Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Will hitting bounce back in 2014?

# of players with 80+ BB, since 1999
1999: 40
2000: 35
2001: 28
2002: 28
2003: 26
2004: 24
2005: 20
2006: 27
2007: 24
2008: 23
2009: 22
2010: 17
2011: 14
2012: 11
2013: 7

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. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Will the top bullpens from 2013 repeat in 2014?

Top 5 Bullpens, ERA

2013: Braves, Royals, Pirates, Rangers, Brewers
2012: Reds, Braves, Rays, A's, O's
2011: Braves, Giants, Padres, Yankees, Nationals

Top 5 Starting Rotations, ERA

2013: Dodgers, Cardinals, Reds, Tigers, Pirates
2012: Rays, Nationals, Dodgers, Cardinals, Reds
2011: Phillies, Giants, Dodgers, Rays, Angels

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.
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