Sunday, August 22, 2010

Offense is Down but Strikeouts Rising

Yesterday, we saw that run scoring in Major League Baseball has sharply decreased since 2000 and that runs per game in the American League has returned to early 1990s levels.  Today, we’ll explore trends in statistics that contribute to runs scoring.  For the sake of simplicity, we will consider Major League Baseball as a whole, rather than divide into leagues.
As shown in Figure 1, the Home runs per game in MLB have dropped from a peak of 1.17 in 2000 to 0.95 in 2010, a decreased of 19%.  That is a significant drop in ten years and the result is a more balanced game.  The home run rate in 2010 was the lowest since 0.89 in 1993. 


Batting average (Figure 2) has also been on the decline, but not as dramatically as home runs.  The .259 batting average in 2010 is about 4% lower than the .270 mark in 2000.  The last time the MLB batting average was below .260 was in 1992 when batters hit a combined .256.      


In Figure 3, we see that bases on balls don’t have the same trend as homers and batting average.  After soaring to 3.68 in 1999 and 3.75 in 2000, walks per game have remained fairly steady between 2001-2010.  It’s possible that the spike in 1999-2000 was an over reaction to the high homer totals in those years.    


The most interesting trend shows up in Figure 4.   While batting average and homeruns have been going down, strikeouts have been increasing.  In fact, the 6.97 strikeouts per game in 2010 is the highest rate in history.  Strikeouts have been generally rising since 1978 when there were 4.77 per game.  That 46% increase between 1978-2010 is huge.  I think it shows the ever growing emphasis on power hitting and power pitching.  You would think that as homers become more scarce, we would see more of a contact approach to both pitching and hitting but this hasn’t happened for four decades.  


  1. These charts are interesting. My first thought is with drug testing, it would be natural for HRs to go down.

    I thought averages might stay the same though, since I believe pitchers were using steroids (especially relievers) to increase their strength and recovery time.

    One thing that statistics aren't always able to show is the abnormalities of talent. Guys like Bonds and Sosa would probably hit HRs without performance enhancing drugs so at the time there were HR hitters.

    Right now there seems to be a lot of pitchers able to throw the ball 95+ mph. So right not pitching talent might be as high as hitting talent was 10 years ago..

    not sure though

  2. One of the reasons I wrote this post was so I could experiment with charts. I've never been able to do good graphics on blogger before. I was able to do it with Windows Live writer.

    Anyway, I think you are right that pitching has gotten better and I think that's a good thing. I thought there was too much offense before. I think we have better balance between offense and pitching now.




Blog Archive


My Sabermetrics Book

My Sabermetrics Book
One of Baseball America's top ten books of 2010

Other Sabermetrics Books

Stat Counter