Adam Dunn

Offense was at its lowest level since 1992

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With the final totals in we can officially see what was pretty darn obvious throughout the season. Offense was down. Way down. Down to a level we had not seen since there were 26 teams in the league, I had a full head of hair and people actually thought that Mike Myers was hilarious. 1992, people. A different time. A different place.  The specifics, via Stats, LLC:

  • Teams averaged 4.28 runs per game. Lowest since 1992’s 4.12. The peak of the recent big-run era was 5.14 in 2000;
  • The home run average was down to 0.94 each team per game, also the lowest in 19 years and a sharp drop from 1.17 in 2000;
  • The major league batting average of .255 was the lowest since 1989;
  • The 3.94 ERA was also the lowest since 1992.

This stuff always brings out the “see, they’re not on steroids anymore” mob.  As I often say, I don’t find this to be a very satisfying explanation. No single-factor explanation of a complicated process every sits well with me, and baseball teams scoring runs is a complicated process.  Steroids testing likely had some effect in offensive decline over the past several years, but there are other things at work.

The way pitching is scouted and developed is one. It’s like anything else: there was a pitching shortage for many years, pitching became more valuable to teams and thus better pitchers and pitching approaches were discovered and developed. Defense has been emphasized. A lot of hitters have been slow to adjust to an era in which strikeouts are more harmful to offensive production than they were back when homers were easier to come by. I’m still not entirely convinced that there hasn’t been a change in the ball, but we’ll probably never know that.

Anyway, point is that offense is down. I think it’s all a part of the pendulum swinging back and forth like it always has in baseball. Your mileage may vary. But just be wary of silver bullet explanations about anything. They’re very rarely correct.

Bud Selig to teach a class at Arizona State law school

Bud Selig
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Before Bud Selig ultimately retired, he had a couple of false start retirement announcements only to have the owners beg him to sign on for one more term. In one of those false starts he talked about how the University of Wisconsin had set up an office for him in the history department and that he’d be doing some research and teaching a class now and again. And he has, in fact, taught some one-off seminars at Wisconsin’s law school and the like.

Now something a little more permanent along those lines is in the works for The Greatest Commissioner in Baseball History. The Arizona Republic reports that Selig will join the Sports Law and Business program at Arizona State University’s law school where he will teach and advise as well as start up a speakers series in which he will bring in high-powered guests. No word on how many speakers will talk about big, important historical sports law cases like, say collusion in baseball, which was orchestrated by an ownership class in the mid-to-late 80s, of which Bud Selig was far and away the most influential member. That could get sort of awkward, I suppose.

Either way, it’s a good way to keep busy. I mean, that’s what it has to be as he’s not hurting for cash, what with the obscene $6 million severance package the owners gave him to, I dunno, not give interviews about bad stuff that happened back in the day like Fay Vincent does all the time. Stuff like collusion. Maybe he gets the $6 million for some other purpose. Who can say, really? It’s never made any sort of sense otherwise.

Anyway, good luck in Tempe, Bud. Maybe I’ll stop by your office at ASU when I’m there next month — I always stay in Tempe — and we can chew the fat or climb that butte with the big A on it or something. First round at Four Peaks afterward is on me.

White Sox sign first baseman Travis Ishikawa

Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Travis Ishikawa hits an RBI-single off Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Raisel Iglesias to drive home Neil Walker in the seventh inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, in Cincinnati. The Reds won 4-3. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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First baseman Travis Ishikawa has agreed to a minor-league contract with the White Sox that includes an invitation to spring training.

Ishikawa was previously reported to have a minor-league deal with the Mariners last month, but the signing was never finalized. Now he joins the White Sox, who have Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche ahead of him on the first base/designated hitter depth chart.

Ishikawa had some big moments for the Giants in the 2014 playoffs, but he’s a 32-year-old journeyman with a lifetime .255 batting average and .712 OPS in 488 games as a big leaguer.

It’s possible the White Sox could keep him around as a bench bat and backup first baseman/left fielder, but Ishikawa seems more likely to begin the season at Triple-A.

Mariners sign reliever Joel Peralta

Joel Peralta
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Right-hander Joel Peralta has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Peralta spent last season with the Dodgers and was limited to 29 innings by neck and back problems, posting a 4.34 ERA and 24/8 K/BB ratio. Los Angeles declined his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

He was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball from 2010-2014, logging a total of 318 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 342 strikeouts, but at age 40 he’s shown signs of decline. Still, for a minor-league deal and no real commitment Peralta has a chance to be a nice pickup for Seattle’s bullpen.

White Sox sign Mat Latos

Mat Latos
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Jerry Crasnick reports that the Chicago White Sox have signed Mat Latos.

Latos was pretty spiffy between 2010-2014, posting sub-3.50 ERAs each year.  Then the injuries came and he fell apart. He pitched for three teams in 2015 — the Dodgers, Angels, and Marlins — with a combined 4.95 ERA in 113 innings. And he didn’t make friends on those clubs either, with reports of clubhouse strife left in his wake.

In Chicago he gets a fresh start. It doesn’t come in a park that will do him any favors — Latos and U.S. Cellular Field don’t seem like a great match — but at this point beggars can’t be choosers.