Offense Is Up in Baseball in 2015
One of the perceived problems with baseball is that scoring has been down in recent years.
We've gone through a string of "Year of the Pitchers" recently. So many, in fact, we really should be calling it the "Half Decade of the Pitcher." And make no mistake, pitchers are still getting the better of hitters at a higher rate than they did during the steroid era.
In 2003, Major League pitchers averaged an ERA of 4.40 with a strikeout per nine innings rate (K/9) of 6.40 and a home run per nine (HR/9) rate of 1.08. Through Monday's games this year, pitchers have an ERA of 3.93 with a 7.66 K/9 and a HR/9 of 0.95. So yeah, pitchers are having a much better season than they did back in 2003.
But the complaint from some has been that baseball is more boring now that scoring is down. And when you compare it to the steroid-infused era of the late 1990s and 2000s, scoring is way down.
Again, using 2003 as an example, batters put up a slash line of .264/.333/.422 with a weighted on base average of .328, with 5,207 home runs hit and 22,978 runs scored. Last year, the slash line was .251/.314/.386 with a wOBA of .310, 4,186 homers and 19,761 runs scored. But perhaps things are looking up.
And 2015's offensive output doesn't just outmatch that of a season more than a decade ago. Below are the stats for last year and this year.
Across the board, offense is slightly up through the first seven weeks of the Major League season, but there has been a significant jump in slugging percentage, which is good news for fans who want to see more scoring.
Last year, in 2,430 games, Major League teams scored 19,761 runs, good for a combined 8.13 runs a game by both teams. So far this year, through 570 games, 4,821 runs have been scored, good for an average of 8.46, the highest total since 2012 when it was 8.46.
Of course, that's far from the high-water mark of 2000 when teams averaged 10.28 runs a game and pitchers were looking to crawl into a hole and die. But Rome wasn't built in a day.
And home runs are up on a per-game basis as well so far this year, from 1.72 homers per game in 2014 to 1.88 so far this season. But again, that's a far cry from the 5,693 homers hit in 2000, an average of 2.34 per game.
We're also starting to see some eye-popping individual performances that, before Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire obliterated the record books, would have been pretty exciting. Through his first 38 games this year, Seattle outfielder Nelson Cruz had 16 home runs, on pace for 68.2 this season. Washington's Bryce Harper had 15 through his first 40 games, on pace for 60.75, with 10 homers in his last 12 games.
We're a long way from declaring 2015 the "Year of the Hitter." In fact, pitchers are still dominating, with the 20.1% strikeout rate this year across the league just a few ticks better than last year's 20.4%.
But offense is up, and maybe hitters are starting to make some inroads here, as the pendulum inevitably swings back in the other direction.