Tagged: Offensive Ineptitude

On Scoring’s Decline (Updated)

Scoring is down in Major League Baseball. In 2009, runs per game per team stood at 4.64, while in 2010 it stands at 4.47, a decline of 3.66%.

Some commentators are calling 2010 “the year of the dominant pitcher.”  Okay, I guess.  The guys who are actually dominant pitchers are more dominant.  Bill at “The Daily Something” blog makes the points that (1) there’s not enough data to reach a conclusion and (2) it’s just the most dominant guys who are being more dominant.  

As long as everyone realizes it’s not 1968.  

In the first place, scoring is only down relative to last year by 3.66%.  In the second place, scoring was much lower in the late sixties than in the current era of baseball.  In ’68 scoring was 3.42 runs/game which represented a decline of 9.28% from 1967, when scoring stood at 3.77 runs/game.  So, scoring in ’68 was more than a run lower per team per game than it is so far in 2010 and the decline from the previous season was around two and one half times the size of the decline from last year to this season.  

In fact, the decline of 3.66% between 2009 and 2010 is a pretty moderate fluctuation in year-to-year scoring levels.  

I took a look at scoring in every season since 1958.  Why ’58?  I mean, that’s pretty arbitrary, right?  There are two reasons for that choice: (1) West Coast Major League baseball began that season and (2) I wanted to start at a time when we are pretty sure that baseball was integrated (except for Boston, which, astonishingly and dismayingly, didn’t integrate until ’59).  

Bold face represents what I thought were aberrant figures based on the scoring levels in the years around the highlighted season.

Year       R/G         % change prev yr

1958       4.28       

1959       4.38                       2.34

1960       4.31                        -1.60

1961       4.53                        5.10

1962       4.46                        -1.55

1963       3.95                        -11.43

1964       4.04                        2.28

1965       3.99                        -1.24

1966       3.99                        0.00

1967       3.77                        -5.51

1968       3.42                        -9.28

1969       4.07                        19.01

1970       4.34                        6.63

1971       3.89                        -10.37

1972       3.69                        -5.14

19
73       4.21                        14.09

1974       4.12                        -2.14

1975       4.21                        2.18

1976       3.99                        -5.23

1977       4.47                        12.03

1978       4.10                        -8.28

1979       4.46                        8.78

1980       4.29                        -3.81

1981       4.00                        -6.76

1982       4.30                        7.50

1983       4.31                        0.23

1984       4.26                        -1.16

1985       4.33                        1.64

1986       4.41                        1.85

1987       4.72                        7.03

1988       4.14                        -12.29

1989       4.13                        -0.24

1990       4.26                        3.15

1991       4.31                        1.17

1992       4.12                        -4.41

1993       4.60                        11.65

1994       4.92                        6.96

1995       4.85                        -1.42

1996       5.04                        3.92

1997       4.77   
                    
-5.36

1998       4.79                        0.42

1999       5.08                        6.05

2000       5.14                        1.18

2001       4.78                        -7.00

2002       4.62                        -3.35

2003       4.73                        2.38

2004       4.81                        1.69

2005       4.59                        -4.57

2006       4.86                        5.88

2007       4.80                        -1.23

2008       4.65                        -3.12

2009       4.64                        -0.22

2010       4.47                        -3.66

At any rate, here’s what we find:  Over the 53 seasons’ worth of scoring data, the average change in scoring from a previous season is 6.56%. In only one season, 1966, did we see no change in scoring from the previous season. 

Changes in scoring of 2% or larger (either +2% or -2%) occurred 36 times in those 53 seasons; 18 times there were increases of 2% or more; 18 times there were declines of 2% or more.  
Changes in scoring of 3.66% or more occurred in 27 of the 53 seasons in this study, meaning that slightly more than half of the seasons analyzed experienced changes in scoring at least as large as the change in scoring between 2009 and 2010.  13 seasons saw increases in scoring of 3.66% or more; 14 seasons saw declines of at least 3.66%.  

Like I said, scoring hasn’t declined all that much, and even if the most dominant pitchers are dominating, they certainly aren’t dominating like they were in 1968.

UPDATE–Bog Nightengale of USA Today gets into the act, declaring that the rash of perfect games and near no-hitters shows that “pitchers are ruling hitters in 2010.”  I suppose it looks like it does, but that’s only noise, for the signal still shows that the decline in scoring is slight, and, more importantly, we’re only looking at part of the season.  But I suppose it’s the nature of humans to pay more attention to the exceptions rather than the rule.  Still, you’d figure he would have done some homework on the overall scoring level….

UPDATE 2–Joel Sherman of The New York Daily News argues that drug testing and new pitching stars are “tilting [the] scales in pitchers’ favor.”  He says: 

Strike frequency has not increased this year. Yet one baseball person after another talked about a shift in philosophy. This was summed up by an AL executive who said, “Pitchers are seeing smaller bodies, less bat speed and less carry [when the ball is in the air], so that is making them slowly get braver about challenging hitters without fear that everyone is going to hit a homer.”

One veteran hitter observed, “The confidence factor has changed. Pitchers are confident again, hitters are a little less confident, and so much of the game is mental.”

As well as:

Seven of the majors’ 10 best ERAs were by pitchers 26 or younger. Thirteen pitchers 26 or younger entered the weekend with ERAs of 3.00 or lower. There were seven last year. Only Tim Lincecum did it in 2008. Only Jake Peavy in 2007. And no one 26 or under did it in 2006. See a trend?


You will find a revival with a Livan Hernandez or Andy Pettitte, continuing brilliance from Halladay or Chris Carpenter. But the biggest population of stellar pitchers now is 26 and under. Both Cy Young winners last year — Lincecum and Zack Greinke — were 25, and there had not been two 25-or-younger winners since 1985 (Dwight Gooden and Bret Saberhagen).

And Sherman touts the importance of the cut fastball:

“Mariano Rivera, bless his heart, has opened a lot of eyes,” Mark Teixeira said. “The cutter is the best pitch in baseball.”

More and more pitchers are throwing it. For example, Rivera taught it to Halladay at an All-Star Game, and Halladay went from superb to a Hall of Famer. The pitch has been vital to Hughes, and also to the growth of another emerging young starter, Jonathon Niese. It essentially provides a pitch that does not heavily tax arms and is invaluable in staying off the sweet spot when behind in the count.

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Josh Johnson on Top This Time

He wasn’t perfect, but Josh Johnson outpitched Roy Halladay last night in a rematch of the pitcher’s duel from the night of Hallday’s perfect game.  While not perfect, Johnson did retire the last 17 batters he faced.

Halladay produced a ridiculous .333 WPA in a game he and the Phillies lost, but Johnson was even more ridiculous with at .662 WPA contribution.
The Phillies’ display of Offensive Ineptitude continued, and they have now been shut out 7 times in the 58 games they’ve played in 2010 after having been shut out 7 times all last season.  Ouch.  On the other hand, I am not a Phillies fan, so I think it’s kind of funny, really.  Is it, perhaps, another example of a team that plays in a very hitter-friendly ballpark having overestimated their offense?  One thing I think for sure: Raul Ibanez while good in 2009’s first half, isn’t the answer for them in left. I just hope they keep thinking the opposite.

Twins Drop Third Straight, Head to Oakland

So, the Twins traveled to Offensively Inept Seattle and managed to show even greater Offensive Ineptitude that the Mariners and drop the last three games of their four-game series, losing last night 1-4.  

The Twins have not been all that sharp on the road in 2010 and the series against the Mariners continued and added to their road woes.
Of course, in Thursday night’s game, the Twins ran into Mariner starter Felix Hernandez, aka King Felix, who showed why he has the title, displaying a great degree of mastery versus the Twins and shutting them down, collecting four (4) strikeouts in

the

an inning(!).

This was a bounce-back game for Hernandez, who was the anti-Blackburn: while Blackburn was unbeatable in May, Felix didn’t collect a single victory for the month, though the Mariner bullpen did pretty much all it could to bury the poor guy, blowing leads repeatedly in games he had started, with his May 13 start vs. the Orioles really standing out.
The Twins simply had no answer to Felix’s Kingly pitching.  Twinkie Talk succinctly notes that Felix is good.
Dave Cameron of the blog “U.S.S. Mariner” points out that last night’s game was a model of how the Mariners were built to work:

This game is essentially how
the Mariners drew up their game plan for the season – get some guys on base,
let the top of the order run like rabbits, and score enough runs to support
Felix. 

This brings me to something else that bothered me: the Twins’ utter inability to prevent base-stealing in the early innings.  The Mariners stole five bases in the first three innings, seeminly running at will against Pavano’s slow delivery.  I am blaming Pavano because we all know Mauer has a cannon.  This, I fear, is something we will see more of in Pavano’s future starts.  Unless Mr. Pavano manages to allow no speedy runners to reach base, we should all anticipate more stolen bases by other teams against him, which will be pretty excruciating to watch.  
Parker Hageman, both at his blog, “Over the Baggy” and in the pages of the Star-Tribune, points out that the top two lineup spots in the Twins’ batting order need to produce more and do a better job of table setting for the M&M boys.
On the comparative Offensive Ineptitude of the Twins and Mariners, a quick Excel session furnished me with the following sad tale of woe:
The Twins scored 8 runs (2/game) in the series to the Mariners 17 (4.25); the Twins collected 27 hits and 4 BB in the series, while the Mariners had 40 hits and walked 5 times for a 45 to 31 edge in baserunners.  The Twins slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) was .201/.225/.358 for a rollicking wOBA of .250; The Mariners, by contrast, produced at a .292/.317/.365 clip, with a team wOBA of .303.  Neither team pounded the ball, but the Mariners clearly out-produced the Twins at the plate.  Ouch.
The Twins clearly displayed a greater degree of Offensive Ineptitude than did the Mariners in the series.  And that really hurts.  Alternatively, the Mariners’ pitching is pretty good.  I think this is what a lot of people anticipated–see the Dave Cameron quote above–when they were making the Mariners the Flavor-of-the-Month in the AL West during the offseason.  I’m still skeptical.
On to Oakland to face another team that can pitch but doesn’t really hit the ball.  The A’s enter the series in a tie for first in the AL West, following a 4-3 roadtrip that saw them take three of four from the Tigers and then win the last of three games in Fenway from the Red Sox.  Hopefully jet lag gets them and/or the Twins’ can awaken their bats.
BONUS: A story about the Carl Pavono mustache that has Fetch at “Twinkie Talk” calling him Luigi…
BONUS 2:  The A’s enter tonight’s series 25th in scoring in the Majors at 4.04 runs/game while the Twins stand at 10th in the Bigs with 4.70 runs/game.  The A’s slash line: .259/.323/.383 and a team wOBA of .313 (but remember that the sheer magnitude of the foul ground in Oakland’s park suppresses offensive stats since a lot more foul balls end up as outs rather than souvenirs; their park factors show the Coliseum to be the most run-suppressing park in the Majors.)  The Twins slash line currently stands at: .270/.350/.418 and a team wOBA of .340.  While Target Field is hard on homers, it isn’t as hard on them as the Coliseum (.586 for Target Field vs. .381 for the  Coliseum).   
As always: Go Twins!

Halladay’s Perfect Game Historically Good

The fact that Hallday’s perfect game occurred in a tight pitcher’s duel, won by the Phillies by the slimmest of margins made his Win Probability Added enormous (.888), confirming that he completed one of the most dominant pitching performances in history.  11 K’s during a perfecto sure helps establish that as well.

It’s a good thing he did turn in such a gem–such a gem–since the Phillis offense is still, er, putrid:
In Philadelphia’s last nine games, it has scored 10 runs and is 2-7, last winning against the Florida Marlins on Saturday when Roy Halladaypitched the 20th perfect game in baseball history.
Looking back a bit farther, in the last four weeks, over a span of 26 games the Phillies have scored 96 runs, for an average of 3.69 runs/game.  They have score four or fewer runs in 17 of those 26 games, and three or fewer runs in 15 of them.  The frequency distribution of their output is as follows:
Runs     N(umber of times)
0          5
1          4
2          2
3          5
4          2
5          3
6          0
7          2
8          0
9          2 (once vs. the Rockies, once vs. the Brewers)
10        1 (vs. the Brewers)
11        0
12        1 (vs. the Pirates)
As you can see, the Phillies are displaying some true Offensive Ineptitude, with five or fewer runs being their norm, and a median runs scored result of three.  Ouch.  While they must be ecstatic about Halladay’s incredible performance, that ecstasy must also be tempered by the realization that their bats are very, very cold.
This data, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, also demonstrates the Phillies’ futility of the past four weeks.  In the last 7 days, 7 runs in 6 games (1.14 runs/game); in the last 14 days, 21 runs in 12 games (1.75 runs/game), and in the past 28 days, 93 runs in 24 games (3.88 runs/game).  As May went one, the Phillies’ offense got worse.

Twins Open Road Trip With Victory

The Minnesota Twins opened their seven-game West Coast road trip with a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

The Twins’ now ride a five-game winning streak.

Evidence is still mounting that Target Field is not a homer-friendly stadium as Twins’ hitters, who have only hit 13 home runs in 27 home games, launched three home runs in Safeco Field, a ballpark that has a reputation of its own for being unfriendly to the longball.
Michael Cuddyer played second base Monday night in place of the injured Orlando Hudson.  He made no glaring mistakes, though he definitely looks more comfortable in right field.  Although Cuddyer played eight innings at second in 2009 and another 55 innings at second in 2005, the Twins’ infield defense will be less heartburn-inducing to watch if they play, oh, say, a middle infielder at second instead.  Thanks, Michael for making the effort, but I’m sure all Twins fans will prefer seeing you in the outfield.  And while you were good at first last season, if you are playing there a lot, that means something bad happened to Justin Morneau, and we don’t want that either.  
Francisco Liriano pitched a decent ballgame for the Twins, though, like Scott Baker on Sunday, he had a couple of innings in which he really had to labor.  All in all, he scattered eight hits over six innings, striking out seven and allowing three runs, which, though it constitutes a Quality Start, still seems like less than that against a Mariners ballclub most notable for their Offensive Ineptitude (27th in runs/game [3.66], 28th in home runs, 27th in batting average [.240], 26th in on-base percentage [.313], 29th in slugging percentage [.348], 29th in OPS [.661], 28th in OPS+ [83], 28th in team wOBA [.298]).
“Twinkie Talk” refers obliquely to Seattle’s offensive woes in this post’s title.
In Win Probability Added news, Josh Wilson of the Mariners earned a game high .196, but just didn’t get much support from his ‘mates. Delmon Young (.172), Michael Cuddyer (.156), and Justin Morneau (.097) led the visiting Twins.  Morneau is currently seventh in the Majors in Win Probability Added for the season.
The Twins look to secure at least a split in this four-game series tonight, sending Nick Blackburn to the mound. The Mariners will start Jason Vargas.
I hope Blackburn thinks it is still May.
Go Twins!

Holy Mammal of Some Sort: Mets Sweep Phillies and Shut Them Out For the Series

Yup, the Mets shut the powerful Phillies out over three consecutive games, sweeping them after taking two of three from the Yankees in a series that saw the Mets shut down the Bombers as well.

In their last six games, the Mets are 5-1 and have allowed 2, 3, and 4 runs to the Yankees and 0, 0, and 0 runs to the Phillies, for a total of 9 runs allowed, or 1.5 runs/game.  Like the New York Times account says, the Mets must really not want to leave CitiField right now, since they just won five of six from last season’s World Series participants.  
Oh, and the Phillies, well, talk about slumping: over the Phillies’ last nine games, they are 2-7, and they have scored 1, 1, 5, 5, 0, 3, 0, 0, and 0 runs, which makes 15 runs in 9 games, or 1.67 runs/game.  Even in the Dead Ball Era that wouldn’t get it done. 

Twins Avoid Sweep; Yankees Still Slumping at Plate

It’s awfully strange to think that the Yankees took two of three games from the Twins and are mired in something of an offensive slump.  But both these things are true: the Twins won the last game of their series with the Yanks, 8-2, avoiding a sweep, and while the Yanks won the first two games of the series, their offensive doldrums continued as they scored only six (6) runs in the series.

Once again, Jason Kubel and his big bad bat prevented the Yankees from sweeping, He had a huge night on Thursday with two home runs, a double, three runs scored and five runs batted in.   His 3-run jack doubled the Twins’ lead from 3 runs to 6 runs and pretty much put the game out of reach.
Denard Span somehow managed to score zero runs in the series despite collecting seven hits in 13 at bats and raising his average and on-base percentage to .290 and .376, respectively; his wOBA stands at .357 in 2010, just a tick under his career mark of .360.  He is clearly doing fine.
Twins’ starting pitcher Nick Blackburn deserves a ton of credit.  He has started both the games that the Twins have won against the Yankees this season, and he has performed brilliantly in those starts.  On Thursday night he went 7 innings, allowing only a pair of runs and earning a game-high WPA of .232. In his two games against New York this season, Blackburn has pitched 14 innings and given up only 5 runs, posting an ERA of 3.21. [UPDATE: According to the New York Post, Blackburn became the first Twins starting pitcher  to defeat the Yankees twice in the same season since 2001 (look way down at the bottom under the heading “Unsung Hero”).]   
In the month of May Blackburn is 5-0 in five starts with a  WHIP is 1.27 and an ERA of 2.72.  He’s not the ridiculous Ubaldo Jimenez, but his performance has been a real lift for the Twins.
As for the Yankees, since they traveled crosstown to play the Mets, they have scored 2, 3, 4, 1, 3, and 2 runs in their last six ballgames, averaging just 2.5 runs/game.  Given that their season-long average is 5.36 runs/game, this has clearly been a weak week for the Bombers.  It hasn’t been as bad as the Phillies’ recent woes at the plate, but the Yanks and Phils have one thing in common in their recent lack of offensive punch: The Mets(!).