It’s Warmer; Now Where’s The Offense?

Last year, offense declined so precipitously that we had to put up with a few million Year Of The Pitcher references. While run scoring had been trending down, the drop off was so significant – a .329 league wOBA in 2009 became a .321 league wOBA in 2010, the lowest mark since 1992 – that it was only reasonable to expect some kind of bounce-back. So, in April, we watched to see how much offense would return to baseball.  It Turns out, the answer was none.

The league average wOBA for the first month of the season was .316. The league average wOBA hasn’t been this low since 1989, which was back when Omar Vizquel was just a rookie breaking into the Majors. Most of the players drafted this week were not alive the last time the game was this heavily slanted in favor of the pitchers. But it was April, and an unseasonably cold April at that. Once the weather warmed up, we’d see some more offense.

In May, the league wOBA held steady at .316. But, the early part of May was still pretty cold in a lot of places, and we really needed to wait for summer to show up – then the ball would start to fly again.

It’s only been a week, but the league wOBA so far in June? .312. Last night it was 90 degrees in Baltimore and four runs were scored. Okay, but the Orioles and A’s can’t hit – fair enough. It was 84 degrees in Miami, and the Marlins ran out a rookie making his Major League Debut; there was one run scored in the entire game, and that rookie allowed just one hit. There was also just one run scored in the Indians-Twins game, two runs in the Padres-Rockies game, and three runs scored in the Giants-Nationals and Mets-Brewers games.

Not only have we not seen more offense with the weather warming up, we’re actually seeing fewer runs scored now than we did in that freezing April, and far fewer runs scored than last year’s vaunted Year Of The Pitcher. We’re not quite back to the Deadball Era, but it’s getting close, and the game isn’t showing any signs of reverting toward the more hitter-friendly days of yester-decade.

So, now, the question is how low is too low? I like low scoring games with good pitchers facing off and every run scoring opportunity feeling like it’s critical, but even I’ll admit that most of my friends think a 1-0 game is a bust because nothing happened for two hours. For all of its worldwide appeal, soccer still hasn’t caught on in the states as a top tier spectator sport in large part due to its low scoring nature. After all, the saying is “Chicks dig the longball”, not “Chicks dig the swinging strike”.

Attendance is down league-wide (though the gap is smaller than it was at the beginning of the year), and I’d have to imagine that if attendance stays down all year, conversations will be held about how to get more people to the ballpark. And, while I’m still speculating here, I’d bet that part of those conversations might include trying to figure out how to get more offense back into the game.

The sport is cyclical, there’s no doubt about that. We don’t know if this trend of decreased run scoring is going to continue or if we’re nearing a bottom. It’s possible that the first few months of 2011 are an aberration, and offense is about to come back to baseball later this summer. By October, this whole article could look stupid.

But it’s no longer cold, it’s no longer early, and it’s no longer just a Year Of The Pitcher. We’re now looking at a pretty obvious and clear trend, and one that is only accelerating. Offense has left Major League Baseball, and I don’t know if anyone knows when it’s going to come back.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
5 years 3 months ago

Bring back the juice.

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
5 years 3 months ago

While it’s hard to know exactly what the cause of the offensive decline is, I’m surprised PED’s weren’t even brought up in this article. My first snarky thought was offense will improve when they invent an easily accessible PED that drug tests don’t pick up.

No, HGH is not terribly accessible.

Telo
Guest
Telo
5 years 3 months ago

See my other comment below. He likely didn’t want the conversation to be about PEDs. Regardless of the reason, offense is down. Is it because there are less PEDs in the game… almost certaintly. But what does it matter?

The Howling Fantods
Guest
The Howling Fantods
5 years 3 months ago

PED help pitchers as well, especially with fatigue. No idea if they affected hitters more than pitchers or vice versa, but if you assume PED are essentially eliminated, then we should be back to a baseline scenario where everyone is on an ‘equal’ footing. I don’t see that baseline being a step above the dead ball era. Baseball and scoring is cyclical, and we are just approaching the bottom.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
5 years 3 months ago

nor is HGH at all helpful in the absence of steroids.

David
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David
5 years 3 months ago

I’m going to have to take issue with you here on one point. I do not think that attendance is down because of the lack of offense. I feel badly for invoking animal spirits to make a point on Fangraphs, but my opinion is that the quality of play has improved significantly from the days of 2000 when league ERAs hovered around 5 and the nightly gun shows kept managers chucking relief fodder into the maw, letting games drag ever onward. I agree with you that a 1968-like season (while a gleeful prospect for a pitching lover such as myself) would constitute an entertainment problem, but we’re nowhere near that point right now.

The attendance problem, I feel, has far more to do with the inclement weather and inflated ticket prices than a preponderance of pitching duels. There’s been a conscious decision on the part of owners, I feel, to price tickets in such a way that maximizes their income at the expense of empty seats (the Yankees come to mind). I’m not sure that this has been successful or whether it’s even true (the Mets might be a good counterexample on both parts), but it’s one explanation.

Here’s a question I’ve been chewing on for a while: has the quality of pitching simply improved? Looking back at the 1960s, the height of the mound and the size and shape of the strike zone were the primary culprits for what occurred. Yet there was also a clade of brilliant pitchers who came of age during that era–and I wonder if there’s something similar is going on now.

Dave, thanks for your work. I appreciate it greatly, enough to unfurl a torrent of words at the unveiling of one of your posts.

Steve
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Steve
5 years 3 months ago

I saw a post recently on a different web site that attributed almost the entire discrepancy in past and present attendance numbers solely to the Dodgers.

Brad Johnson
Member
Member
5 years 3 months ago

And Mets.

Mike
Guest
Mike
5 years 3 months ago

So run scoring is down ~3% since 2009. Does the average fan really notice that? I don’t think decreased run scoring has led to lower attendance. I think a high unemployment rate and poor economy are much more to blame. Compared to the NBA, MLB is thriving.

J.M.
Guest
J.M.
5 years 3 months ago

I’ll take it one step further. I think high unemployment and the poor economy are the reason for the lack of offense.

James
Guest
James
5 years 3 months ago

Agree completely. Not the game, it’s all the expense it takes just to attend. Don’t think attendance has been up in any other major sport either.

Dan
Guest
Dan
5 years 3 months ago

Dave,

Who are the people that are no longer hitting, is it across the board? Are the stars (top 10% of batters) not hitting as well? Is batter WAR also down or is it being made up for in defense, meaning are teams more willing to give up offense for defense? Is it certain positions that see this trend?

j6takish
Guest
j6takish
5 years 3 months ago

I think this has a lot to do with it. The days of Bernie Williams in Center Field and Jermaine Dye in Right, launching home runs, butchering routine plays, are long gone. Teams are willing to look the other way on players with flawed offensive games like Sam Fuld and Austin Jackson because of the value they provide in the field.

NSCEGF
Guest
NSCEGF
5 years 3 months ago

This is the best explanation as far as I am concerned. With the continual refining of defensive statistics (Nyjer Morgan is as valuable as Adam Dunn!), teams are looking at total value, not just offense. At least anecdotally, I have to think that this makes more sense than OMG STERIODS R GONE!!1111!

Jasperdog3329
Member
Jasperdog3329
5 years 3 months ago

This is not a blip, it is real and here to stay for at least a few years. Major factors:
1. Cleaning up PEDs.
2. A wave of young and very talented pitchers.
3. The widespread adoption of the cut fastball.

Dan in Philly
Guest
Dan in Philly
5 years 3 months ago

Yes, yes, and yes.

Just as the slider lead to a sharp decrease in offense when it was developed, it’s kissing cousin has taken over baseball since being popularized (blame Mariano Rivera and Greg Maddux if you must blame anyone).

t ball
Guest
t ball
5 years 3 months ago

Add the increasing importance of defense (including much more emphasis on positioning).

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
5 years 3 months ago

Another observation: the ‘steroids era’ really messed with our baseline of what is normal.

The mound was lowered starting in 1969. Offense jumped drastically beginning in 1994. Steroid penalties began in 2005. If you exclude the 1994-2004 seasons as “artificial,” and look at the remainder of 1969-2011 as “normal,” the MLB average is 4.33 runs/game.

In that context, 2011’s 4.20 runs/game isn’t at all unusual.

GiantHusker
Guest
GiantHusker
5 years 3 months ago

Excellent analysis. I would have said the same if I hadn’t been too lazy to look up the facts.
Baseball games are more interesting to me if there are more baserunners, but not necessarily more scoring. A bases-empty homerun is no more exciting to me than a popup, and less exciting than a groundball with runners on, which could turn into a run-scoring hit or a double play.

joshcohen
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joshcohen
5 years 3 months ago

you need a job writing here yirmiyahu!!!

Peter Gentleman
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Peter Gentleman
5 years 3 months ago

Let’s just ignore the fact that it wasn’t until 2010 that offense plummeted? In 2002, when steroids were rampant, and every team had 5 guys hitting 30 homers, and Barry Bonds had just finished pissing on Roger Marris’ legacy or whatever the previous year, the MLB average OPS was .748. In 2009, 4 years after testing, and at a time when everyone was steroids were gone and baseball was back to normal, and there were no 50 homer guys, MLB average OPS was .751.

It wasn’t until last year that the average OPS plummeted to .728. Long after testing had arrived.

evo34
Guest
evo34
5 years 3 months ago

MLB OPS from 2003-2011:

2003: .754
2004: .763
2005: .749
2006: .768
2007: .758
2008: .749
2009: .750
2010: .728
2011: .709

Could very well be nothing more than a cycle of better pitchers/worse hitters, but the drop is pretty huge.

Telo
Guest
Telo
5 years 3 months ago

Sure, but I think you just think #2 exists because of #1 and #3. There are always great young pitchers.

And #1 is certainly more of a factor than #3.

Matt
Guest
Matt
5 years 3 months ago

Do you really think cleaning up the PEDs is the cause of offense dropping from 2009-2010 and again so far in 2011? Granted, I’m not informed in any way, but I’d have to guess that PEDs are no more prevalent two years ago than today.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 3 months ago

Don’t forget the changeup.

That would make 4 significant contributors to decreasing offense.

Geoff
Guest
Geoff
5 years 3 months ago

Attendance is down because the recession isn’t over and unemployment rates are still at historical highs.

I also think less “good hitters” are coming through the pipeline, not necessarily better pitching.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew
5 years 3 months ago

I agree. Most people, in general, are broke. It’s tough to rationalize paying these ticket prices.

As far as offense is concerned, I am not. I honestly think the product of “baseball” is as good as ever right now with the exciting young players and more raw skill as opposed to juiced up video game numbers which, honestly, get’s pretty lame after a while. Imagine if every hockey game had scores like 15-12. What’s the point anymore? Where’s the artistry and the suspense?

Hunter
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Hunter
5 years 3 months ago

At what point, with the dearth of offense, do small-ball tactics become more correct, if ever?

AJS
Guest
AJS
5 years 3 months ago

This. Tango’s linear weights for the 24 base/out states are based on data from 1999-2002, the heart of the big offensive era. I’m not sure how much they still hold.

sgolder06
Member
sgolder06
5 years 3 months ago

With the downward trend of offense in the last couple years came the “new” (to this era) strategy of saving runs on defense by employing more no-hit CF’s and shortstops. I think the ability of teams to more accurately rate defense and run prevention has had an effect also.

Pierre
Guest
Pierre
5 years 3 months ago

I think this is a big deal. The LF position in partcular has really changed over the last few years. 1B also. Seems like fewer teams use the strategy of “hiding” someone’s glove at first. And you see DH-onlys you can still hit washing out of the AL (makes it easier to get bad glove guys out of the field). I wonder what the league-wide BABIP #s look like over the last few years and how much of the decline in run-scoring can be attributed to higher team DERs. Then you’d have to think about all the HR not being hit by Fuld, Gardner, Bourjos, Kotchman, Jayson Nix, C Patterson, Brendan Ryan, Mathis, etc. Seems to me like guys who look good in jeans have come back into vogue in a pretty big way.

test
Guest
test
5 years 3 months ago

I think the most sensible explanation for the extremely sudden changes in offensive levels are the ball. Consider – MLB has a PED problem and a decent, but hardly Olympic level, testing program. MLB is getting in trouble with congress because congress is run by 60-80 year old men who want the players of their youth to always be the best ever. PEDs are blamed for skyrocketing HR and offense, noisy sportswriters and fans complain endlessly (although the average fan doesn’t much care and shows up in record numbers). Testing might help a little, but the easiest way to make it look like the testing is working is to depress offense. So change the baseball just a little – easy. Offense drops, people stop complaining about records breaking, people give you congrats for a successful crackdown…

MLB, to my recollection, still denies ball differences were behind the 1987 explosion, and other obvious time periods of a lively ball (30s NL, one year when the ball provider changed). I think they only officially acknowledge the WW2 ball sucked due to resource constraints. Last I checked they even deny juicing HR Derby balls, despite the longest HRs ever hit in some parks coming of BP fastballs (physics does not approve of this result). MLB has no credibility on this to my eyes.

My assumption is MLB juiced the ball to raise offensive levels two decades ago, seemingly in 1993 when a big jump in offense happened. Now they have de-juiced the ball, and offense dropped like a stone. Sudden large changes in offensive level should always have a non-player based explanantion (strike zone, equipment, mound height, humidor), because there simply isn’t enough difference in the players year over year. 5 years ago, teams didn’t suddenly try to develop pitching, they have always tried to do that. Every minor league team has separate coaches dedicated to hitting, pitching, and defense – they all try in every area.

Analogy – if PGA Tour driving distances suddenly dropped 10 yards over two years, is the more reasonable explanation: a) players aren’t hitting it as far, they must be focusing on other things, or b) the equipment changed.

Hunter
Guest
Hunter
5 years 3 months ago

There should be a way to test this, yes? I mean, I’m sure there’s lots of folks out there with a 1993 era foul-ball versus a 2011 era foul-ball.

MLB doesn’t have to tell us whether the ball is different or not. Simply get someone to test it.

test
Guest
test
5 years 3 months ago

The problem with this is that old balls are, well, old. Baseballs get less bouncy over time, although I doubt anyone has quantified this effect precisely enough to account for it easily. But I have heard of some studies, a fragment of one is here:

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-71316619.html

Dr. Anthony Galea
Guest
Dr. Anthony Galea
5 years 3 months ago

Don’t worry guys, I’m on it.

Guy
Guest
Guy
5 years 3 months ago

I’d like to see someone do a study that compares the 2006 and 2010 performances of hitters who played in both years (adjusted for aging as necessary). Then do the same thing for pitchers. That should tell us whether we’re seeing some change in talent (and on which side of the ball), or some environmental changes (ball, parks, weather).

PaulScarfo
Guest
PaulScarfo
5 years 3 months ago

Your post seems to be ignoring a few key items:

* You don’t even mention PEDs. Pros have moved on from steroids (w/an emphasis on power) to hgh, etc. Wouldn’t you expect that to help pitching & defense more than homeruns?

* The economy is a lot worse than experts, governments, leading indicators are telling us. Talk to any middle-class family.

* Soccer hasn’t not caught on because of the low scores. It’s a sport played by people with accents — & North Americans have four sports of our own.

Pete
Guest
Pete
5 years 3 months ago

* Since 2000 (the time period I looked at), scoring in April is actually slightly higher than the rest of the season.

Telo
Guest
Telo
5 years 3 months ago

I pretty sure he purposely ignored PEDs. Regardless of the reason, offensive is down, and he didn’t want the discussion to be about steroids.

Not 100% sure about the economy, but I think it was worse 2-3 years ago, and baseball was doing better. So that argument is fairly moot.

Soccer would definitely have more of a following if it was higher scoring. As sad and 5th grade as that sounds. People love action.

PaulScarfo
Guest
PaulScarfo
5 years 3 months ago

Telo, I agree he probably purposely ignored it, which I think is laughable.

And yes, I understand the govt is telling us the economy is better — but from working with / talking to a lot of middle-income families, I don’t see it.

Soccer might have a higher following with more goals — but you could have all games ending 10-9 and most Americans wouldn’t give it shit. It’s ‘foreign’ to most Americans, and we already have 4 sports firmly entrenched here.

Telo
Guest
Telo
5 years 3 months ago

Yea, I’ll definitely concede that soccer will never really catch on in the states because we are saturated with sports that we love and connect with… but I still think it would be slightly more watched if there was more scoring.

NSCEGF
Guest
NSCEGF
5 years 3 months ago

I am fairly certain that studies have determined that HGH either doesn’t, or barely, helps.

Kool
Guest
Kool
5 years 3 months ago

A non-popular opinion?

(Breaks glass)

HAVE AT YOU!

Bookbook
Guest
Bookbook
5 years 3 months ago

http://www.checkswing.com/profiles/blogs/change-to-114-year-old-rule-on

Evidently, they did change rules on allowable bats going into 2010. That must be having some effect, no?

Telo
Guest
Telo
5 years 3 months ago

No one was using the max barrel size bat. To have a max barrel would be close to impossible due to the natural distribution of weight you need throughout the bat. Imagine an aluminum bat – you can make it as big as you want because you are forging the metal and can control the density – it’s hollow. A wooden bat is carved from wood and has a fixed density, so if you want a huge barrel, you’ll need to have a toothpick handle in order to keep it in line with a normal bat weight – 31-34 ounces. Basically impossible, unless you wanted to swing a ridiculously heavy bat.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
5 years 3 months ago

I was assuming this (e.g., that no one was actually affected by the rule change) as well, but couldn’t find any info on it.

Telo
Guest
Telo
5 years 3 months ago

“We’re now looking at a pretty obvious and clear trend, and one that is only accelerating.”

I think the word you are looking for is “decelerating”. Yes, runs are way down, but as you said, baseball is cyclical, and we are approaching (or are at) the bottom of the trough. We are not in a run scoring free fall, where in 3 years teams are going to average 2 runs a game. Let’s not get carried away.

I honestly hope that they don’t tinker too much with the game – but if they do, maybe limit the area (sq. ft) that an outfield is allowed to be, to prevent Petco/Target situations. Make the 5-7 worst hitters parks leave average and you instantly have added 5% of the scoring back, making no appreciable change except to put all ballparks on the same level playing field… pun intended.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
5 years 3 months ago

“maybe limit the area (sq. ft) that an outfield is allowed to be, to prevent Petco/Target situations.”

File under “getting carried away.”

Telo
Guest
Telo
5 years 3 months ago

Really? I always thought it was a little more than quirky that teams are allowed to make their parks any size/shape they wanted to. Plus, I was merely answering Dave’s hypothetical of how to naturally inject more offense into the game. The average fan would literally never notice if you shrunk the several enormous outfields that currently exist down to a league average size – and you would see an appreciable uptick in offense.

Do you have a better suggestion?

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
5 years 3 months ago

“Do you have a better suggestion?”

Mmhmm. Let them build the parks with whatever dimensions they wanna. Just like they always have. Want big ol’ alleys? Deep fences? Closer fences? More foul ground? Less? Whatev. It’s not like they don’t have to hit there (if they build it to suit the pitchers), or pitch there (if it’s a hitters’ haven), too.

(Now we can wait for the absurd “well would you be OK with 200 foot fences? 600?” durp durp durp.)

John DiFool
Guest
John DiFool
5 years 3 months ago

I wouldn’t assume that this is the bottom at all. K’s are at all-time highs, which is worrisome in and of itself, as K rates tend to be historically correlated with lower batting averages (tho they are also a bit correlated with higher HR rates and, paradoxically, higher BABIP’s-but the latter is down 5 points around the leagues). If BABIPs continue to drop (be it because of better positioning or fewer guys who hit it hard), and K rates keep rising, well it could be 1968 all over again.

Chicago Mark
Guest
Chicago Mark
5 years 3 months ago

I don’t want to be insulting or a smart ass. But you sound like a conspiracy theorist test. I agree with jasperdog a lot with thoughts on Cutter and PED’s! I’m not certain about the young pitchers just yet. AND I don’t know why PED’s have affected hitters more than pitchers. Did hitters take them exclusively? There does seem to be a few more pitchers with velo down. But they’re not as rampant as hitters down. FG should and somebody will put together some data on who is doing worse and why based on more GB’s or less HH balls, worse hitting against the cutter, etc. Attendance is down due to the economy. Very simple! How many people do you hear talking about going to the game and decide not because scoring is down? I’m sure it has some small effect. And it could get worse.

Telo
Guest
Telo
5 years 3 months ago

Because homeruns are the most powerful, impactful play in the game, and the most easily enhanced by PEDs. Yes, pitchers were better because of roids, but they didn’t gain nearly as much as Joe Schmo OF who went from hitting 15HR a year to 25-30. If you don’t think steroids had anything to do with the offensive boon in the last 15 years… do you watch baseball?

Chicago Mark
Guest
Chicago Mark
5 years 3 months ago

I don’t want to get into a pissing match with you Telo. I’m sure I watch games AND the game as much as you. Are we saying PED testing took place what 4 years ago and NOW it’s having a major affect on the game? Wouldn’t the major change in offense occur in the first year of testing and not the second or third or….? I’m switching gears a bit but wonder how much PED use or lack thereof is affecting 2011.

PaulScarfo
Guest
PaulScarfo
5 years 3 months ago

@ChicagoMark…

I think the testing is irrelevant.

the mlb testing is a joke: they didn’t pick it up until congress was breathing down their backs, they will / won’t make ‘the list’ public, they refuse to blood-test, etc.

also, with any illicit activity, people who want to break the rules are always ahead of those enforcing those rules. whether it’s you w/a radar detector in your car — or an athete with a masking agent, or whatever.

so i don’t think it’s the testing, just the general trend that athletes are moving off steroids to hgh or whatever’s next.

The Howling Fantods
Guest
The Howling Fantods
5 years 3 months ago

If it’s a joke, then it must not have an effect. If it doesn’t have an effect, then the same rate of PED usage should still be going on. If the same rate of PED usage is going on, and there is a league-wide offensive slump, then the slump can’t be due to the change in PED usage, because there is no PED usage.

Doesn’t work that way.

PaulScarfo
Guest
PaulScarfo
5 years 3 months ago

MLB tests for steroids via urine — not the hgh that would show up in more rigorous blood tests.

Saying that mlb is tough on testing — when from everything we read that players are moving off steroids to methods that the sport won’t test for is the joke — is what I was saying.

test
Guest
test
5 years 3 months ago

I’m definitely positing a conspiracy here – I just don’t think it makes sense to think that over the course of two years, the entire pitching population and hitting population changed enough relative to one another to drive offense down this much. Most of the IP/PA are being taken up by the same players.

Past changes of this magnitude have been explained by better baseballs (1920 or so, also explained by a general strategy change), lively baseballs (1930s NL), bad baseballs (WW2), expanded strikezone/higher mounds (late 1960s), obviously lively baseballs (1987), and then the “steroid era” (apparently 1993-2009), and now the “post steroid” era. It’s OK if most disagree with me, I know my theory (adapted from others of course, this is the internet) sounds a bit crazy at first glance.

Given that steroids were in wide use in the NFL as early as the 1970’s, I see no reason why baseball players suddenly starting taking them en masse in the early 90s. There is a nice narrative (Canseco!), but narratiev are applied in reverse and usually are only useful for telling a story, not getting to the truth. Yes, some hitters clearly benefitted, as did some pitchers. But given that the balance between hitters and pitchers has usually only been substantially changed by the rules/equipment, I tend to think that hasn’t changed.

pft
Guest
pft
5 years 3 months ago

I tend to agree with you and have made some of the same points myself. But let me play devils advocate.

What is MLB’s motivation for suppressing offense with a deader ball and driving down attendance and revenues?. Without a motive the theory is a bit weak.

Fear of Congress? Perhaps they need reduced offense to convince them that the testing program is not a the sham I suspect it is (not good for the brand to have stars testing positive)

Collusion? Mid market and small market owners going after players who play defense and passing on offense, selling a run prevention strategy to their fans . Since the supply of players who can play good defense is more abundant than players who can hit, they are cheaper, and better for the bottom line, espcially if revenue sharing dollars replace the lower attendance revenues.

Market Test? Perhaps to see the fans/teams tolerance for lower offensive games. A positive result would convince AL owners to scrap the DH and save money on the DH (defensive PT players are much cheaper). This would make it easier to implement some of the proposed changes by the new committee if NL and AL had a unified set of rules.

I think it is a combination of all 3. So we have motive, means (control over the mfr specs which are within MLB’s broad official specs, dead ball at one extreme or juiced ball at the other extreme) and opportunity (nobody has access to the testing done on the balls except MLB and their appointed laboratory). All conspiracies require secrecy and a lack of transparency to succeed.

The idea that it is PED’s alone is not believable unless you believe that 80+% of players used PED’s constantly (only 6% tested positive in 2003, but since the test was announced well ahead of time, it’s lower than the real figure, 50% according to some estimates ). Reason is the reduced offense is across the board, just like the increased offense in 1994 and on, and 1987, was across the board, and happened all of a sudden (like everyone decided to take at the same time, and get off at the same time).

It was not just the Barry Bonds that had an upsurge in their stats, but guys like Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, etc. Guys who used to hit 10 HR hit 20, guys who were 20 HR guys became 30-40 HR guys. BABIP shot up suggesting the speed off the bat was higher, which led to more singles as well. Now offense is dropping, and not just from the HR sluggers, guys are hitting fewer singles, and BABIP has fallen significantly.

Also, pitchers were also users of PED’s and I have not seen any reduction in velocity. Tom House claimed steroids were being used in the 1960’s-1970’s, primarily by pitchers. Nolan Ryan is suspected by some as using steroids as he gave credit to Tom House for his training program that allowed him to pitch so long and so effectively.

Today players are also taking creatine which is not banned, and supposedly it also increases muscle mass and strength. It is also suspected as a cause of oblique injuries which occur more frequently since the PED testing. Players are also well paid and presumably can afford designer steroids which can evade detection in a urine test. HGH is not even tested.

Players seem just as big and strong as they did in the pre-testing days. Pitchers are throwing as hard as ever. Batters are still big and strong and using maple bats which are harder and can hit the ball further, yet offense is down. Parks on average are smaller than they were 20 years ago too, yet offense has dropped to 20 year lows..

Has to be the ball, and perhaps the strike zone that is at work here, and not just PED testing.

DO YALL WANT A HAM
Guest
DO YALL WANT A HAM
5 years 3 months ago

If you’re going to give anecdotal evidence of games where the weather was warm and few runs were scored, I’ll give you some anecdotal evidence back: the last two Tigers/Rangers games have had 29 runs on 58 hits. Obviously this proves that warm weather causes increases in offense, and also that ghosts are real.

DO YALL WANT A HAM
Guest
DO YALL WANT A HAM
5 years 3 months ago

*56 hits

Chicago Mark
Guest
Chicago Mark
5 years 3 months ago

@ paulscarfo

I like the way you’re thinking. But isn’t your arguement then against the lack of PED’s as a cause of down offense? That’s what I’m thinking. I hope I got that sentance right.

PaulScarfo
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PaulScarfo
5 years 3 months ago

sorry, I wasn’t clear.

as athletes move off steroids to hgh, etc. that’d help pitchers & defense more than just raw HR-power in hitters, I’d think?

The testing argument seems irrelevant — because if baseball won’t conduct blood tests, it’s pretty much a farce.

Buzzy
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Buzzy
5 years 3 months ago

Here are the problems with a lot of the comments related to either the meaning of the lack of offense in 2011 so far or PEDs:
A)People claim “PEDs result in more HRs” but HRs are not particularly down, at least with respect to the last 4 years. Through May in the AL 708 HRs were hit. In 2010 684 were hit. In 09 779, in 08 682. Thus over the last 4 years 2011 ranks 2nd in HRs and is not an outlier on the low end, at least for the AL.
B)What is different is that babips are lower-2011 has the lowest aggregate babip in the AL over this span for BOTH April and May.

Thus-maybe we are making too much of this. If PEDs cause HRs there is no evidence that there is less PED use so far in 2011 than in 2008. On the other hand We have not had a full menth yet in the AL where collective babip has reached 0.290, so I am not sure 2011 is different than 2010, 2009, 2008…sure 2003 is different, but in the last handful of years an argument can be made that the lack of offense means nothing.

joshcohen
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joshcohen
5 years 3 months ago

without commenting on your thesis, there is a flaw in your logic. you are saying that PED use causes HR and only HR totals provide evidence of PED use. someone who would make the claim “PED use contributes to HR totals” would not use HR totals as sole evidence. they’d point out that PED use would raise ISO numbers by turning fly balls into doubles. they would further narratorize the point by saying something on the lines of “think of papi or manny banging the ball off the wall at fenway…PED use turns fly outs into doubles which impacts offensive output”.

Buzzy
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Buzzy
5 years 3 months ago

That was not meant to be my thesis-it was in response to posters above who made such claims. The fact is the sample is way to small to say that there is anything here, and infact the HR numbers+babip totals paint a picture that does not support either a relationship to PEDs (or lack thereof) or that anything is really going on in the first place.

NoScoutHere
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NoScoutHere
5 years 3 months ago

Last night, half of the teams ( 15/30 ) scored 5 runs or more and don’t tell the KC Royal fans that defense has gotten better :)

Before PEDs there wasn’t as much scouting with Video, Player stats, and quality coaching at the same level as the post PED era. All of this favors the defense and pitching over hitting.

I watched what the Rays defense alignment did with Jose bautista and how the teams following that have copied the same tactic.

This may be a hot topic come September if TV ratings are down.

woodman
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woodman
5 years 3 months ago

Something that seems to be underrated is that there’s simply a bigger group of talented young arms that have come up than there is talented hitters. More emphasis on good fielding and less on pure hitters could be another factor.

Brandon
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Brandon
5 years 3 months ago

Don’t forget the increased emphasis on generating ground balls. This is the obvious foil to high slugging hitters — balls on the ground can’t leave the park. I don’t have the data at hand to know if GB rates are really increasing or if it’s just TALK about ground balls rates that has increased…

Mr. wOBAto
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Mr. wOBAto
5 years 3 months ago

A few more factors would include the fact that the league expanded by 4 teams in 4 years which meant that Brian Bohanon got 77 starts in 3 years as an awful pitcher in the late nineties, adding a total of 48-52 pitchers to a pool of 336 (going from 26 13 man rotations to 30 13 man rotations) is an increase of 7.5% that is a lot of AAAA players the kind of pitchers the best of the best(Bonds et al) would feast on.

What I would like to see is how HR or run distribution/run production was spread among all MLB hitters, intuitively I would think that the best pitchers(Maddux, Pedro) and the best hitters(Bonds, Bagwell) benefited from each expansion.

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
5 years 3 months ago

I honestly think it’s a bit of somewhat random variance. The talent distribution in MLB, and in most sports, is top heavy-that is, a significant portion of the overall talent in concentrated in a relatively small number of players. If you have a few top level hitters struggling/hurt while the best pitchers in the game are healthy and performing well, it’s enough to shift the dynamic.

Of the best hitters in the game in 2009:

Albert Pujols has lost 80 points from his wOBA.
Joe Mauer has been on the DL
Derrek Lee is becoming old and useless
Hanley Ramirez is playing with a hurt back, and in an epic slump
Alex Rodriguez (while still very good) is aging and declining
Chase Utley has spent a ton of time on the DL and isn’t hitting yet
Jason Bay has turned into Yuni Betancourt with the bat
Adam Dunn stubbornly refuses to be a successful DH
Ryan Howard is having a career worst year to date
Derek Jeter is well into the decline phase of his career
Kendrys Morales. Nothing else need be said
Ryan Zimmerman is on the DL
Brad Hawpe can’t hit outside of Coors
Dan Uggla is in an all-time epic slump
Justin Morneau has become a below average hitter

That’s a very tidy list. On the order of breakout hitters, we’ve had a Jose Bautista, Matt Kemp, Matt Joyce, Jay Bruce, Asdrubal Cabrera, Seth Smith, and Mike Stanton, but it’s not making up for the number of great hitters who are declining, struggling, and hurt.

You should expect numbers to rebound, to certain extents, as Adam Dunn, Hanley Ramirez, Justin Morneau, and Dan Uggla regress toward career norms. When Chase Utley, Ryan Zimmerman, and Joe Mauer (those guys have been replaced by crappy hitters) are healthy and hitting as you’d expect them to, it will help. There will always be star players who are declining, but to have so many concurrent with several young hitters slumping and injured is having a deliterious effect on offense league-wide.

That’s my crack-brained theory

michael borne
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michael borne
5 years 3 months ago

The tigers are hitting…

my fantasy team has 40 home runs in the last 16 days. I have hanley injured and ARod shooting blanks. I think the cutter and ped do something, but good players to produce results.

DonM
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DonM
5 years 3 months ago

Could the lower offense be a result of greater equality between teams? Has defense improved? Has there been an increase in double plays? No team is at .600 this year, a rare occurrence. Is there more good pitching spread among more teams? Low scoring games with great defensive plays are fun to watch.

Gary York
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Gary York
5 years 3 months ago

I’ve seen increased and at times extreme positional shifting for certain hitters such as Jack Cust, no doubt occasioned by spray charts.

Is it possible to do a statistical study of this? I don’t know if there are any records of positional shifts such as this.

If not, you could track this indirectly. If the BABIP is directly related to positional shifting on players with extreme one-field hitting tendencies, players who hit to all fields should show less of a drop in BABIP than extreme pull hitters.

If it turns out that there is no significant difference, that doesn’t eliminate positional shifting as an option–spray hitters could also be predictable as to where they hit certain pitches. That sort of data would take a lot more legwork, obviously.

Before any conclusions can be drawn about BABIP changes, however hard the legwork, I believe that positional shifting has to be either eliminated as, or demonstrated to be, a significant factor.

RA
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RA
5 years 3 months ago

It ain’t the young pitching. A few years ago a pitcher that gave up a hit an inning and had a 2-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio would have a 4.50 ERA. Now, he has an ERA below 4.00. It’s the end of steroids.

I also think that MLB juiced the ball after the strike year to increase attendance. It remained juiced until the past couple of years when the league wanted to get far, far away from the steroid controversy and took out the crazy ball in the center of the baseball.

If you think the juiced ball is such an outlandish idea, read Tango’s explanation for the sudden jump in home runs in 1987. There is some data to support it.

yibberat
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yibberat
5 years 3 months ago

A true quandary — hitters are no longer on speed, everyone is on the DL, and attendance is down.

Perhaps the solution is for MLB teams to have a “Greenies Day”. It might not change the offense stats on the field — but perhaps the crowd won’t care so much either.

Sorbil
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Sorbil
5 years 3 months ago

One change that is probably just having impact over the past couple years is the availability of advanced monitoring data in several areas. Umpires are now monitored on ball/strike calling, and this has likely reduced the significant variances that previously existed between umpires in how liberal their strike zones were and led to calling strikes more uniformly. This may be helping pitchers and may be hurting certain particular hitters, though I haven’t analyzed any data.

Another area is fieldling, where we have new data supporting new analytical methods. Clearly this has led most teams to place renewed emphasis on fielding over hitting, which hurts both their own offense and the opponents’.

MLB teams, more than the Saber community, has grasped the value of GB pitchers over SO/BB ratios. A very large percentage of the young pitchers coming up over the past 3 years or so have GB rates of 45% or higher, and if they can get to 50% in today’s environment they can get by with what were considered just a few years ago to be sub-par SO rates (under 5 per 9). FIP undervalue these pitchers

LD rates seem to be down for many hitters from a few years ago. Even a small change in LD rate can impact BABIP. Possible reasons include more GB pitchers, possibly some of the other reasons noted above as well, possibly changes in pitch selection

Tim
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Tim
5 years 3 months ago

If the ball was really de-juiced wouldn’t there be more players complaining about balls that they felt were gone but then just died? Or players saying the balls feel different? I think a combination of talented young pitchers, and the crackdown on PEDs and amphetamines have effected the everyday player who may be a little more sluggish hurting the ability to catch up to that 95 mph

Squads
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Squads
5 years 3 months ago

Yeah I will jump in with that school of thought on PEDs. I don’t think there was a massive contingent of players sticking needles in their butts and getting huge, but I would be willing to bet there were all sorts of borderline “supplements” that you can buy mail order or at the corner GNC that provide a nice energy boost to get you through the long baseball season. Players have to be alot more careful about those types of supplements now, so drink your coffee and go grind out another game. Also, HGH was used oftentimes to help aid the healing process for injured players. This is also no longer an option for players, so they have to work through injuries the natural way.

A few other factors that could be contributing to the general offensive ineptitude:
bigger parks opened in recently – Target/Citi field
pitchers adjusting quicker than hitters – it seems like starting pitchers are rolling out new pitches every year and taking advantage of technology to learn of and expose hitter’s weaknesses…this is really just a hunch on my part.

The Nicker
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The Nicker
5 years 3 months ago

Hop over to the Biz of Baseball site and you can find that as of Friday, attendance is down less than 1% from last year.

Taking into account the mass exodus from Dodger Stadium and Citi Field, and the poor weather, and attendance is essentially the same.

Not that this isn’t an interesting topic, but the down attendance (at least from last year) is a false narrative.

JP
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JP
5 years 3 months ago

I’m on board with a 1-0 game in two hours. It’s the 1-0 games that still take three or three-and-a-half hours that make me question why I bothered to come to the ballpark.

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