Giancarlo Stanton's smacks, Aaron Judge's jolts, and all those dizzying long balls helped Major League Baseball move another poke closer to the inevitable. Nearly two decades after the height of the Steroids Era, the sport is on track to break its season record for home runs on Tuesday—and not just top the old mark, but smash it like one of those upper-deck shots that have become commonplace in the Summer of the Slugger. There were 5,677 home runs hit through Monday, 16 shy of the record set in 2000, the AP reports. Juiced balls? Watered-down pitching? "I don't think that we are ever going to have a single explanation for exactly why we've see so many," baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says. "But players are bigger and stronger. They're playing a little differently, in terms of the way they swing. Pitchers throw harder."
There were 5,610 homers last year, an average of 2.31 per game, and this year's average of 2.53 projects to 6,139. That would be up 47% from 4,186 in 2014. In just three years, home runs will have increased by 1,953—an extra 149 miles of long balls at this year's average home run length of 400 feet, or 15 miles more than the driving distance between Philadelphia's Citizen's Bank Park and Washington's Nationals Park. Already 108 players have hit 20 homers this year, just two shy of the record set last season—and up from 64 in 2015, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Steroids fueled the home run surge in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and power subsided after the start of drug testing with penalties in 2004. The home run average dropped in 2014 to its lowest level since 1992, then started rising during the second half of the 2015 season. (Read more Major League Baseball stories.)