That’s what Bob Nightengale of USA Today is wondering. He sort of has a point, as scoring is down in the Majors, but to call it 1968 is getting pretty wild: scoring in ’68 was 3.42 runs/game.
Right now scoring is 4.47 runs/game
, which is 31% higher than ’68. A runs/game level that would be 31% higher than it is in 2010 would be a league where each team scored 5.86 runs per game; that should take our breaths away and make us realize just how much higher
scoring is now than in 1968.
2010’s scoring level of 4.47 runs/game is a decline since 2006 of .39 runs/game (a decline of 8%), but there have been much more startling fluctuations in the last 10 years, for if you look at the data set from this decade (2001-2009) you’ll see that 2005 presents a much larger aberration than whatever is going on now, a sudden lull in scoring sandwiched between two fat numbers.
Scoring declined 6.7% from 2004 to 2005, and then increased by 8.1% from 2005 to 2006. I–well, baseball watchers generally–would need to look more closely at year-to-year fluctuations in scoring to see if there’s anything truly unusual about the amount of fluctuation between last year and this year, which is .14 runs/game, a decline of 3%. That’s right: 3%. Just outside the margin of error.
On the other hand, ’68 was quite an aberration, for scoring in ’67 was 3.77 runs/game
, meaning that 1968 saw a decline of .35 runs per game per team, a rate of decline of 9.2% in one season
To return to the now: 2010’s level of scoring is lower than any of the other years shown. Possible explanations include, but are not limited to: (1) It could be evidence that the Steroids Era is definitely behind us; (2) perhaps April and May have been cooler than “normal” thus depressing offense; (3) maybe Nightengale is dead on accurate and pitching is just better all-around.
UPDATE: David Brown of “Big League Stew” ponders what it would take
for Ubaldo to finish 2010 with an ERA lower than the one Bob Gibson posted in 1968 (1.12).
I sincerely hope
that the scoring decline is due to the umpires calling the strike zone the way it is supposed to be called by rule
. I think the way the zone has been called for many years is a factor that has been overlooked by too many people, and that failing to call the strike zone as it is defined
contributes to: (a) lower innings pitched totals by starting pitchers, since batters just wait the pitchers out rather than having to try to put the ball in play (b) longer games since the batters are waiting and waiting and more pitches must be thrown, and (c) increased offense as batters can simply wait for the exact pitch they want to hit rather than putting the ball in play on the pitchers’ terms. In fact, Mitch Williams
, in his new book, Straight Talk from Wild Thing,
mentions the smaller strike zone–particularly one where pitchers don’t get calls on the inside corner–as a key factor
for the offensive explosion in post-1996 (or so) Major League Baseball. (Combine a smaller strike zone with smaller ballparks, ‘roided up hitters, and maple bats and you got an offensive explosion.)
By the way, I must extend a tip of my hat to Dick Enberg and Mark Neely, broadcasters for the San Diego Padres, for discussing the strike zone and the failure of umpires to call it as defined by the rulebook
for its impact on game length during their Tuesday night broadcast of the Cardinals-Padres game sometime in the seventh inning. I wish more commentators would bring this up.
(I also want to note that Dick Enberg is turning out to be a darn fine baseball play-by-play guy; in fact, I think baseball may be his best sport. He’s no Vin Scully, mind you, but, then again, who is? Enberg is, however, a damn far sight better than Joe “I’m Just Cruising on My Daddy’s Name and Reputation” Buck, but, then again, who isn’t? That is, sside from that guy who did play-by-play for TBS in last years’ playoffs.)