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As impressive HR totals go up, so do strikeouts

MLB.com @TracyRingolsby

Alex Gordon delivered MLB's record-setting 5,964th home run of the 2017 season in Toronto on Tuesday night, and by Thursday morning, an additional 59 homers had been hit.

Surprised? Don't be. It's really just an effect of the change in approach that Major League hitters have taken to the game.

Alex Gordon delivered MLB's record-setting 5,964th home run of the 2017 season in Toronto on Tuesday night, and by Thursday morning, an additional 59 homers had been hit.

Surprised? Don't be. It's really just an effect of the change in approach that Major League hitters have taken to the game.

Players are bigger and stronger, and they're swinging harder with less discipline than at any time in Major League history.

At least it would seem so.

While the single-season home run record already has been broken, the all-time strikeout record should fall this year, as well. Clubs entered play Thursday having struck out 37,569 times, 1,413 K's shy of the record set last season. With an average of 16.5 strikeouts per game over the remaining 153 games entering Thursday night, MLB should surpass 40,000 strikeouts for the first time in history, breaking the record of 38,982 set last year.

Video: WSH@ATL: Gonzalez punches out Albies to fan the side

Hitters used to loathe striking out. But not anymore. There's no hesitation to swing hard and hope to connect. The top 10 individual strikeout seasons have come in the past 10 years, and the 21 biggest in MLB history have come in the past 21 years. The top 23 single-season strikeout totals by an individual player and 44 of the top 49 have come in the 21st century.

And yes, home run totals have climbed over that period, too, but not at a similarly record-setting pace.

The single-season home run record across the Majors broken this year was set in 2000. That's 17 years between record-breaking home runs totals, which is seven years longer than any single-season home run record has stood since the American League and National League created MLB in 1901.

A coincidence? Unlikely. Expansion has added to home run opportunities, and the last expansion came in 1998 with the addition of the Rays and D-backs. Consider that barring something unforeseen, there has not been a season with fewer than 4,850 games played since the last expansion. In the 60 seasons prior to the first expansion in '61, the record for games in a season was 1,880 in '14.

The previous longest period a home run record stood was 10 years, three times. In 1911, players hit 514 home runs, breaking the record set in the inaugural season of '01. There also was a 10-year stretch before a record 1,571 were hit in '40.

MLB's single-season record, in fact, has been broken 25 times. On four of those occasions, the record was broken in an expansion season -- 1961 (two teams added in the AL), '69 (four teams added, two in the NL and two in the AL), '77 (two teams added in the AL) and '98 (two teams added, one in the NL and one in the AL).

And it is a general increase in home runs considering that since Nap Lajoie set the standard with 19 home runs in 1901, it has been broken only nine times, just three times since Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs in '27. Roger Maris hit 61 in '61, a record that stood until Mark McGwire's 70 in '98, and now Bobby Bonds' record-setting 73 in 2001 is the record.

The Padres are an example of how the home run wealth is shared. San Diego has set a franchise homer record for the second year in a row. The Friars entered Thursday night's game against the Rockies with 181 dingers in 152 games, breaking the record of 177 set a year ago. The record prior to 2016 was 172 home runs in 1970.

Wil Myers, who leads the Padres with 28 home runs this year, also finished last year with a club-high 28 home runs. His total, however, ranks only 22nd on San Diego's single-season home run record for individuals.

Video: SD@COL: Myers belts a solo homer to center field

All of which underscores that home run totals are climbing, and it is a generational thing. The strength is being shared.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.