Tell Me Something About the Future

In 2017, the fastball rate fell again. It’s been falling for some time now, but in 2017 it fell again, from 56.7% in 2016 to 55.6% last year. There’s some reason to think that the drop in the fastball rate is linked to the increase in baseball’s increasing swinging-strike rate, which in turn is linked to the rise in strikeouts and hit batsmen, and on and on and on. Baseball is a complex system of action and reaction, and small changes can grow large quickly.

So this year, I want to know: what do you think will happen to some of baseball’s key stats, league-wide, in 2018? Maybe you think home-run rates will go up and strikeouts will fall. Maybe you think if home-run rates go up then strikeout rates have to fall. Maybe you think it’s the other way around. I don’t know. But I want to hear from you, and most of all I want to hear why you think certain changes are linked, and others aren’t.

Below are a series of tables featuring 10 years’ worth of data for a few key metrics. I’ve also included percentage changes year over year. Below each table is a poll which asks you to indicate whether you think a given statistic will increase or decrease — and, if so, by how much. Answer each poll, if you wish, and then also indicate in the comments why you voted the way you did on one statistic and not others. In a week or so, I’ll come back to this and we’ll talk about it as a group. Maybe it’ll be interesting. Maybe it won’t! We’ll see.

Fastball Rate

Fastball Rate, 2008-2017
Year FB% FB% Delta
2008 60.7 n/a
2009 59.7 -1.65%
2010 58.7 -1.68%
2011 57.8 -1.53%
2012 57.6 -0.35%
2013 57.8 0.35%
2014 57.7 -0.17%
2015 57.7 0.00%
2016 56.7 -1.73%
2017 55.6 -1.94%

Walk Rate

Walk Rate, 2008-2017
Year BB% BB% Delta
2008 8.7 n/a
2009 8.9 2.30%
2010 8.5 -4.49%
2011 8.1 -4.71%
2012 8.0 -1.23%
2013 7.9 -1.25%
2014 7.6 -3.80%
2015 7.7 1.32%
2016 8.2 6.49%
2017 8.5 3.66%

Strikeout Rate

Strikeout Rate, 2008-2017
Year K% K% Delta
2008 17.5 n/a
2009 18.0 2.86%
2010 18.5 2.78%
2011 18.6 0.54%
2012 19.8 6.45%
2013 19.9 0.51%
2014 20.4 2.51%
2015 20.4 0.00%
2016 21.1 3.43%
2017 21.6 2.37%

Out-of-Zone Swing Rate

O-Swing%, 2008-2017
Year O-Swing% O-Swing% Delta
2008 24.9 n/a
2009 25.1 0.80%
2010 28.7 14.34%
2011 29.9 4.18%
2012 30.3 1.34%
2013 30.4 0.33%
2014 30.7 0.99%
2015 30.6 -0.33%
2016 30.3 -0.98%
2017 29.9 -1.32%

Contact Rate

Contact Rate, 2008-2017
Year Contact% Contact % Delta
2008 80.7 n/a
2009 80.5 -0.25%
2010 80.7 0.25%
2011 80.7 0.00%
2012 79.6 -1.36%
2013 79.4 -0.25%
2014 79.3 -0.13%
2015 78.8 -0.63%
2016 78.2 -0.76%
2017 77.5 -0.90%

Home-Run Rate per Fly Ball

Home-Run Rate per Fly Ball, 2008-2017
Year HR/FB HR/FB Delta
2008 10.1 n/a
2009 10.1 0.00%
2010 9.4 -6.93%
2011 9.7 3.19%
2012 11.3 16.49%
2013 10.5 -7.08%
2014 9.5 -9.52%
2015 11.4 20.00%
2016 12.8 12.28%
2017 13.7 7.03%

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Rian Watt is a contributor to FanGraphs. His work has appeared at Vice, Baseball Prospectus, The Athletic, FiveThirtyEight, and some other places too. By day, he’s a public policy researcher in housing & homelessness. By night he tweets.

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martyvan90
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martyvan90

I’m guessing contact rates are up related to speed of play changes- or maybe I’m just hoping.