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Old 09-10-2014, 02:43 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
36,943 posts, read 17,425,944 times
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MLB teams are averaging 4.10 runs per game this season, the lowest it has been since 1976 when the average was 3.99.

It is reflective of a steady decline since 2007 when MLB instituted tougher testing and penalties for PEDs use.

Recent Years:
2006...4.86
2007...4.80
2008...4.65
2009...4.61
2010...4.38
2011...4.28
2012...4.32
2013...4.17

In the steroid era it had jumped from 4.12 in 1992, to...
1993...4.60
1994...4.92
1996...5.04
1999...5.08
2000...5.14
2004...4.81
2006...4.66
2007...4.80

So that we have a common understanding when we discuss this, a bit of history.

With the exception of the PEDs surge, the cause of which was not identified until after it had been underway for more than a decade, the causes of changes in ML run scoring environments have always been known.

In the dead ball era, runs per game were typically around 3.75 until 1911. That season a new, harder ball was introduced and runs rose to the 4.50 level for three seasons. This alarmed MLB and the ball was replaced with a softer version in 1914 and runs returned to the 3.75 level.

In 1920, although many believe that a new ball was introduced triggering the home run rush, in reality there was no change to the ball itself. What did change, and what was responsible for a big surge in offense, was the banning of spitballs, cutballs, mudballs and every other form of marking or changing the ball by a pitcher. In addition, fresh, new white baseballs were now to be used throughout a game whenever the ball became scuffed or marked. This massively improved batter's abilities to see the ball, see the rotation of the ball, and put the bat on it.

Runs per game rose immediately, 4.36 in 1920, 4.85 in 1921, and remaining near or just over 5 runs a game for the rest of the decade.

In 1930 a new, harder ball was introduced and offenses went nuts with runs per game rising to 5.55, the highest it has ever been. The entire NL batted over .300 that season, Hack Wilson drove in 192 runs for the Cubs.

Realizing that they had overdone it, the previously used ball was reintroduced in 1931, runs fell to the levels of the 1920's, which was still quite high, and stayed that way throughout the '30's.

Runs tumbled during the war years when so many of the star players were in uniform and lesser players were filling the ML slots. It had fallen to 4.01 by the end of the war, but when the vet players returned, it began rising again and the average hovered around 4.45 per game through the 1950's and into the first years of the '60's.

Then in what was perhaps MLB's dumbest move ever, in reaction to what they saw as alarming...a player the caliber of Roger Maris topping the sacred single season home run record held by the illustrious Babe Ruth...Commissioner Ford Frick persuaded the owners that something had to be done to put a stop to this. The solution was a drastic expansion of the strike zone which triggered a six year Golden Age for pitchers, with runs tumbling each season until reaching the low water mark of 3.43 in '68, "The Year of the Pitcher."

Fans were complaining about the absence of action, so before the 1969 season the strike zone was reshrunk and the mound was lowered. Runs instantly rose to 4.07 in '69 and a long stable era followed where 4.30 was a typical season.

That prevailed until the mid '80's when runs per game began creeping up once more, spiking at 4.72 in 1987. MLB reacted to this with another strike zone adjustment which favored pitchers and runs promptly fell back to 4.15 in 1988, and stayed around 4.25 until the advent of the PEDs era..covered above.

So...is their any such thing as the "correct" environment? Are we currently too low? Do we need to make another adjustment to raise it back up? If so, what would be the ideal target level?

One factor to keep in mind is the rising strikeout rates. Since 2005, each season has seen a rise in the rate to its current 7.69 strikeouts per team, per game. (It had been in the fives in the 1990's, in the sixes in the first decade of the new century, but now has greatly accelerated since.

The obvious solution to both too low a run environment and too high a strike out environment, would be to shrink the strike zone once more. Should this be done?
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Old 09-10-2014, 08:33 PM
 
Location: Silver Spring, MD/Washington DC
3,425 posts, read 7,939,009 times
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In all seriousness, the best solution is related to an observation Bill James made in one of his books. Pretty much all batters today use bats with extraordinarily thin handles, which is why bats break very frequently. The thin handles are the by-product of players trying to concentrate the weight of the bat in the barrel, and trying to swing as hard at most pitches as possible. Because many players swing hard at all pitches (and also because players crowd the plate and pitchers are restricted somewhat from throwing inside because of the fear of being ejected from the game), the net result is a game with a relatively high number of home runs and high number of strikeouts compared to historic norms. This may not be an ideal development. If bat handles were made thicker and the bats themselves were made heavier, some players would be forced to choke up on the bat, at least with two strikes. It would increase the value of speed in baseball, leading to more stolen bases, doubles, and triples, and probably lead to more offense because more balls would be put in play.
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Old 09-10-2014, 09:34 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
36,943 posts, read 17,425,944 times
Reputation: 16781
Quote:
Originally Posted by CHIP72 View Post
If bat handles were made thicker and the bats themselves were made heavier, some players would be forced to choke up on the bat, at least with two strikes. It would increase the value of speed in baseball, leading to more stolen bases, doubles, and triples, and probably lead to more offense because more balls would be put in play.
It would change the nature of the offense, but we do not know if it would lead to an increase. Stolen bases do not have a whole lot to do with a club's total runs, there is no correlation between leading a league in team stolen bases and leading in scoring runs. Increased doubles and triples which come at the expense of fewer home runs, might just be a wash in terms of run production.

Even if it did not increase runs, it might very well create a better aesthetic. The game now centers more and more heavily on the three true outcomes, home runs, strike outs and walks. None of those three outcomes involves anyone trying to catch and throw the ball, speed is no factor whatsoever in any of them, we are just waiting around for someone to hit it over the wall.

The current environment is similar to the game in the '50's and '60's, not much happens until someone parks one. What you are calling for would be more akin to ML ball in the '80's when home runs were less frequent but stolen bases were at record levels.
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Old 09-11-2014, 10:36 AM
 
Location: NY
8,990 posts, read 14,187,334 times
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I am still ok with the current level of offense. Maybe I would rate it near the lower end of my "ok" zone. I would hate to loose much more of it. In that vein, if this trend continues, it would be nice to see some tweaks.

Shrinking the zone? I can see where batters being able to be more selective combined with what would likely be more walks would help. However, with pitchers being unable to go as deep into games as in the past, I wonder if this ultimately will have a negative affect on pitching staffs and health. (Limited rosters for pitchers combined with the potential need for more pitches in a game with increases in walks and offense, therefore straining pitching staffs even more).

Another factor may be game length. If a shrink in the zone causes more walks, and more hitting, then it may increase game length. That I do not think would be a positive as games have gotten awfully long as it is.

I would go radical and institute a 3 ball walk myself... but I know that tons of people would hate that idea.
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Old 09-11-2014, 11:09 AM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
36,943 posts, read 17,425,944 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Checkered24 View Post

I would go radical and institute a 3 ball walk myself... but I know that tons of people would hate that idea.
I do not think that a wise solution. Three ball walks would lead to an immense increase in the run scoring environment, way more than simply adjusting the strike zone. A pitcher has four balls as a weapon, he may deliver the ball outside of the strikezone three times in the hopes of causing the batter to try and hit a pitch which cannot be reached or at least not hit well if reached. Reduce that arsenal by 25 % and it will have a massive impact.

Also....do we want to boost offense by adding walks? Are they any more interesting to watch than strikeouts?

Finally, you complained about the length of games, wouldn't your solution make them longer as more and more batters are walked rather than retired?
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Old 09-11-2014, 12:25 PM
 
Location: Currently living in Reddit
5,655 posts, read 5,461,804 times
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IMO, the ideal run-scoring environment wouldn't require any change on MLB's part as far as rules. It would, however, require MLB to get more top athletes interested in MLB as a career instead of taking the faster money from the NBA and NFL.

Years ago, arguably into the early 80s, MLB would get the better black athletes. In the 50s-60s alone you had Mays, McCovey, Gibson, Jenkins, F. Robinson, Aaron, Brock, B. Williams, Stargell, Morgan... nothing remotely like that group of exceptional black players exists today. You've got McCutchen and...

Now, they have to rely on the Caribbean and Latin America to develop the numbers of players needed to replace blacks who have more interest in the NFL and NBA. Thus you're getting fewer outstanding black players through the amateur draft and allowing more mediocre Latino players into the league as they're cheaper via the international draft or on an FA basis.

Thus the overall product has slipped somewhat. Imagine if MLB was getting BOTH the best black athletes AND the best of the Caribbean/Latin America.
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Old 09-11-2014, 12:59 PM
 
Location: Parts Unknown, Northern California
36,943 posts, read 17,425,944 times
Reputation: 16781
Quote:
Originally Posted by sskink View Post
IMO, the ideal run-scoring environment wouldn't require any change on MLB's part as far as rules. It would, however, require MLB to get more top athletes interested in MLB as a career instead of taking the faster money from the NBA and NFL.

Years ago, arguably into the early 80s, MLB would get the better black athletes. In the 50s-60s alone you had Mays, McCovey, Gibson, Jenkins, F. Robinson, Aaron, Brock, B. Williams, Stargell, Morgan... nothing remotely like that group of exceptional black players exists today. You've got McCutchen and...

Now, they have to rely on the Caribbean and Latin America to develop the numbers of players needed to replace blacks who have more interest in the NFL and NBA. Thus you're getting fewer outstanding black players through the amateur draft and allowing more mediocre Latino players into the league as they're cheaper via the international draft or on an FA basis.

Thus the overall product has slipped somewhat. Imagine if MLB was getting BOTH the best black athletes AND the best of the Caribbean/Latin America.
Okay, but how do you see the above relating to the run scoring environment? Are you arguing that recruiting more black athletes would raise the scoring of runs? If so, I don't see how that is supposed to work. More black pitchers would also be coming into the league and in theory negate whatever extra offensive advantage black hitters were providing.

I would also point out that the '60's, an era when black players composed a big percentage of the superstars, we had the lowest run scoring environment since the deadball era. Obviously it was a consequence of the enlargement of the strikezone before the '63 season, and not a consequence of the percentage of black players, but it does show that rule alterations have a bigger impact than the presence of star batters.
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Old 09-11-2014, 01:06 PM
 
Location: georgia
939 posts, read 619,332 times
Reputation: 703
I do NOT want to see pitchers penalized any further in order to create more offense. How about batters learn to do better instead! The high strike is rarely called as it is, and some ballfields ( Toronto, Philly, Cincy) are a joke they are so "hitter friendly' I'd rather have a steroid free game with 4-2 scores.
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Old 09-11-2014, 01:08 PM
 
Location: georgia
939 posts, read 619,332 times
Reputation: 703
Quote:
Originally Posted by CHIP72 View Post
In all seriousness, the best solution is related to an observation Bill James made in one of his books. Pretty much all batters today use bats with extraordinarily thin handles, which is why bats break very frequently. The thin handles are the by-product of players trying to concentrate the weight of the bat in the barrel, and trying to swing as hard at most pitches as possible. Because many players swing hard at all pitches (and also because players crowd the plate and pitchers are restricted somewhat from throwing inside because of the fear of being ejected from the game), the net result is a game with a relatively high number of home runs and high number of strikeouts compared to historic norms. This may not be an ideal development. If bat handles were made thicker and the bats themselves were made heavier, some players would be forced to choke up on the bat, at least with two strikes. It would increase the value of speed in baseball, leading to more stolen bases, doubles, and triples, and probably lead to more offense because more balls would be put in play.
Very good point. As a Braves fan, what you are talking about is a foriegn language to them.
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Old 09-11-2014, 01:09 PM
 
Location: georgia
939 posts, read 619,332 times
Reputation: 703
Quote:
Originally Posted by Checkered24 View Post
I am still ok with the current level of offense. Maybe I would rate it near the lower end of my "ok" zone. I would hate to loose much more of it. In that vein, if this trend continues, it would be nice to see some tweaks.

Shrinking the zone? I can see where batters being able to be more selective combined with what would likely be more walks would help. However, with pitchers being unable to go as deep into games as in the past, I wonder if this ultimately will have a negative affect on pitching staffs and health. (Limited rosters for pitchers combined with the potential need for more pitches in a game with increases in walks and offense, therefore straining pitching staffs even more).

Another factor may be game length. If a shrink in the zone causes more walks, and more hitting, then it may increase game length. That I do not think would be a positive as games have gotten awfully long as it is.

I would go radical and institute a 3 ball walk myself... but I know that tons of people would hate that idea.
How about 2 foul balls when there are already 2 strikes- then you are out. Enough of these 12-15 pitch at bats!
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