Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Offense is Back in 2011

We heard a lot about last year being the "Year of the Pitcher" in Major League Baseball. The numbers bear out that 2010 was a very good year for pitching. The majors earned run average of 4.04 was the lowest number of earned runs per game since 1992. The home run per nine inning rate was its lowest since 1993. After a hundred and four games are in the books for 2011, several of the key numbers have bounced back to near 2009 levels.

The earned run average in 2011 is back up to 4.23 or more in line with 2009's 4.28. Last year was the first time in the history of the game (why didn't we hear more about this?) that strikeouts per game rose to over seven. Strikeout rates have risen dramatically over the years. In 1988, the strikeout rate was 5.56. It has risen gradually from there to its peak in 2010 at 7.06. That's a 27 percent increase over time. This year, the strikeout rate has shrunk back below seven and sits at 6.96.

As most people know, homer rates have risen dramatically since 1993. The homer rate was never over one per game until 1987 when it peaked at 1.06. The rate shrunk quite a bit in the few years after 1987 and then blew up in 1994. The rate has been over one ever since. That is until 2010 when the rate shrunk under one for the first time since 1993. This year, it's back to 1.14 and if the trend continued, would be the highest since the year 2000.

Surprisingly (or not since it's being stressed so much), the walk rate is down to its lowest level since 2005. And who knows if this is a factor of it being early in the season or what, but the Intentional Walk rate is down to its lowest level since the stat has been counted in 1955 and it's not even close. Most years, the rate sits anywhere from .25 to .29 per nine innings. The current figure is .17.

What might not be helping the pitching is defense. The current error rate in the majors is the highest rate since 1989.

So yes, the numbers did show that pitching had its best showing in 2010 than it has for a very long time. But so far this year, the offense is back in charge and other than walk rates, the batters are back in business in 2011. It's still very early, but that's how the trends look so far.


Dan McCloskey said...

Geez, I knew the strikeout rate was its highest in year, but I didn't realize it was that high. So, a pitcher with 150 Ks in 200 IP is below average?

William J. Tasker said...

Of the top 35 starting pitchers (based on Fangraphs.com WAR) last year, only four of them averaged less than 7 strikeouts per nine innings, so yeah, you could probably say that.

Stephen said...

How much of this do you attribute to the poor defense? That, more than even the amount of home runs so far, is what really stands out to me.

I know it's early in the season so it's a small sample size, but I would figure the defense should be at it's peak right now, then lag off a little as fatigue becomes more of an issue. Regardless, great points, great article.

William J. Tasker said...

Thanks, Stephen. I think defense is a factor. Teams like the Cardinals and the Giants have opted to sacrifice a bit of defense for offense. We'll see how those decisions wind up. But the error rate is certainly up, but that's just one fielding metric. I'll have to see how the other metrics are doing. But you could be right.