While home runs surge across Major League Baseball, Jays' power numbers stagnate
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TORONTO — When the ball cleared the fence at Rogers Centre on Tuesday night to set a Major League Baseball record for home runs in a season, it didn't come off the bat of Toronto sluggers Jose Bautista or Josh Donaldson.
Instead, it was Kansas City's Alex Gordon who hit the 5,694th long ball of 2017, sending a deep shot off Toronto reliever Ryan Tepera to break the previous mark set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era.
Home runs have spiked dramatically across the majors, led this season by Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton's 55 home runs with another 40 from New York Yankees rookie sensation Aaron Judge. There has been much debate around what has led to the surge, from a "juiced" ball to better analytics tools available to players.
But the Toronto Blue Jays, MLB's home run leaders in 2015, haven't played much of a role in the long-ball boost. While Justin Smoak has been a revelation this season with 38 homers entering Wednesday's game, the Jays overall total has been trending downward since leading the league two seasons ago.
Here are some reasons why the power spike around the majors hasn't hit Rogers Centre:
AGAINST THE TREND
Home runs have jumped dramatically in Major League Baseball, from 4,186 in 2014 to this season's record pace. But the Blue Jays have been trending in the opposite direction. Toronto dipped from 232 homers in 2015 to 221 last season. Heading into Wednesday's action, the Jays were at 206 homers in 2017 with 11 games left to play. That total would have put them near the top of the majors in 2014, but this year they enter the final stretch of the season tied for 11th.
BYE BYE BIRDIE
First baseman Edwin Encarnacion's signature home run trot, dubbed the "Edwing" by fans as it looks like he has a parrot perched on his cocked and elevated right arm, used to be a familiar sight at Rogers Centre. Encarnacion belted 239 homers over eight seasons in Toronto, including career highs of 42 in 2012 and 2016. But the Jays lost the popular slugger to Cleveland in free agency, an unpopular development with Jays fans who felt the team could have done more to keep him. Encarnacion's "Edwing" has gone on to become a staple at Progressive Field, and his 36 home runs have helped the Indians clinch the American League Central title. Kendrys Morales, who the Blue Jays signed to help replace Encarnacion's numbers, has 27 homers.
BRINGER OF DRIZZLE
Donaldson had 30 home runs entering Wednesday's action, a solid number for the star third baseman. But much of that offence came too late for the Jays. Donaldson hit just 11 home runs over the first four months of the season as the Jays struggled to stay in the American League wild-card race before exploding for 12 homers in August.
JOEY BATS GOES QUIET
Bautista had 22 home runs this season entering Wednesday, matching his total from last year. While that's respectable output from the 36-year-old veteran, it's a far cry from the 54 he belted in 2010, or even the 40 he hit two seasons ago. And he's only hit 12 since a torrid May which saw him clear the fence nine times. Bautista will go down as one of the best home-run hitters in Blue Jays history — his bat flip after his three-run homer in the final game of Toronto's 2015 ALDS win over Texas alone will give him immortal status at Rogers Centre — but as he plays through what is likely his last homestand with the Jays, it is clear his best days are behind him.