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Offense was really low in 2011

Posted by Andy
This just confirms what we knew during the season.

  • Runs per game were the lowest since 1992
  • HR per game were the lowest since 1993
  • Stolen bases were the highest since 1999
  • Walks were the same as in 1988, tied for the lowest since 1968!
  • Strikeouts were the highest all-time
  • Batting average was the lowest since 1989
  • OPS was the lowest since 1992

Overall, offense fell off a lot in 2011, continuing a trend we've seen in the last few years. I wonder how much further it will go.

Here is a table showing all the numbers.

2011 4.28 0.94 0.67 3.09 7.10 .255 .720
2010 4.38 0.95 0.61 3.25 7.06 .257 .728
2009 4.61 1.04 0.61 3.42 6.91 .262 .751
2008 4.65 1.00 0.58 3.36 6.77 .264 .749
2007 4.80 1.02 0.60 3.31 6.62 .268 .758
2006 4.86 1.11 0.57 3.26 6.52 .269 .768
2005 4.59 1.03 0.53 3.13 6.30 .264 .749
2004 4.81 1.12 0.53 3.34 6.55 .266 .763
2003 4.73 1.07 0.53 3.27 6.34 .264 .755
2002 4.62 1.04 0.57 3.35 6.47 .261 .748
2001 4.78 1.12 0.64 3.25 6.67 .264 .759
2000 5.14 1.17 0.60 3.75 6.45 .270 .782
1999 5.08 1.14 0.70 3.68 6.41 .271 .778
1998 4.79 1.04 0.68 3.38 6.56 .266 .755
1997 4.77 1.02 0.73 3.46 6.61 .267 .756
1996 5.04 1.09 0.71 3.55 6.46 .270 .767
1995 4.85 1.01 0.73 3.53 6.30 .267 .755
1994 4.92 1.03 0.71 3.48 6.18 .270 .763
1993 4.60 0.89 0.72 3.33 5.80 .265 .736
1992 4.12 0.72 0.77 3.25 5.59 .256 .700
1991 4.31 0.80 0.74 3.32 5.80 .256 .708
1990 4.26 0.79 0.78 3.29 5.67 .258 .710
1989 4.13 0.73 0.74 3.21 5.61 .254 .695
1988 4.14 0.76 0.79 3.09 5.56 .254 .696
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/2/2011.


  1. Looking at the original table, I see that there was a tremedous surge in offense from 1972 to 1973 (batting average .244 to .257, for example). This is a bigger jump than after they lowered the mound after the 1968 season (.237 to .248). I don't recall anything similar being done after the 1972 season. Any particular reason for the increase?
    BTW: Thanks for moving the blog over to this site. I was on the blog at BR three times a day; I have used their statistics maybe 3 times in the last year

  2. That was my post above. I have no idea where the ID came from; I tried to type in my AOL user name

  3. So if strikeouts are at an all-time high and walks are at one of the lowest levels in a while, was this the worst SO/BB ratio ever? (or the best ever from the pitcher's perspective?)

  4. @#1 The obvious answer is that the AL introduced the DH in 1973. Hard to believe that one position in one league could have such an overall impact. Wonder if anything else happened that year as well?

  5. Can't believe I forgot that; especially after watching Ron Blomberg be the first DH in history. Thanks

  6. Your name still isn't coming up...who are you? :)

  7. I'm David and I have no idea where that long string of numbers and lettes is coming from. I'm commenting as my AIM (AOL) user name.

  8. to me the most interesting item is the Stolen Base dropoff from 1999 to 2000 (i.e. the SBs were still high even after a few years of offensive power surge). SB numbers seem to be the most strategy driven stat discussed here (meaning I would bet the dropoff was in Attempts as opposed to increase in CS). My first instinct is that people finally realized the SB isn't as valuable in a high offense era, but the significant dropoff made me think it had to do with certain players/managers change in attitude/retirement. Not sure if I have time to do the actual research, but I was wondering if that kind of thing makes sense to anyone else?

  9. It seems to me that there is a fair amount of noise in SB from year to year, and the 1999-to-2000 drop happens to be an unusually high year followed by an unusually low year. The trends need to be looked at in a larger sense, I think.

  10. I'm sure that some of the 16 year offensive explosion ('94 to '09) was fueled by steroids but it's hard to imagine that it had this much impact. I know that at first some of the newer parks we really good hitters parks: Coors Field in '95, the new Rangers stadium in '94, Arizona in '98. Is it possible that the more recent, more pitcher friendly parks like Detroit, San Diego and the NYMets are responsible for bringing the numbers back to normal? Maybe that's an idea for an article for someone to look at changes in scoring on a team by team basis when switching to a new ballpark...

  11. RE: the SBs...with a quick glance I can't find any significant movement (SB numbers-wise) by any individual players on the leader boards from 1999 to 2000. Rickey Henderson even had 37/36 in the 2 seasons. just an overall loss of 5-10 by each position of the top 20 in the MLB. I am sure there are numerous factors (overall attitude change during era, maybe more blowouts and slightly less opportunity for each player to steal, etc.)

  12. And yet you wouldn't have known offense was down by watching the World Series.

  13. I don't think new or modified parks are an obvious factor.

    -- Petco opened in 2004 and has played as an extreme pitcher's park ever since. Yet NL scoring rose slightly in '04.

    -- The Mets' new park opened in 2009 and, despite what you've heard about home runs, played about run-neutral in its first year (98 park factor), but NL scoring declined slightly in '09.

    (I'd like to go on, but I'm having internet trouble so I'll try to post this quickly before it crashes again.)

  14. More on parks:

    -- Detroit's new stadium had one-year PFs of 95, 95 and 91 for 2000-02, before the LF distance was shortened. Since 2006, it has slightly favored the hitters, with an average PF of almost 102.

  15. This is about 80% Adam Dunn's fault.

  16. @3, Ed -- Yes, the 2011 SO/BB ratio was the highest ever at the modern pitching distance.

    This century has seen 5 of the top 6 SO/BB ratios, with 1968 as the only interloper.

    BTW, these figures are directly available on Baseball-Reference. From the home page, choose Leagues, then "All Major Leagues-Pitching."

  17. @ 15 Thanks, now I have to wipe the spray off of my computer screen...

  18. #!
    Of the 75 0ver10 WAR seasons for pitchers, 55 occurred in the 1800s. 8 happened in the dead ball. So of 12 left, 2 of them happened in 1972, and Wibur wood just missed with a 9.7. In ’71 Wilbur Wood had a 10.7, then there were two 9+ and three 8.5+.
    Then in ’73 there were just two pitchers with a WAR over 9, then a drop off to below 8.
    In 74 just one pitcher over 8.5.
    Then in 75, no pitcher exceeded 7.9.
    So individual dominance seemed to be trailing off, I don’t know the reason, but I could guess the DH might have something to do with it. Although the prototypical DH (Frank Thomas, David Ortiz) hadn’t arrived on the scene, it still was an improvement over the pitcher hitting.

  19. Sorry Ed at 4.
    Missed your response. I should read for the answer before I write it.

  20. Does this mean that we're slowly going to revert to baseball from the 1980's to correct the trend? Will we see the rise of players in the Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, Rod Carew mold? Sprinkle in a few, and only a few, long ball hitters. Who's the next Rickey Henderson or Vince Coleman?

    I sure hope so...

  21. Although this year's scoring decline continues a 4-year trend, the one-year change in R/G was pretty small, about 2%, and was mirrored virtually across the board in the individual categories (except for SB).

    And while we naturally think of the "steroids era" of 1993-2007 as a period of consistently high scoring, there were significant variations within the period. There were spikes in '96 (+4%), '99 (+6%) and '06 (+6%), and troughs in '97 (-5%), '02 (-10% vs. '00) and '05 (-5%).

    This year's scoring average of 4.28, while lower than any other year from 1993-2010, is still higher than the 5-year average from 1988-1992 (4.19), and slightly higher than the 20-year average of 1973-92, i.e., the DH/pre-steroids era (4.26).

  22. Jose Bautista led the majors in 2011 with a .608 slugging percentage. A .608 SLG would not have made the top 10 in the majors (min. 502 PAs)in any of the following years: 2002 and 2001, 1996, 1930, 1929.

    On the other hand, a .608 SLG would have been the third-highest full season SLG put up by anybody in the eleven seasons from 1981 through 1991. The only players to to slug .600 or better in a season over those 11 seasons, with at least 502 PAs, were Kevin Mitchell (.635 in 1989), Mark McGwire (.618 in 1987) and George Bell (.605 in 1987)

  23. Pops8 @20, I sure hope so. It seems to be heading that way. In the 1980s, there were several 30 HR mashers each year, the occasional 40 HR season, and otherwise a handful of great hitters--Carew, Boggs, Gwynn, etc--that were quite valuable. The stolen base was more valuable. The game was, overall, more interesting.

    Poor John Olerud, who played the game at just the wrong time for a hitter of his style. If he were coming up just now, he'd be an absolute superstar on par with the names I mentioned above.

  24. Fantastic!! Alittle less long-ball and, before you know it, will see the bunt and the hit & run make a comeback.....Let's get rid if the DH next

  25. All: The AOL ID numbers is a problem from time to time on many blogs, not just Blogger ones. I've seen it regularly on SciBlogs, for example.

    And, I would LOVE the return of Whiteyball. I still remember, Game 4, IIRC, 1982 WS, when McGee scored from third AND Ozzie from second on the same sac fly.

    @John 13: The new Busch has shown itself to be about "neutral" so far, which is why many people wonder what Prince Albert would do in, say, Arlington.

  26. A couple of thoughts about the SB numbers:

    (1) For gauging SB strategy as a possible reaction to levels of offense, I'd prefer to look at SB attempts rather than successful SBs.

    The success rate has generally risen over the past 60 years, from 1952's 55% (yikes!) to this year's 72%. There were more successful SB in 2011 than, for example, any year in the period 1920-25 -- but there were significantly more attempts in the earlier period.

    (2) The relationship between scoring levels and SB strategy is not at all obvious. For example:

    -- The WWII years 1942-46 averaged 4.07 R/G, 14% below the previous 5-year period (4.75). Yet SB attempts barely changed, from 0.54 SBA/G before to 0.52 after.

    -- In 1950, SB attempts hit a historic low of 0.35 SBA/G. It's tempting to see a connection with the local highs of 4.85 R/G, 0.84 HR/G and 4.02 BB/G that year. But then, why did SBA shoot up almost 70% the very next year, from 0.35 to 0.59 SBA/G -- with a far worse success rate -- when there were only modest declines in R/G and HR/G?

    -- In 1963, scoring fell by 11%, from 4.46 to 3.95 R/G, the biggest one-year change in over 30 years. Yet SBA fell slightly, from 0.64 to 0.62 SBA/G. Perhaps there was a lag in reacting to the new context? Well, scoring stayed low in ’64 (4.04 R/G), but SBA declined further, from 0.62 to 0.58 SBA/G.

    -- SB attempts did rise in the rest of the pitching-dominated era, reaching 0.76 in 1968 … but even when scoring returned to “normal” levels, SBA continued to rise steadily through the ’70s and into the ’80s, peaking at 1.21 in 1987 -- which also happened to be a year of high scoring.

    -- In 1988, scoring plunged by 12%, from 4.72 to 4.14 R/G, and stayed around that level through 1992 -- yet SBA declined in ’88 and held steady through the period 1988-92, at a level over 7% lower than in the high-scoring 1987.

    -- Finally … In 1994, scoring reached what we think of as “normal” for the steroids era, 4.92 R/G. Yet through 1999, SBA averaged a pretty steady 1.03 SBA/G. Then in 2000, SBA suddenly dropped by 14% to 0.87, and have not gotten above 0.93 SBA/G since then.

  27. @ 21 John Autin,

    Do you think some of those years that saw a drop in scoring, may have saw a few pitchers get fed up and start using PEDs?
    We all think that offense was way up because the hitters were huge, beefed up gym rats, but Clemens, John Rocker, Pettitte, Gagne and others all benefited from the juice as well.
    I know finesse plays a major role in pitching, where hitting is more of a strength thing, I still see some of the advantages hitters got from that era, were leveled off from pitchers using the same methods.
    Just look at some ESPN classic games. Mike Scmidt, Dave Kingman, Gorman Thomas, Daryl Strawberry, etc, were considered the strongest biggest guys out there. In those classic reruns, they all look like Juan Pierre. Just remember, Howard Johnson led the NL in homers with 38 in ’91, the next year McGriff led with only 35, then 18 years of 40 + homers in the NL until Matt Kemp last year.

  28. 30 home runs in a season means something again!!!

    What are we going to see next? Someone choking up on the bat? Players leaving their gloves on the field? The White Sox in shorts?

    Wait.. scratch that last one.

  29. I think we should avoid jumping to conclusions about year-to-year fluctuations. It is natural to see some up and downs, especially during a peak period. If you have a record-high year, it is much more likely that numbers drop the next year than rise. So we can't necessarily assume that drop is a function of pitchers using or stadiums or anything else, since it is most likely random. It is the larger trends, as Andy points out, that are more interesting.

  30. Another of the numerous ways to illustrate that offense is moderating is to look at the number of players achieving a given set of milestones. As an example, with the criteria of 162 H / 81 R / 81 RBI, the numbers of players from 2006-2011 are as follows:
    2006 - 39
    2007 - 34
    2008 - 32
    2009 - 24
    2010 - 24
    2011 - 19

  31. @18 1970 to 1975 was the time of transition from the 4 man rotation to the 5 man rotation. So the top pitchers were throwing fewer innings. To get WAR=10 with 300 IP you need to be about 3 runs better than replacement per 9 IP. With 225 innings that goes up to 4 runs better/9, a big difference in average quality.

    @26 In looking at SB numbers there are many other historical details that cannot be ignored. In WW2 the age of MLB players went up a lot, SBs are strongly associated with younger players. After 1946 started the slow integration of black and dark skinned hispanic players. This took some time to integrate their style of both power and speed.

  32. @27, Everyone being on the juice means that overall offense is going to go up. It might help roided pitchers outperform roided pitchers, but the marginal benefit to pitchers is far less than the marginal benefit to hitters.

    And, in many cases (especially Clemens), steroids mainly just kept pitchers going at older ages.

  33. The fifth straight season that the major league run-scoring level has decreased. This ties the record set over the period 1938-1943 (unless you count the National Association as a major league, which I don't).

    Over the period 1916-1922, runs scored increased six straight times, with the big jumps occuring in 1920 and 1921. Those are the only three periods when the arrow stayed pointed in the same direction for at least 5 straight seasons.

  34. I wonder how much chicken-and-egg confusion there is going on. The assumption is that scoring is down because of drug testing or ball parks or whathaveyou, ultimately outside factors not directly related to player skill. And I'm sure those are a factor. But what if we are simply seeing a time where pitching talent is higher and hitting talent is lower? I have NO IDEA how we'd quantify it and how we'd begin to determine, from the numbers, where the talent impact ends and the other stuff begins.

    But isn't it possible that there will be periods where there is simply more talent on one side of the ball than the other? We certainly see unbalanced distribution of talent between the leagues, where talent is largely (but not entirely) randomly distributed. Why couldn't we just see a generation or mini-generation where more elite talents took the pitching route for unknown reasons?

  35. Good question BSK. I am just suspect that this is likely to be as strong or frequent an effect as things we can see causes of, meaning shifting parks, PEDs, & expansion. Interesting that the latter is especially an overlap between both things: both an identifiable cause, & something that indirectly seems to alter the balance of power between offense & pitching.

  36. On the hitters' side, other facts go unmentioned, like pre-humidor Coors Field, the rise in use of maple bats, etc.

  37. The 1987 season has always fascinated me. An offensive and power explosion came out of nowhere and then disappeared the next year. I've always been curious why and have become more so in the years since a lot of the juice stuff came to light.

    I've thought that maybe the balls were different and I've wondered in recent years if MLB might have changed something. I mean the drastic (relatively) decline in offense has certainly moved the PED's discusion to past tense, which is a good thing for MLB right?

    Maybe I'm crazy and I just need to accept that I was wrong in my belief that the impact PED's had was totally overblown.

  38. The most common theory about 1987 was that the ball was different. The changes that year were so drastic and fleeting, as in 1988 things went way back the other way.

  39. @31, kds: "1970 to 1975 was the time of transition from the 4 man rotation to the 5 man rotation. So the top pitchers were throwing fewer innings."

    The transition to 5-man rotations was getting underway in that period, but it's not true that the top pitchers were throwing fewer innings in 1970-75. Quite the opposite, in fact, and especially in the AL in the first few years of the DH. And specifically, the IP by the top pitchers increased starting in 1969 as compared to the rest of that decade.

    If you check the period 1962-present for the most pitchers reaching any high level of innings, you'll find that 1970-75 dominates.

    250 IP: Top 6 are all 1970-75, with a high of 34 in 1974.

    275 IP: 6 of the top 7 are 1970-75, with a high of 21 in '74.

    300 IP: 1973-75 are nos. 2, 3 and 4 (with 18 of those 20 combined 300-IP seasons coming in the AL). Of the 66 300-IP seasons since 1962, 32 came in 1970-75.

    There were still several 4-man rotations in 1975, as 36% of all starts were made on no more than 3 days' rest. In '76 it fell to 27%; by 1980 it was 18%; and by '84 it was 12%. It took until 1988 to fall below 10%.

    Finally, during the transition to 5-man rotations, there was a long period when it was more common to have not a true 5-man but rather a 5-day rotation: the top 4 guys would start every 5th day, while the 5th guy would start only when needed.

  40. @31, kds (2nd point) -- That is a very good point, that the specific personnel playing the game at any given time have a large impact in the SB numbers.

    It does not contradict my point that the relationship between scoring levels and SB attempts is not easy to ascertain just from looking at the total numbers.