March 24, 2017

Offensive Production in the Major Leagues Continues to Increase

July 9, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Offensive production in major league baseball steadily declined after peaking in 2000.  It reached a low point in 2014 and showed an increase in 2015 followed by an even bigger increase in 2016. The numbers below illustrate key hitting and pitching statistics for the peak year of 2000 and the most recent four years.  The 2016 figures are for the first half of the season:

Hitting Stats 2000 2013 2014 2015 2016
Runs per Game 5.14 4.17 4.07 4.25 4.50
Batting Average .270 .253 .251 .254 .256
On-Base Percentage .345 .318 .314 .317 .322
Slugging Average .437 .396 .386 .405 .418
OPS .782 .714 .700 .721 .740

 

Pitching Stats 2000 2013 2014 2015 2016
ERA 4.76 .3.86 3.74 3.95 4.21
WHIP 1.468 1.300 1.275 1.294 1.328

From these figures, it can be seen that the decline in offense continued in all categories in 2014.  However, in 2015, the trend was reversed and the uptrend continued in 2016.

Another indicator of offensive performance is the number of players who are on target to combine hitting for both average and power to achieve a .300 batting average, 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.  In 2015, only one player achieved all three (Paul Goldschmidt) but at mid-season in 2016, seven players are on target to reach all three milestones (.300-15-50) and sixteen others are close (.290-13-45).   Figures are for games through July 3.

Players on Target .300-15-50 Comments
Robinson Cano .303-19-54 Strong rebound season
David Ortiz .338-19-65 Can he retire with these number
Carlos Gonzalez .321-18-51 Another good year
Manny Machado .329-18-50 MVP Candidate
Mike Trout .324-17-54 Has never had all three in same year
Victor Martinez .318-16-50 Achieved all three in 2014
Ian Desmond .317-15-52 Thriving at new position, new team

These players are close to achieving .300-15-50 status in the first half of the 2016 season:

Player Name
Yoenis Cespedes .294-20-48 Thrives in Mets uniform
Josh Donaldson .298-20-56 Repeataing 2015 MVP numbers
Carlos Beltran .296-19-53 Strong rebound
Jake Lamb .290-19-58 May be emerging star
Miguel Cabrera .298-18-51 Still among the best
Mookie Betts .294-17-55 Does everything well
Marcell Ozuna .311-17-47 Strong comeback after poor 2015
Ian Kinsler .293-16-52 Still going strong
Paul Goldschmidt .292-15-55 Surging after slow start
Jose Altuve .347-14-49 Regularly fills stat sheet
Matt Carpenter .305-14-53 Does it all for Cardinals
Daniel Murphy .347-14-53 Leads NL in hitting
Jackie Bradley .294-13-53 One of three Red Sox on list
Eric Hosmer .303-13-49 Kansas City’s big gun
Wilson Ramos .340-13-46 Flies under the radar
Jonathan Schoop .301-13-47 Keeps getting better

While overall offense tends to increase slightly in the second half of the season, players with strong performances in the first half tend to have difficulty maintaining that level.  Thus, about five players are likely to achieve all three targets at the end of the season.  There are 12 players with 20 or more home runs at the halfway point but none are hitting over .300.

Another change since 2000 that has possibly been under-reported is the significant change in walk and strikeout rates:

Year

2000

2013 2014 2015

2016

Strikeouts per game per team

6.45

7.55 7.70 7.71

8.00

Walks per game per team

3.75

3.01 2.88 2.90

3.12

Strikeou/Walk Ratio

1.72

2.51 2.67 2.66

2.56

Strikeouts keep increasing and walks are on the upswing after dipping below 3.00 in 2014.  The increase in walk rate in 2016 contributes to the increase in offense.

What has changed in the last two years?  The decline may have run its course in 2014, but a more significant factor may be the arrival in recent years of a number of exceptional young hitters who are beginning to reach the prime of their careers (Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Manny Machado, George Springer, Paul Goldschmidt, Buster Posey, the Red Sox trio of Bradley, Betts and Xander Bogaerts and the Pirates outfield of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco).

There was talk after the 2014 season that some changes, such as lowering the pitching mound, might be appropriate to return more offense to the game.  The evidence in 2015 and 2016 suggests that such changes would be premature.

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