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Archive for May 11th, 2011

(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

Offense has been down across the majors this season, continuing a trend that began at the start of the decade and accelerated last season.

In the National League, the per-team average has been 4.13 runs, which would be the lowest output since 3.88 runs in 1992. Meanwhile, if the American League’s current average output of 4.26 runs per team remains constant over the rest of the year, it will be the junior circuit’s lowest offensive display since the strike-shortened season of 1981.

Runs Scored by League, 1901-2011

Source: Baseball-reference.com

One of the main factors that seems to be driving this downward offensive trend is a similar decline in the number of home runs. In 2000, when run production in the major leagues reached 5.14 per team, 3% of all plate appearances culminated in a homer. This year, the homerun rate has fallen all the way to 2.3%. During that span, runs per game has almost correlated in lock step with the homerun rate (R =0.896), so there can be no denying that fewer balls over the fence have meant fewer runners crossing the plate.

The connection between homeruns and run production is an easy one, but what is at that root cause of the decline in long ball power? Countless theories abound, but most center on the gradual increase in testing for both steroids and amphetamines. Although part of the overall trend could be attributable to that dynamic, it seems likely that many other variables have also played a role.

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