# of teams that allowed a Slugging % at .370 or below (Pre/Post All Star Break)
If this trend holds and teams are able to carry dominance like this in both halves of the season, 2014 is going to be an extraordinary year for pitching. Maybe the 2nd half of 2013 was like the first half of 2011 and that number will be a fluke.
From 2000-2008, there was only 1 team (2003 Dodgers) that allowed a slugging % of .370 or lower for the full season. Since 2008, it has happened 12 times, including 4 times in 2013 (Pirates, Dodgers, Braves, Cardinals). Along with the skyrocketing strikeout numbers, it will be fascinating to see if these numbers hold steady, go down or keep going up. My guess is that they hold steady, but it is difficult to predict anything right now.
What's going on here? Obviously this doesn't include every season since 2000, but the trend it pretty clear. Over the past few years, the number of teams that were in the top five in strikeouts and scored a respectable number of runs plummeted. One of the most obvious answers is that home runs have also gone way down and it is more difficult for teams to make up for striking out a lot with a lot of power.
Most of the teams that had a lot of strikeouts and runs (2000 A's, 2000 Cardinals, 2005 Reds, 2005 Rangers) hit well over 200 home runs. That's just not happening anymore. In 2013, only 1 team (Orioles) hit over 188 home runs, and that's probably going to continue. The days of an entire team leading the league in strikeouts and being near the top in runs scored appear to be over for the time being.
Until 2010, there had never been a pitcher that had more than 25 innings and averaged more than 15 strikeouts per nine innings. Since then, it has happened 5 times in 4 seasons. Last year, Kimbrel's strikeout rate went down (13.3), while Marmol and Jansen don't seem to be threats to repeat either. It wouldn't be a surprise, though, to see several pitchers with 15+ SO/9 in 2014 considering the huge increase in strikeouts that we've seen recently.
Review of baseball themed slots game "hot shot"
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After doing almost nothing the entire offseason, the Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez to a 4 year contract today. Is this a good signing? He rebounded nicely last year after several down seasons, but he has been wildly inconsistent.
In 2010, he was on his way to having one of the all-time great seasons, going 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA before the All-Star Break, but finishing 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA after a struggling down the stretch. He went 19-30 over the next 3 seasons, before going 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA in 2013. Those are good numbers, but it is the splits that make the case that he's ready for a strong 2014. 2013 Pre-All Star: 7-4, 4.56 ERA, 94 SO, 53 BB Post-All Star: 6-5, 1.82 ERA, 100 SO, 27 BB September: 4-0, 1.09 ERA, 51 SO, 7 BB
If the final few months of his 2013 season were an aberration, he sure picked the right time to do that.
Rank: Post All-Star (60+ IP)
ERA: 1.82 (3rd)
SO: 100 (2nd)
SO/BB: 3.70 (21st)
September 2013 (25+ IP)
ERA: 1.02 (3rd)
SO: 51 (2nd)
SO/BB: 7.29 (6th)
When you put all of his numbers together, he was one of the two best pitchers in baseball last September, along with Kris Medlen. He was constantly pitching in high pressure games the entire month, as the Indians were fighting for their lives every day. If the Orioles are counting on Ubaldo to be the ace on a playoff team, that might seem like a stretch, but he has the talent.
The Orioles were ranked 27th in ERA for their starting rotation in 2013, after being 21st in 2012. It might not be ideal to give Ubaldo Jimenez a 4 year deal, but they had to do something. He was at the top of his game when it counted the most last year, and he might be ready to finally put it all together for a full season.
Since 1930, the only seasons with 7 or fewer players with at least 80 BB were 2013, 1968 (7), 1965 (6), 1957 (6), along with the strike shortened seasons of 1994 (3) and 1981 (1). Just as with the spectacular rise in strikeouts over the past 4 years, the question is whether the trend will continue. If it does continue, will the league try to somehow reverse it?
The mound was lowered after 1968 in response to the greatest season ever for pitchers. By 1970, the number of hitters with 100 walks jumped up to 12 (one of the highest ever) from 2 in 1968. Aside from changing the way that balls and strikes are called, there probably isn't much the league could realistically do to increase offense even if they wanted to.
Steroid testing has been in place for a decade, but pitchers only started to truly dominate over the last 4 years. If that is part of a bigger trend relating to specialization of relievers, then it might continue. I will assume that the trend will reverse at some point, although I doubt we'll ever see offense like the late 90's again.
Until significant adjustments are made, though, there is every reason to believe that the gains made by pitchers will hold and might even accelerate over the next few years. If they do, we might see more offensive totals not seen in at least 50 years.
Of the top 15 teams in bullpen ERA from 2011-13, the Braves are the only team on there more than once. Of the top 15 teams in starting rotation ERA from 2011-13, 4 teams were in the top 5 more than once. This isn't exactly a long term trend. In 2011, 4 of the top 5 teams in bullpen ERA were the same from 2010 (Braves, Giants, Padres, Nats and the Yankees had been #7).
It could be just be a blip, with several teams repeating in 2014 from the top 5 in 2013. We'll have to wait and see. If this happens again,
It also could be part of a bigger change in pitching that has shown itself over the past few years. The number of pitchers, particularly relievers, with high strikeout and low walk totals has skyrocketed over the past few years.
This could make it more common for teams to go from among the worst bullpens to the best without spending a lot of money (as the Brewers did last year, going from #30 in 2012 to #5 in 2013). I would be surprised to see more than one team carry over in the top five in 2014. It will be an interesting development to watch this season.
If the numbers keep heading in this direction, there will eventually be more pitchers in this group than out of it. The number of pitchers in this group has skyrocketed for both starters and relievers, but the bulk of the increase obviously has come from relievers. This is becoming like hitting 20 home runs was during the steroid era for a position player. What was once something done only by elite players is now expected of pretty much everyone.
It's not very surprising that there are more pitchers with high strikeout numbers. As bullpens are staffed with more young fireballers than old retreads, it make sense that there would more high-strikeout pitchers. It's a little surprising, though, that their walk totals have been going down as well. The steroid testing has probably helped pitchers in several different ways.
The hitters aren't putting up the same numbers and the pitchers aren't intimidated. More and more young pitchers are like what we saw Trevor Rosenthal do in the postseason. They throw their heat over the plate and dare the hitters to make contact. The increase in the number of pitchers with high strikeout and low walk totals over the past ten years has been astonishing and it might not be stopping anytime soon.
170 IP, allowed OPS of .530 or less (# per season since 1920)
1963: 1 (Sandy Koufax)
1964: 3 (Dean Chance, Joe Horlen, Koufax)
1965-67: 1 (Koufax '65)
1968: 2 (Bob Gibson, Luis Tiant)
1969-85: 4 (Vida Blue '71, Don Sutton '72, Ron Guidry '78, Dwight Gooden '85)
1994-00: 4 (Greg Maddux '94-95, Pedro Martinez '97, '00)
2013: 3 (Clayton Kershaw, Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey)
I doubt this will happen again in 2014, but it is remarkable the number exceeded any season other than 1964. Most of the recent entries were considered historic and extremely rare (Guidry, Gooden, Maddux, Martinez), making it stunning that 3 pitchers could do it in one year. Perhaps the most amazing fact is that their average age is 23, with Harvey in his 2nd year and Fernandez was a rookie. Harvey is unfortunately out for the season with Tommy John surgery, but this could be a group of pitchers that dominates for the next 10 to 15 years.
This is a different question than whether he should be a Hall of Famer. There have only been 4 starting pitchers (as opposed to pitchers who were primary relievers or a hybrid like Dennis Eckersley) who started their career after 1965 and were elected to the Hall of Fame.
Nolan Ryan (1966-93): 324-292
Don Sutton (1966-88): 324-256
Tom Seaver (1967-86): 311-205
Bert Blyleven (1970-92): 287-250
Over the next few years, there will be 3 more pitchers who will almost certainly join them: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson. There are some other pitchers (like Mike Mussina) who may have a shot eventually, but they won't get in on the first ballot. The one exception might be Pedro Martinez, who had a career record of 219-100 and won 3 Cy Young Awards.
With only 203 career wins, it didn't look at first like Halladay would have a shot to get in for a long time. After looking closer, though, I think he has an excellent shot. For starting pitcher to make it to Cooperstown with only 203 wins, they need to be truly special. No, he's not Sandy Koufax or Pedro Martinez, but he's a career different case from the large number of pitchers with around 200 wins that didn't make it.
His W-L% (.659) and ERA (3.38) put him well above pitchers with similar win totals that didn't make it to Cooperstown like Orel Hersheiser, Vida Blue, Bob Welch, Kevin Brown, Charlie Hough, Mickey Lolich, Jerry Reuss, Jerry Koosman and Luis Tiant. The number of pitchers with 200 wins and a W-L% of over .650 is very small. This alone should get him into the Hall of Fame.
200+ W, .650+ W-L%
That combined with 2 Cy Young Awards and 2 second place finishes should get him into the Hall of Fame, even if it isn't on the first ballot. The game has also changed so much in the past few decades that it isn't realistic anymore to have a magic number of 300 wins for a starter, but that doesn't mean that it will change immediately. While his win total will be an obstacle, I think that Halladay will have plenty of influential people pushing his case in the years to come and that his case is strong enough that he will make it into the Hall of Fame.