Digging deeper into the decline of African-Americans in major league baseball

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Last month we had a series of posts about how fewer African-Americans are playing major league baseball than they used to.  The context of all of this was the annual report in which Richard Lapchick’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida releases numbers which purport to show the decline.

Mark Armour, friend of HBT and baseball researcher extraordinaire, had done some research on this back in the day and was quoted in the New York Times and other places noting that Lapchick’s study overstated the decline because it was counting apples and oranges. Specifically, Lapchick was using data which lumped together U.S.-born blacks and black Latino players to represent overall black participation in the 1960s through the 1980s but excluding black Latino players from today’s game. That’s some bad science, my friend.

Well, Mark has gone back and re-done his research in order to (a) bring it up to date; and (b) control for some various variables. His report can be read at the SABR website today, and it’s absolutely fascinating, regardless of what you think about black participation in baseball.  The two key takeaways:

  • The percentage of African-Americans held steady between 16% and 19% between 1972 and 1996, but has since decreased by more than half. This is still obviously a sharp decline, but nothing approaching the 27% figure Lapchick usually cites; and
  • A non-trivial part of the decline can be attributed to the fact that the two positions which are least-commonly filled by black players — pitcher and catcher — now take up a greater number of roster spots than before due to changing pitcher usage patterns.

The second bit doesn’t change the overall thrust — there are still fewer black players and this is so for reason other than roster changes — but it’s really, really neat and I had not thought about it before.

I highly recommend Mark’s very readable and very insightful article. Both for its own sake and because it throws some actual research into an area that is so often polluted with politics.

Yasiel Puig’s one-game suspension has been rescinded

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MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig‘s one-game suspension has been rescinded. Instead, he will make a charitable donation. The alternative “punishment” was agreed to by Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association.

Puig was suspended one game two weeks ago after flipping off some hecklers at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Puig showed remorse after the game, saying, “I stooped to their level.”

Entering Tuesday night’s action, Puig was batting .251/.331/.458 with 14 home runs and 41 RBI in 287 plate appearances.

Video: Adrian Beltre hits his 450th career home run

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Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre picked a good time to hit his 450th home run. With the game tied 1-1 in the top of the ninth inning, Beltre took the first pitch he saw from closer Cody Allen for a ride, sending it into the left field seats at Progressive Field to break the tie.

The Rangers would go on to win 2-1. Beltre finished 2-for-4. He now has 2,969 career hits, leaving him 31 shy of becoming the 31st member of the 3,000 hit club.

On the season, Beltre is hitting .303/.373/.562 with five home run sand 22 RBI in 102 plate appearances.