While those reports of an offensive decline similar to the levels seen in the 1960s are frivolously premature (and, in fact, downright false), we are seeing a return to that tumultuous decade in one rather interesting context--batting performance with runners in scoring position (RISP).
Remember how the Cardinals hit .330 in RISP situations last season? Their OPS ranked 16th best since 1950 (the time for which we have complete play-by-play data).
Have you noticed that the Cards have been struggling so far this year? They are currently playing just .500 ball (16-16), and one of the reasons is their shocking volte-face in hitting with runners on base.
St. Louis' 2013 RISP OPS was .865; as of today, their 2014 RISP OPS was just .619.
That would make them the 19th worst team in RISP over the 1950-2014 time frame.
But that's not all. The Cards aren't the only 2014 team on the bottom edge of the RISP performance list. Not by a long shot.
It turns out that there are four more 2014 teams on the "worst RISP" list (at least as of now). All four of those teams are in the bottom ten. They currently occupy the #1, #2, #5, and #7 slots on the "lowest RISP OPS" table (as shown above).
The Cubs, Padres, Astros, and Diamonbacks are all sporting RISP OPS's that are under .600. The Cubs and the Padres are currently below the all-time record holder for lowest RISP OPS (at least since 1950).
Who's that record team of yore? Why, it's the 1968 New York Mets--a team with a .204 BA in RISP situations, and and all-time lowest SLG of just .275. The '68 Mets' RISP BA is not the lowest--that "honor" belongs to the 1969 Padres, who hit just .201 but managed to post a .295 SLG.
This list is dominated by two types of teams--those from the 60s, and expansion teams in their first five years of existence.
There are thirteen (13) 60s teams, and twelve (12) expansion teams in their first five years of existence in the Top (er...we mean "bottom") 25.
Of course, there's a good chance that all four of those teams will get their acts together (at least somewhat...) as the 2014 campaign progresses and that none of them will even wind up on this list when the year is over. But it is startling to see so many 2014 teams circling the drain.
What was the lowest RISP OPS recorded for a major-league season (1950 on)? Why, 1968, of course. RISP OPS is pretty closely tied to overall OPS, so it makes sense that the lowest-scoring year since the deadball era would also have the worst RISP performance. Right now, the 2014 MLB RISP OPS is sixth lowest (.704) since 1950, down just under 20 points from 2013, and 35 points from 2012.
[Data retrieved from the Play Index at Forman et fils.]