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. 

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