By In Stuff

2000 vs. 2017

You have no doubt heard that Major League Baseball players set a record this year for most home runs hit in a season. Alex Gordon was the guy who hit the homer that broke the record set in 2000, an irony that we can save for another day.

The home run explosion started in mid-season 2015 — we can practically pinpoint the day. Let’s go with August 3, 2015. That day, the Giants and Braves hit eight home runs, the Rangers and Astros hit five, The Arizona Diamondbacks hit five, Yangervis Solarte hit two home runs, Scooter Gennett homered (before we knew he was a legend) and so on. That day didn’t particularly stand out at the time … but the home run thing has been on ever since.

The overwhelming number of homers has basically led to people asking WHY. Best I can tell, three theories have pushed their way to the top:

1. The baseballs are bouncier … harder … juicier … more aerodynamic … it’s about the baseballs.

2. The hitters — faced with an epidemic of strikeouts and defensive shifts scientifically designed to place a fielder where they like to hit the ball — determined the best (perhaps only) way to counter was to swing hard and hit the ball in the air and over fences. Thus the constant talk of “launch angles.”

3. Baseball players have again taken to powerful performance-enhancing drugs … drugs that are chemically advanced and undetectable by baseball’s testing. The New York Times dove head first into this one this week.

Each of the theories speaks to something in our human psyche. The juiced baseball theory makes sense because of the suddenness of this home run eruption. It seems logical that if it was anything else, the homer thing wouldn’t have just taken off in the middle of a season. It would have been hard to coordinate something to just blow up all at once like that.

The hitter strategy theory makes sense because it feeds our hunger for human ingenuity. We can all see that strikeouts are way up; records have been set every single year since 2008. That’s right. The strikeout record was set in 2008, broken in 2009, broken again in 2010, then ’11, then ’12, then ’13, and every year since then. What were hitters to do? They were facing more pitchers throwing harder and with nastier bite than at any time in the history of the game. And just putting the ball in play more seemed to be no answer because of shifting defenses. The strategy: Exit velocity + Launch angle = best chance for success.

And the drug theory speaks to the cynical side of us. They fooled us once before, back in the 1990s and 2000s, when we naively cheered the historic home run exploits of McGwire and Sosa and the rest. I really did not like the New York Times story for many reasons, but it spoke to the uncertainty many have about the authenticity of the games we watch. Home runs are way up. The last time home runs went way up, it led to congressional hearings, perjury charges and endless but not particularly fun Hall of Fame arguments.

But … for a moment, I don’t want to talk about the reasons behind this home run thing. I want to talk about the home run thing itself.

Start with this: The home run record was set in 2000. That year hitters mashed 5,693 home runs.

The home run number at this precise moment — Sunday morning, September 24, 2017 — is 5,876. So the record has not been just passed, it has been shattered. There are still almost 100 games left to play, which means you can expect another 200 or so homers — 6,000 is happening, and 6,100 is still very much in play. Sort of a Roger Maris like thing multiplied by 100.

OK, but where are the home runs coming from.

Well, first, let’s ask a trivia question. Think about this: In which year — 2000 or 2017 (so far) — did more players hit home runs? What is your gut reaction?

I’ll tell you my immediate response before giving you the answer: I thought for sure it would be 2017. Well, for one thing, more home runs have been hit in 2017 so it makes sense that more players have hit home runs. But, even more to the point, the home runs thing seems much more evenly spread out, right? That’s why more people in and around baseball are coming up with universal theories — the ball is different, hitters, in general, are taking a different strategy, launch angle data has changed the way batters swing, etc. — rather than coming up with more individualized theories. It sure feels like EVERYONE is hitting home runs rather than just a few big-time sluggers. So I certainly would have guessed that more players in 2017 have hit home runs.

Of course, based on that paragraph, you now know that 2017 isn’t the right answer. And so maybe because you know that — or maybe you already had this in your mind — you have a theory about why more players hit home runs in 2000. Without downplaying the role of PEDs — do that and you get a flood of angry responses — everyone knows that wasn’t the only thing going on in 2000. The strike zone was smaller. The pitchers were not getting as many swings and misses. Coors Field was ridiculous. And that might explain why more players hit homers in 2000.

Only, that’s not right either. More hitters did not hit home runs in 2000.

What we have here is an astonishing fact.

Exactly 517 different players hit home runs in 2000. And so far in 2017, exactly 517 different players have hit home runs.

That’s remarkable, right? Well, even if it isn’t remarkable it is fun … this provides a wonderful opportunity to figure out the nature of these two seasons. If the same number of hitters homered, how do 2000 and 2017 compare? Where were those home runs concentrated? How is this home run barrage different that home run barrage?

First thing that is easy to forget: There was no single crazy home run hitter in 2000. This year, of course, Giancarlo Stanton has 57 home runs, and Aaron Judge, after his two-homer game on Sunday, is up to 48. I think a lot of us had written off Judge as the league MVP because of his extended slump; Jose Altuve seemed to have the award all but wrapped up. Now, it’s a race again.

In any case, only one player in 2000 hit 50 home runs — and that was Sammy Sosa, and he hit EXACTLY 50. It’s odd that 2000 turned out to be the biggest home run year ever because it was the one year when no individual went home run crazy. In 1998, of course, McGwire hit 70 home runs, Sosa hit 66, Ken Griffey hit 56, heck Greg Vaughn hit 50. The next year, Sosa and McGwire again topped 60 homers. In 2001, of course, Barry Bonds hit 73 homers, but Sosa hit 64, Luis Gonzalez hit 57 (!), Alex Rodriguez hit 52. And in 2001, A-Rod hit 57 and Jim Thome hit 52.

But in 2000, Sosa led baseball with 50 homers (something he did not do in any of the three years he hit 60-plus homers). So if there was no outrageous

In any case, with no insane home runs years to talk about — where were those home runs bunched up in 2000?

Answer: Between 40 and 49.

That year, 16 different players hit at least 40 home runs. That is quite the record — in 1996, 17 different players hit 40-plus homers — but it’s close enough and it’s WAY more than this year. So far this year, only four players — Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, the fantastically underappreciated J.D. Martinez, and the recently added Khris Davis (who is NOT Chris Davis)– have hit 40 homers. There is a pileup between 37-39 — Bellinger, Smoke, Gallo, Cruz, Encarnacion etc. — so there might be a couple more added. But let’s focus on the moment.

In 2000, 698 of the homers — roughly 12% of the homers hit that year — came from those extreme power hitters. This year, only three percent of the homers have come from those 40-plus homer hitters.

What does that mean? Well, again, let me just throw the information out there and you can decide what it means

In 2000, 31 different players hit between 30 and 39 homers for about 18% of the home run total. It’s almost exactly the same this year — 30 different players are in the 30 homer club making up a little more than 17% of the home run total

I’m going to skip the 20-homer club for just a minute.

In 2000, 115 players hit between 10 and 19 homers, this year it’s 122. Slight advantage this year.

In 2000, 300 different players hit between 0 and 9 homers. This year 281 players have done it. Slight advantage for 2000.

So, to recap — there were more big home run hitters in 2000 and the rest is rougly the same … well, except for those hitters who have between 20 and 29 home runs.

 

In 2000, 55 players hit between 20 and 29 homers. That’s a lot historically.

But it is NOTHING compared to now. This year, EIGHTY different players are in the 20-homer club, and that’s a record. Those players are making up almost one-third of all the home runs hit in 2017. And that’s the difference between now and then. That year, 2000, was defined by the mega-sluggers, the Sosas, the  Bonds, the Glauses, the Bagwells.

And this year’s home run madness is driven by mid-range power hitters, the Zack Cozarts, the Tim Beckhams, the Justin Bours, the Will Myerses and the Matt Davidsons.

Take a look just at the No. 23. In 2000, only two players hit 23 home runs,  Dante Bichette and Albert Belle. That is actually a perfect illustration of what 23 home runs used to mean. Bill James talks about how baseball numbers place a mental image in your mind — you just instinctively KNOW the difference between a .290 hitter and a .278 hitter. You can visualize them both in your mind. Well, 23 homers offer the image of a once-dangerous slugger nearing the end; think Will Clark in 1998, Gary Gaetti in 1996, Willie McCovey in 1975, Willie Mays in 1968 and so on.

This year, SEVEN players have hit 23 home runs, and this does include Albert Pujols, who certainly fits the above profile. But it also includes Mookie Betts, Daniel Murphy, Mark Trumbo, Mike Zunino, Carlos Santana and the aforementioned Zack Cozart. There are a lot of different stories in that group.

THIRTEEN different players have hit 22 home runs this year from Javy Baez to Trevor Story, and that’s a record number.

This is true up and down the line. An astonishing 110 different players have hit between 17 and 29 home runs this season, and that doesn’t just beat the old record, it destroys the old record (the record of 86 was set last year). This is what’s happening — everyone not named Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton or Jose Peraza has become a home run hitter. In years past, yes, the sluggers slugged, but there was still a small place in the game for players who didn’t hit for power but maybe could steal some bases or play great defense or hit for a high average or SOMETHING. Now, even if you can do those things, you have to hit some homers.

In 1980, 29 everyday players — players who qualified for the batting title — hit five or fewer homers.

In 1990, again, 29 everyday players hit five or fewer homers.

In 2000, after the homer explosion, just ten everyday players hit five or fewer homers.

This year there are three. And if Jose Peraza manages a homer in the last week, it will be two.

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35 Responses to 2000 vs. 2017

  1. Rob Smith says:

    My best example of the HR craziness is Kurt Suzuki. Playing in a little less than half of the Braves games, covering 291 Plate Appearances, he has hit 18 homeruns at Age 33. His previous best was 15 HRs in 614 PAs at age 25. Roughly stated, at his current homerun rate, had he played most of the season, he’d be looking at a 36 HR year. Kurt Suzuki. I don’t know the “why”, but Suzuki certainly doesn’t look like a jacked up roider. But I’ll say this. Put the ball in the middle of the plate on him, and it sure seems like he isn’t missing them much & he’s also hitting them at a launch angle that is ideal such that the ball gets over the fence. Asked about his success, he and several other Braves talk about their hitting coach Kevin Seitzer & the “prep” and “work” he’s been doing with them. To me, the “juiced ball” theory always feels a little like a conspiracy theory. I’m going with launch angle, and possibly better prep work by the teams to adjust and be ready to hit what’s comning each game.

    • TWolf says:

      When Seitzer was the batting coach of the Royals only a few years ago, his recommended approach was to go with the pitch and hit the ball up the middle rather than to swing early and pull the ball. While Seitzer was generally popular with most players, Ned Yost wanted more home run production from such players as Alex Gordan, Eric
      Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas. Seitzer was subsequently fired and replaced with a succession of hitting coaches, including George Brett, who were unsuccessful in unlocking the power potential of those and other players. Until this year the Royals were at or near the bottom in home runs hit. This year they have exceeded their modest team
      home run record and rank in the middle of the pack. Moustakas has set a team record with 37. Frankly, I doubt that Seitzer has changed his recommended approach. That was the type of hitter he was when he played.

      • Rob Smith says:

        He didn’t change, but oddly it seems to have helped Freddie Freeman and Suzuki with their power. Focusing on hitting up the middle sometimes really just helps with squaring up the ball. When you hit up the middle, you stay on the ball longer. That’s just a solid approach.

  2. AdamE says:

    I have noticed something that nobody is writing about. A few years ago guys were shattering bats all the time. Not I’m not talking about just breaking bats I mean bats flying into toothpick sized pieces across the infield. The last few years however home runs have went up and bats don’t seem to explode when they make contact with the ball. Coincidence? Maybe, and it could well be that a ball change affected the way bats break but at some point don’t you have to look at the bats as part of the home run surge?

  3. John Autin says:

    I’m sad to see Joe perpetuate the myth that “The home run explosion started in mid-season 2015.” The surge was well underway in the FIRST HALF of 2015:
    — For April-June, HR per PA were up by 11% over the 2014 full-year rate.
    — That’s a significant increase: the highest since 2000, and higher than either half of this year vs. last year.

    Now, it’s true that the increase doubled in the 2nd half of 2015; HR/PA for July-end were up +23% from 2014. But if you compare in-season rates for the first 3 months and last 3 months, such discrepancies are not uncommon. Large “mid-season” changes were seen in 2000 (from +12% to -6%), 1993 (+16% to +27%), 1990 (+14% to +2%), 1985 (+3% to +17%), 1976 (-8% to -24%), and many other years.

    There is no statistical significance to the mid-season jump in 2015. It’s just part of a 3-year trend in which the average 3-month rate is 13% above the prior year:
    2015 First 3: +11% (vs. prior full-season rate)
    2015 Last 3: +23%
    2016 First 3: +13%
    2016 Last 3: +15%
    2017 First 3: +9%
    2017 Last 3: +9%

    That one outlier just isn’t meaningful, absent other evidence of non-random influence. The surge started in 2015, period.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I don’t think your numbers back up the point that second half numbers are usually significantly higher than first half numbers. Quite the opposite. 2015 is the only year where the numbers backup that point. And you are right that 2015 was up significantly in the first half of 2015…. but it’s also true that the increase doubled in the second half. So you can say that the increase started in 2015, but it’s not wrong to say that it accelerated rapidly in the second half of 2015.

      • John Autin says:

        I didn’t say that “second half numbers are usually significantly higher than first half numbers.” I said mid-season CHANGES are not uncommon — i.e., second half having a much different rate than the first. Could be higher or lower.

        I cited 5 other seasons where the second half had a similar abrupt change from the first. I’ve never heard anyone claim that the ball was changed in the middle of those seasons; never heard anyone talk about those rate changes at all. Only 2015, because the rate has continued to rise to the current record level — and because most people don’t understand statistical significance, or bother to study the actual numbers.

  4. SB M says:

    Doesn’t this observation:

    “In 2000, 55 players hit between 20 and 29 homers. That’s a lot historically.

    But it is NOTHING compared to now. This year, EIGHTY different players are in the 20-homer club, and that’s a record. Those players are making up almost one-third of all the home runs hit in 2017”

    speak to a 4th factor, which is the behavior of GMs? Are teams more likely to employ one of these moderate HR hitters now, instead of a better defender or speedster, etc?

  5. invitro says:

    I think home runs per batter faced is probably more useful in seeing how baseball is changing than in raw HR totals. The 2017 number of .0330 HR/BF is indeed the new record by a mile, but the 2016 number of .0304 was also a record, beating the .0299 from 2000.

    It is indeed strange that the HR/BF record is happening at the same time that the SO/BF record continues to be broken (for the 10th consecutive year). Or is it? It HAS happened before. The last run of SO/BF records was in 1955-1965. A new SO/BF record was set each of those years, as SO/BF climbed from .1069 in 1954 to .1571 in 1965. But HR/BF records were also set in 1955, 1956, and 1961.

    Also, in 1995-2001, while the HR/BF record was set in three of those years, the SO/BF record was also set in four of those years.

    I don’t have an explanation, but I think anyone studying HR’s should also study SO’s. I have a small belief that the ball is being thrown harder, which translates into the ball being hit farther, due to conservation of momentum. I’m a little sad that Joe didn’t even include this in his three possible reasons, but hey, Joe isn’t a scientist. Does anyone else buy my theory? Here it is in a nutshell:

    (Theory) 4. There are more home runs because pitchers are throwing the ball harder. There are probably other factors, but this is the main factor.

    I also noted that we might again be on the verge of a HBP/BF record. As probably everyone here knows, HBP in general declined from the beginnings of baseball until the 1950’s. They started going back up then, to a high of .00644 HBP/BF in 1968, the highest rate since 1919. This rate then went down again, until a low of about .004 in 1980-1984. In 1986, it started going up, rapidly, again, all the way to .01011 in 2001, the most since 1901. It went down quickly after that, down to .00811 in 2012. But it is .00956 so far in 2017. (I think the reason for this is also mainly that the ball is being thrown faster, and batters have less time to get out of the way.)

  6. invitro says:

    Silly trivia time: of the 98 players who have a 100 OPS+ or better (minimum 3.1 PA/G), all but two of them have at least 10 HR. Name the two. Bonus: there was one such player (out of 99) in 2000; name him.

    • BearOn says:

      I am going to guess Pedroia is one (assuming he meets the PA minimum), as I know he only has 7 HR and has been hitting well when he plays….

      • invitro says:

        Pedroia is a good call. He’d be there, except he is about 30 PA short of the PA minimum.

        • DB says:

          I guessed Mauer but no way was I getting Cesar Hernandez without help.

          • invitro says:

            I would’ve guessed DJ LeMahieu, with 8 HR, as he’s been on one of my fantasy teams all year, has a .311 BA, and even has enough walks to have a .377 OBP. But his OPS+ is only 96… I suppose Denver has cut into that.

  7. Richard says:

    With regards to Joe’s suggested reasons and decidedly interesting analysis, I’d wager that the rise in the 20 “HR Club” could be that the “mid range” power hitters learned about “exit velocity” and “launch angle” and, with the cooperation and encouragement of their hitting coaches, adjusted their swings?

    Players with no power wouldn’t be helped by the knowledge, players with power know it already.

  8. Trast66 says:

    The increase is likely partially due to a combination of the three theories Joe writes of, as well as reasons mentioned in the comments. To not include PED’s as a major factor is illogical and naive.

  9. Kuz says:

    Where can I get the raw data on home runs/season on ALL mlb players ( not just league leaders) for 2000 and 20117? I want to do a distribution of home runs/player for 2000 vs. 2017 to graphically compare 2000 vs. 2017.

  10. Zeke Bob says:

    I think it’s mainly a deliberate effort on the part of teams.

    Speaking as a Rangers fan, it’s really getting on my nerves too. Runner on third and two outs, there are just two players on that team I trust to possibly get a hit: Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre. Everyone else is a crapshoot.

    It’s as if they are modeling the whole team on three true outcome poster child Joey Gallo, who hits like a poor man’s Adum Dunn (fewer doubles and worse OBP). We have three everyday players hitting below Mario Mendoza’s career average of .215: Gallo (.209), Rougned Odor (.205) and Mike Napoli (.193). But we hit homers, whoop-de-do. The top 9 homer hitters on the team are averaging 23.3 compared to 18 last year and have already flown way past last year’s top 9’s total (210 to 165). Of course, they also have surpassed that group in strikeouts 1,112 to 811 while only outwalking them 422 to 282. Seven regulars have over 100 Ks compared to four last season, against power pitchers (who seem ever more prevalent) this team is an offensive disaster. I don’t have stats on this, nor am I sure how to look it up, but all too often it feels like this approach just lets the Rangers win more against pitchers they would be beating anyway while rendering them ineffectual when facing strikeout pitchers.

    Sorry for the rant, this was just a frustrating season to watch.

    • invitro says:

      “Runner on third and two outs, there are just two players on that team I trust to possibly get a hit: Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre. Everyone else is a crapshoot.” — I’m trying to learn bb-ref’s advanced features a little more, and so decided to check this one out. 🙂

      The Rangers are indeed craptastic in this situation. They’re hitting a woeful .215 with a runner on third base and two outs. I didn’t check any other team except my favorite team: the Astros, who are batting a lusty .328 in this situation.

      The Rangers’ .215 is 53 hits in 246 AB, so any particular player is a very small sample. Beltre is at the top, with 4 H in 13 AB (.308). Gallo is tied with Beltre, also 4-of-13. Andrus is 7-of-30 (.233). Odor is 8-of-39 (.205); he’s the player with the most AB in that spot. One bright side: the Rangers have a lot of walks in this situation: 40 of them, to get a .328 OBP.

      Some of the top Astros with runner on third & two outs: Springer is a lovely 11-of-22 (.500), Correa is 11-of-23, Gurriel is 10-of-29. *All* of the Astros’ regulars hit over .300 in this situation except for Bregman (7-of-27, .259) and poor Carlos Beltran (5-of-27, .185), who hopefully won’t get more than about 5 AB in any Astros postseason series :(. It’s a stunning comparison: the Rangers slash line is .215/.328/.370; the Astros’ is .328/.405/.587!

      Source: I went to the team batting split pages for the two teams (https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/split.cgi?t=b&team=TEX&year=2017 for Texas), then scrolled down to the “Bases Occupied” table to get the team totals. Click on “on 3rd, 2 out” to see the individual player results.

      • Zeke Bob says:

        Thanks for looking that up. I checked in a little more too.

        FYI – the Rangers’ hitting coach Anthony Iapoce started before the 2016 season. Here are a few statistical batting notes over their past five seasons (league ranking in parentheses):

        Tm BA R H HR BB SO OPS+
        2013 Tex .262 (7) 730 (8) 1465 (7) 176 (8) 462 (21) 1067 (29) 100 (T10)
        MLB Avg .253 675 1403 155 488 1224 97
        2014 Tex .256 (9) 637 (17) 1400 (14) 111 (27) 417 (24) 1162 (23) 92 (22)
        MLB Avg .251 659 1387 140 467 1248 97
        2015 Tex .257 (10) 751 (3) 1419 (10) 172 (11) 503 (8) 1233 (19) 98 (T9)
        MLB Avg .254 688 1404 164 469 1248 97
        2016 Tex .262 (5) 765 (7) 1446 (8) 215 (7) 436 (28) 1220 (24) 96 (T16)
        MLB Avg .255 725 1409 187 503 1299 97
        2017 Tex .244 (25) 781 (9) 1284 (28) 232 (T1) 532 (12) 1450 (5) 93 (T20)
        MLB Avg .255 733 1368 199 512 1298 97

        So I’m not sure what to make of all that (if anything) or if I should have used some different categories (probably). It looks to me like the 2017 team still scores about the same amount of runs relative to the league, but have embraced the strikeout & dinger philosophy. I have no idea if this is objectively better or worse for the purpose of running a successful offense, but I personally hate watching it.

        And I know Joe maintains that strikeouts don’t matter for good hitters, and maybe that’s true, but I think it matters for hitters who aren’t good enough to get away with it, and the Rangers have too many of those guys. For the record however, Posnanski adopted son Mike Trout is having his first season with more walks than strikeouts and from his 2014 season of 83 walks and a league leading 184 Ks has increased the former and lowered the latter every season. If you projected his current rate to 157 games (the 2014 total) from the 110 he’s played he would be at 131 walks to 123 strikeouts, both of which would be career bests. And he’s having career best rate numbers… funny that.

    • SB M says:

      The Rangers are 5th in the league in runs scored. Their approach to hitting is not their problem.

      • Zeke Bob says:

        Were you just counting the AL? While the chart above didn’t format, the Rangers are 9th in the majors in runs scored, which will actually be their 4th worst finish in the past 5 seasons. And I maintain the hitting approach is a problem leaving them with a team batting average of .244 (25th), 28th in hits, the 5th highest strikeout total, and tied for 20th in OPS+.

        Certainly hitting isn’t their only problem, or even worse than their pitching issues (4.63 staff ERA compared to league average 4.36), but I still think it’s a problem.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      It’s more than just the Rangers, though. I have no data to back this up, but it seems to me that you see teams in general get out of big jams (e.g., bases loaded, no outs, 2nd and third 1 out) without giving up runs far more often these days. And I suspect it’s because so many guys are trying to hit home runs and it’s much easier for a pitcher to get a strikeout when he needs it. It used to be it was very rare to get out of those jams without giving up at least some runs. But these guys seem to have no idea of how to hit other than swinging as hard as they can.

      As I said, I have no data to back this up, just my observation.

  11. Mark Daniel says:

    Someone on ESPN radio the other day said it was all the hard throwers. More specifically, he said there are no Madduxes or Glavines anymore, it’s all 95+ throwers.
    This suggests that there may be fewer pitchers that give up small HR numbers.
    Looking at B-R, in 2000 there were 22 pitchers in MLB who allowed <1 HR/9. That's out of 89 qualified pitchers.
    In 2017, there are 8 such pitchers (out of 59 qualifiers). So in 2000, 25% of pitchers allowed <1 HR/9, in 2017, that has dropped to 13.5%.
    Looking more closely, the 22 pitchers who allowed <1 HR/9 in 2000 allowed an average of 0.768 HR/9, while in 2012 it's 0.825. The 22 pitchers in '00 averaged 209 IP, and 6.6 IP per start. In 2017 so far, it's 172 IP and 6.1 IP per start.

    Whether this correlates to soft throwing and hard throwing having an effect, I don't know. But Glavine, Maddux and other soft throwers like Aaron Sele, Kenny Rogers and David Wells were in the 2000 list (as was Randy Johnson).

  12. M2 says:

    I’m most interested in what comes next. They’re hitting so many HRs (27% more than the MLB average from 2006-2015) that it’s begging for an Icarus-like crash to earth. The last time we saw that was 1988 and if that bit of history repeats itself, a pile of these mid-range power guys are going to fade immediately into obscurity.

    • invitro says:

      I’m pretty sure that the big decline in offense in 1988 was caused by changing the strike zone. So I think it would take another major rule change like that to make the HR rate crash. If there has been another spike in PED’s, a new drug policy could do it… but I don’t at all believe in a new PED spike, without evidence.

      There might be a strategy change… the Astros have the fewest batting strikeouts and the most runs. And the Indians are 2nd-fewest in batting strikeouts. But the next five teams are bad teams, and the Yankees and Cubs (other top-five offenses) strike out more than average, so it’s hard to see a great mass of teams telling its players they want to see more contact and fewer HR’s.

      For what it’s worth, I’ve watched about 1.3 games per day from Opening Day to today, the most baseball I’ve watched (by far) at least since the 1990’s, and maybe ever, and I *love* the state that baseball is in right now. Almost every team has an exciting young star or several of them, the players are appealing and fun to watch. I seem to see one or two truly amazing defensive plays every game–I’m talking plays that I think came around once a *week*, if that often, in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Pitchers can throw harder than ever, and seem to my eyes to be able to make their pitches move more than ever (at their high speeds, anyway). I have my complaints–first is those atrociously ugly Mother’s Weekend/Father’s Weekend/Nickname Weekend uniforms; MLB really needs to restrict those uniforms to one day only if they insist on using them. And second is the slow pace of games; the dawdling by batter and pitcher between pitches. Third is an almost universal worship of the players by the media–hey, these guys are great, I know, but they’re not religious icons; there’s no need to treat Giancarlo Stanton like he is the second coming of Jesus. But these are pretty minor complaints. The HR’s and SO’s don’t bother me at all–most batters still end up making contact, and the increased HR’s might mean an increase in those over-the-fence catches that have become one of my favorite parts of the game.

      Anyway… I’m excited, can’t wait for the playoffs to start, can’t wait for the *real* playoffs to start next Thursday after the wild-card games. And then I’ll look forward to seeing what the Astros do in the offseason, and then to 2018’s Opening Day, hoping to get some good hitters on my fantasy teams for a change, seeing who 2018’s record-setting rookie home run hitters will be, if Altuve can get 200 hits in his fifth season in a row…

  13. Pete R says:

    Have we seen the last of the player who batted enough to qualify for the batting average title, but hit zero home runs in a whole season?

    It’s happened only 13 times in the last 25 years, with Ben Revere being the last in 2012. In the previous 25 years it happened 89 times, and they weren’t all Larry Bowa.

  14. Bryan says:

    Among players qualified for the batting title, information from baseball-reference.com Play Index:
    *
    1947-2012 except 1981 and 1994: 1.6% with 0 HR, 12.7% with 0-4 HR, 17.2% with 5-9 HR.
    1982-2012 except 1994: 1% with 0 HR, 9.4% with 0-4 HR, 14.9% with 5-9 HR.
    1995-2012: 0.4% with 0 HR, 6.2% with 0-4 HR, 13.4% with 5-9 HR.
    2013-2017: 0% with 0 HR, 5.3% with 0-4 HR, 12.5% with 5-9 HR.
    2015-2017: 0% with 0 HR, 4% with 0-4 HR, 9.9% with 5-9 HR.
    2016-2017: 0% with 0 HR, 2.1% with 0-4 HR, 8.2% with 5-9 HR.
    2017: 0% with 0 HR, 1.5% with 0-4 HR, 6.7% with 5-9 HR.
    *
    11 players with 0 HR 1995-2012, if it happened in that HR environment, it can happen in the current environment unless something has been irrevocably changed in the last two seasons. Even if things have forever changed barring serious injury or another suspension Dee Gordon is very likely to qualify for the batting title each of the next 3 seasons and 11 HR in just under 3000 PA makes him reasonably likely all on his own not to hit a HR each season. And “sluggers” like Billy Hamilton can certainly pull off a Kuiper/Bowa/Ozzie.

  15. Michael Grimaldi says:

    Sometime in the last 10 years, MLB started using more balls. Used to be that a ball in the dirt was thrown back to the pitcher. That third-out pop-up was rolled to the mound (triggering the funnest bleacher beer bet you’ll ever make: Whether it would stay on the mound or roll to the infield grass). Ground-ball fouls were returned to play. And so on. Today, any ball looked at twice is thrown to the MLB aithenticator, where it gets hologrammed, logged, and shipped upstairs to the $80 souvenir bin. (I’m not makimg that up. Check’em out at the Authentics shop at Kauffman Stadium in KC after the 6th inning.) Could that make a difference? Maybe not, but that’s my rant, and I’m stickin’ to it.

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