with first pitch slated for around 8:20 p.m. EDT.

If Games 6 or 7 are necessary in Los Angeles next Tuesday and Wednesday, the Los Angeles area will have cooler weather compared to the first two games.

The outlook for next Tuesday is for much cooler weather at the very least, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark. The high temperature next Tuesday will be around 70-72 F with a game time temperature in the 60s, he said, adding that humidity will be higher, and there will be a slight chance for a shower.