Monday, April 11, 2016


Early? Yes, it's early. Could any of the following change diametrically? Sure...maybe even by next week.

But it remains an interesting exercise in terms of "macro trends" to pop up (as is always a possible outcome when you uppercut...) with data values after the first week of the new baseball season. While many things in these numbers wi. ll prove to be aberrations, some of them will not--and by putting all of them out here on display, we can benchmark them in order to revisit later in the year.

Before we get to the numbers that really stand out, let's note that overall run scoring is up (4.43) though it seems to be occurring through a mechanism (a super-abundance of HR) that is propping up a lower batting average, and that might not be sustainable. Overall runs/game hasn't been above 4.4 since 2009.

So--the numbers that stand out: 8.36, 1.58, 1.14, 3.27, 8.41, 0.66, 13.6%, and .159.

Now that's really helpful, eh? Perhaps some annotation will help...

8.36 is the current number of hits/game. This is markedly lower than the averages in the previous two years, even though run scoring was lower in those seasons (4.25 last year, 4.07 in 2014). You have to go back to 1972 to see such a low number of hits/game (8.17).

1.58 is the current number of doubles/game. This is the lowest average since 1992. (You could actually say that the offensive explosion of 1993-2009 was the golden age of doubles, with nineteen consecutive years--1994-2012--with averages of 1.7 per game or higher. Last year's average was 1.7.

1.14 is the current number of HR/game. The last time it was this high was in 2000 (1.17) and if the average stayed at this number it would be the second highest in history. The league splits indicate that young pitchers had a bad week in terms of allowing HRs (40 in 269 IP, a figure that works out to 1.3 HR/game) so this is likely an aberration...we'd expect HRs to settle down to about 1.02-1.06/game by the end of the year. [UPDATE: As we said, early-season volatility is something that must be reckoned with: since we wrote this, HRs nosedived and the HR/game figure as of April 15 is down to 1.01.]

3.27 is the current number of BB/game. That's about a 10% jump over the past two years and, if it held up, would bring walks back up to the late-explosion period. The splits indicate that starters and relievers are just about equally responsible for this uptick, so that could mean that this might actually hold up--which would be a sign that old school sabermetric offense concepts (walks and isolated power) may be staging a bit of a comeback.

8.41 is the current number of K/game. This would be an absurdly high spike above and beyond the near-the-sound-barrier acceleration of K's should it hold up, so we're betting against it, though odds are good that the number could settle in at around 8. It also means that the truthfulness of "three true outcomes" is getting dicier, since K's are now comprising around 70% of the event in this category. (But that's a subject for a different blog post.) What's astonishing even in the small sample size is seeing four teams whose pitchers are averaging more than 10 K/game, with another six at 9+K/game.

0.66 is the number of GDP/game. (That's "grounded into double play" in case you had a rough weekend.) This figure has been steadily in the mid 0.7's and even into the 0.8's in recent years. The last time GDP/game was so low was in 1967-68, presumably due to low OBP lowering GDP opportunities. Or do we have an outcome stemming from playing less accomplished defenders in the middle infield? (We'll leave that for the real wonks to work out...)

13.6% is the percentage of H that are HR. This figure is, as you probably guessed already, really off the charts; the highest such percentage previously was 12.6%, in 2000. This figure went over 11% for the first time in 1987 and had a sixteen-year run over 11% from 1994-2009. This is probably aberrant due to things like Trevor Story, so let's figure on 12% being the likely ceiling for this.

.159 is the current MLB value for isolated power. That value tracks with the numbers from 1996-2009, and seems to indicate that pitching hasn't managed to extend its recent dominance, since league ISO was below .150 in nearly every year since 2009, only to jump back to .151 last season. Again, much of--or should we say even more more of--this is coming from the HR totals, so if they slip, this is going to slip. Figure on it being pretty close to last year when all is said and done.

As we said, time will tell about these stats. But they give us a benchmark to reexamine as the season moves on. Now comes the question about when we'll have the first complete game of the year...hint: it hasn't happened yet. Stay tuned...