Offensive Production in the Major Leagues Continues to Increase
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:
|Runs per Game||5.14||4.17||4.07||4.25||4.50|
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:
|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:
|Strikeouts per game per team||
|Walks per game per team||
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.