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.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.