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.