Home runs, steals still up through three months

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With June in the books, I wanted to again check out the league-wide scoring trends. All stats courtesy of the wonderful Baseball Reference, of course.

It seems like even the dimmest announcers are coming to grips with the
fact that home runs aren’t truly down this year, but the spike we saw
in April does look like an aberration. While home run rates almost
always rise with the temperatures, there’s been no jump forward so far
this year.

HR/G

April 2009 – 2.10
May 2009 – 2.00
June 2009 – 2.10
Apr-Jun 2009 – 2.06

April 2008 – 1.79
May 2008 – 1.93
June 2008 – 2.13
Apr-Jun 2008 – 1.95

Home runs were up 17 percent over 2008 in April, but just four
percent in May and were down just a tad last month. They’re up six
percent overall.

Here are some more Apr-June HR/G rates:

2000 – 2.56
2001 – 2.30
2002 – 2.01
2003 – 2.14
2004 – 2.15
2005 – 2.06
2006 – 2.22
2007 – 1.96
2008 – 1.95
2009 – 2.06

Given the decline we’ve seen of late, it seems likely that 2009’s
home run totals will finish up closer to those of 2007 and 2008 than
the ones we saw at the beginning of the decade.

On to steals:

SB/G
April 2009 – 1.24
May 2009 – 1.34
June 2009 – 1.27
Apr-June 2009 – 1.29

April 2008 – 1.24
May 2008 – 1.28
June 2008 – 1.13
Apr-Jun 2008 – 1.22

For all of the talk early on about how steals were up, it was only
in June that we saw a real increase over last year. Now we’ll have to
see if it holds up. Last year, steals per game dropped from 1.22 to
1.08 over the final three months. They’re typically is a decline, but
it’s usually not that significant. In 2007, steals increased a bit
after the All-Star break.

Runs per game is where we’ve seen an especially unusual trend this season.

R/G

April 2009 – 9.68
May 2009 – 9.34
June 2009 – 8.75
Apr-Jun 2009 – 9.23

April 2008 – 9.06
May 2008 – 8.94
June 2008 – 9.08
Apr-Jun 2008 – 9.03

Runs, like homers, tend to increase as the season goes along, but
this year, the rate at which people are crossing home plate has fallen
steadily.

Here’s the league OPS by month, going from April through Sept./Oct. for the last five years:

OPS by month

2005 – 739, 747, 767, 757, 741, 743
2006 – 767, 761, 766, 792, 767, 760
2007 – 731, 747, 759, 759, 774, 778
2008 – 733, 736, 750, 762, 759, 756
2009 – 762, 751, 734

If 2009 had started out at 734 in April, moved on to 751 in May and 762
in June, it’d be shaping up as a perfectly typical year. However, it’s
gone the opposite way, which makes me wonder exactly what is in store
for the next three months.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.