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Angels' Hunter says MLB's homer dip result of steroid testing

9/29/2008 - MLB Anaheim Angels

NEW YORK -- Home runs in the major leagues dropped this year
to their lowest level since 1993, and Angels center fielder Torii Hunter thinks he might know why.

"I think the steroid testing has something to do with it," he
said. "If there were any guys who were taking it, they're not
taking it anymore. I'd say it's a small percentage, but of course
it's going to have an impact."

An average of 2.01 home runs per game were hit this year, down
from 2.04 in 2007. The average hadn't dropped that low since 15
years ago, when it stood at 1.78, according to the Elias Sports
Bureau.

The homer high of 2.34 was set in 2000, and the average stood at
2.14 in 2003, the last season before drug testing with penalties
began.

Miguel Cabrera topped the American League with 37 homers, the
fewest for any league champion since Fred McGriff hit 35 for San
Diego to win the 1992 NL title. It was the lowest total for an AL
champ since McGriff had 36 for Toronto in 1989.

"I think it's the bigger stadiums," Cabrera said.

The average was virtually the same in both leagues, but the
power drop wasn't as evident among the NL leaders. Philadelphia's
Ryan Howard hit 48 homers and topped the majors for the second time
in three seasons.

"I think there are a lot of smaller fields in the NL and a lot
of bigger fields in the AL," Hunter said. "Teams are starting to
get away from trying to just swing hard and hit it out of the park.
They're more about getting guys over. They're starting to come back
to the way baseball has been played in the past."

With 118 runs, Boston's Dustin Pedroia had the lowest total for
an AL leader in a non-shortened season since Detroit's Tony
Phillips (114) in 1992.

Alex Rodriguez's .573 slugging percentage
was the lowest for an AL leader since Ruben Sierra's .543 for Texas
in 1989 and Josh Hamilton's 331 total bases were the fewest to top
the AL in a non-shortened season since Kirby Puckett's 313 for
Minnesota in 1992.

"You're not going to get cheap home runs because it doesn't
seem like the ball's jumping off the bat as much," the Angels'
Mark Teixeira said. "I can feel the ball being a little softer. I
can feel the seams being a little raised and the leather not being
as tight."

Hamilton had 130 RBIs, one more than Minnesota's Justin Morneau,
who could overtake him if the Twins have a tiebreaker game against
the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. Either could have the lowest
total for an AL leader in a non-shortened season since Albert
Belle's 129 for Cleveland in 1993.

In the NL, Howard led with 146 RBIs and St. Louis' Albert Pujols
had the highest slugging percentage at .653.

Atlanta's Chipper Jones won his first NL batting title with a
career-high .364 average. Pujols finished second at .357.

"It's a tremendous feather in the cap, from an individual
standpoint," Jones said. "It's one of those things that brings
instant credibility. Hopefully, I already had it around the league.
But once you have the label of batting champion, you're respected
and recognized by that."

Jones just missed Mickey Mantle's season record for a switch
hitter (.365 in 1957).

"When I was growing up, there were two guys that I wanted to be
mentioned with, when I was done playing -- Mickey Mantle and Eddie
Murray," Jones said.

Minnesota's Joe Mauer pretty much wrapped up the AL batting
title at .330, with Boston's Dustin Pedroia second at .326.

Even if
the White Sox beat Detroit on Monday and force the Twins to play an AL
Central tiebreaker game against Chicago on Tuesday, Mauer would
have to go 0-for-7 or worse to fall behind.

"Like I've always said, we're trying to do bigger things here.
If we get to the playoffs and that happens, I'll be a happy guy for
sure," said Mauer, who won the AL batting title two years ago.

Pedroia and Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki shared the AL lead with 213
hits. Suzuki matched the record of eight straight 200-hit seasons
set by Willie Keeler (1894-1901). Jose Reyes of the Mets topped the
NL with 204 hits.

Arizona's Mark Reynolds set a record with 204 strikeouts, five
more than the old mark established by Howard, who struck out 199
times both last year and this.

Among pitchers, the Angels' Francisco Rodriguez saved a record
62 games, five more than the previous standard set by Bobby Thigpen
of the White Sox in 1990. Houston's Jose Valverde led the NL with
44.

Arizona's Brandon Webb (22-7) and Cleveland's Cliff Lee (22-3)
led the major leagues in wins, while the Mets' Johan Santana (2.53)
led the NL in ERA for the first time to go along with two AL
titles. Lee (2.54) led the AL.

Pittsburgh had no 10-game winners for the first time since 1890.
The Pirates (67-95) also finished with a losing record for the 16th
straight season, matching the mark set by the Philadelphia Phillies
from 1933-48.

San Francisco's Tim Lincecum (265) and Toronto's A.J. Burnett
(231) led their leagues in strikeouts.

CC Sabathia's 10 complete games for Cleveland and Milwaukee were
the most since Randy Johnson's 12 for Arizona in 1999.