With one month nearly complete, run-scoring is slightly up from 2015

AP Photo/Nick Wass

Offense hasn’t been the same, not since 2009. That year, the average major league team scored 4.61 runs per game. In the five years that followed, the average would drop to 4.38, 4.28, 4.32, 4.17, and finally 4.07 in 2014. It went back up to 4.25 last season and stands at 4.27 this year. This data comes from Baseball Reference. Offense tends to increase as the temperatures go up, so we’re likely to see even more run-scoring than the 4.27 per game we’ve seen thus far.

The 0.18 increase in runs per game from ’14 to ’15 — which amounts to about 875 more runs scored over a full season for all 30 teams combined — didn’t have much mystery surrounding it. Hitters just got non-homer hits slightly more often, and hit homers much more often. On a per-game basis, there were 0.03 more doubles, 0.02 more triples, but 0.15 more home runs. The league-wide .405 slugging percentage tied a high-water mark dating back to 2010.

Teams have been focusing more and more on pitchers who throw hard and miss bats often. It’s been obviously true in the bullpen, with Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman having made headlines for the last half-decade. But the rise of young starters like Gerrit Cole, Jose Fernandez, and Noah Syndergaard has also played a big role. This year, teams are averaging 8.13 strikeouts per game, which would set by a wide margin a new season-high, surpassing last year’s 7.71 average. In fact, the average strikeout rate has increased every year dating back to 2008. The league-wide walk rate has also increased substantially thus far, at 3.23 per game. That’s up from 2.90 last year, and it’s the highest mark since 2010.

For a few years, many have wondered how to generate more offense. Some have suggested banning the shift. Others have suggested moving the fences in for some ballparks, which ended up happening at Marlins Park. But it mostly has to do with the baseball “metagame,” or how the game’s participants — players, managers, front office personnel, et. al. — use information beyond the rules to gain an advantage. For instance, the current trend is for teams to utilize analytics and defensive shifts. Because those benefit pitchers and fielders more than hitters, this means more of a focus on pitching and defense, which would be described as baseball’s “meta”. Hitters and the teams that rely more on hitters haven’t been as quick to adapt. Until they do, high velocities and shifts will continue to dominate the game.

Perhaps most interestingly — and this doesn’t necessarily indicate anything meaningful — the top four run-scoring teams this season all belong to the National League: the Cubs (6.26), Cardinals (6.17), Rockies (5.50), and Pirates (5.00). Beyond that, only one American League team sits in the top-eight: the Red Sox (5.00) in fifth, followed by the Giants (4.95), Dodgers (4.95), and Diamondbacks (4.85). A National League team hasn’t led in runs per game since the 1990 Mets (4.78). The two obvious reasons for this is that the AL has the DH rule while the NL has pitchers hitting, and that for a while, AL teams (namely the Yankees and Red Sox) had the largest payrolls, which helped attract better players. The talent “meta” now is in player development, not free agency, so payroll is less correlated with talent these days.

AP source: Nimmo staying with Mets on $162M, 8-year deal

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK – Center fielder Brandon Nimmo is staying with the free-spending New York Mets, agreeing to a $162 million, eight-year contract, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday night because the agreement is subject to a successful physical and no announcement had been made.

A quality leadoff hitter with an excellent eye and a .385 career on-base percentage, Nimmo became a free agent last month for the first time. He was a key performer as the Mets returned to the playoffs this year for the first time since 2016.

The left-handed hitter batted .274 with 16 homers and a team-high 102 runs, a career high. He also set career bests with 64 RBIs and 151 games played. His seven triples tied for most in the National League.

Bringing back Nimmo means New York is poised to return its entire everyday lineup intact from a team that tied for fifth in the majors in runs and won 101 regular-season games – second-most in franchise history.

But the Mets remain busy replenishing a pitching staff gutted by free agency, including Jacob deGrom‘s departure for Texas and Taijuan Walker‘s deal with Philadelphia that was pending a physical.

On the final day of baseball’s winter meetings Wednesday, the Mets completed an $86.7 million, two-year contract with former Houston ace Justin Verlander that includes a conditional $35 million player option for 2025. New York also retained All-Star closer Edwin Diaz last month with a $102 million, five-year contract, and the team has a $26 million, two-year agreement in place with veteran starter Jose Quintana, pending a physical.

Those moves add to a payroll that was the largest in the majors last season. Under owner Steve Cohen, who bought the Mets in November 2020, New York became baseball’s biggest spender this year for the first time since 1989. The Mets’ payroll was $273.9 million as of Aug. 31, with final figures that include bonuses yet to be compiled.

Nimmo was selected by New York with the No. 13 pick in the 2011 amateur draft. He declined a $19.65 million qualifying offer from the Mets last month.

The 29-year-old Wyoming native made his big league debut in 2016. He is a .269 career hitter with 63 homers, 213 RBIs and 23 triples in 608 games. He has an .827 career OPS and has improved his play in center, becoming a solid defender.

Nimmo’s new deal with the Mets was first reported by the New York Post.