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.
In a show of good sportsmanship, the Cleveland Cavaliers have moved their championship ring ceremony start time back to 7 PM EDT to avoid conflicting with the start of the World Series opener on Tuesday. The Indians are set to host Game 1 at Progressive Field on October 25, while the Cavs will open the 2016-17 NBA season against the New York Knicks at the nearby Quicken Loans Arena, preceded by a ceremony recognizing their first franchise title.
In the event that the Indians clinch a World Series title, it’ll be the first time Cleveland has seen two championships in the same calendar year since 1948, when the Indians’ last Series title came on the back of the Cleveland Browns’ All-American Football Conference championship against the Buffalo Bills. The same was true for the Dodgers in 1988, when their World Series win against the Athletics coincided with the Los Angeles Lakers’ 11th championship, while Chicago has yet to see a multi-title year among their NBA, NHL, NFL, and MLB franchises.
Regardless of the Series’ outcome, Cleveland fans will get the chance to revel in one long-awaited championship win on Tuesday before watching the beginning of a nail-biting conclusion to another long-awaited playoff run. The Cavaliers are scheduled for 7 PM EDT on October 25, while the Indians will take the field at 8 PM EDT.
If any team can turn a six-day rest period into an advantage, it’s the Indians. The club polished off their pennant race with another injured starter and an overtaxed bullpen, as Trevor Bauer exited in Game 3 of the ALCS with a laceration on his right pinky finger, leaving the bullpen to shoulder 16 innings through the last three games of the series. On Friday, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reported that injured starter Danny Salazar could rejoin the rotation in the World Series, though he’ll need at least one more simulated game before Terry Francona determines whether or not he’s fit to return for the team’s last postseason push.
Bauer, who has been under the close watch of hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, told the press that he feels confident that he’ll be ready for a World Series start when the final showdown commences on Tuesday. Keeping the wound bandaged is not an option during games, and Bauer said that Dr. Graham decided against additional stitches to keep the laceration from re-opening. Instead, they’re banking on extra days of rest to heal the cut naturally. Should Francona pencil the right-hander into the lineup for Game 3 or 4, he’ll have had 10-11 days to rest his finger between starts — just a hair under the seven games Bauer said he was prepared to pitch.
Salazar, too, has been preparing for a World Series showdown. He’s scheduled to pitch three innings of a simulated game this weekend, and if it goes well, it could land him a spot in the starting rotation alongside Bauer, Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, and newcomer Ryan Merritt. Salazar has been sidelined since September 9 with a right forearm strain, and even after undergoing a rigorous throwing program over the last several weeks, any kind of comeback is expected to be curbed by a strict innings limit. Francona has been understandably tight-lipped about his World Series roster, but he hasn’t yet nixed the idea of utilizing Salazar out of the rotation, provided the right-hander remains healthy for another week or so.
The Indians have had to remain flexible throughout their seven-game playoff run after weathering injuries to Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, pushing their rotation through several games on short rest and relying heavily on Andrew Miller and Cody Allen‘s one-two punch in the ‘pen to clinch more than a few postseason victories. While history doesn’t always favor the first team to secure their league’s pennant race, an extra week of rest should only benefit Cleveland’s beleaguered pitching staff.