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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bill Madden: Baseball buzzing as Atlanta Braves lock up their top talent

Taking a break from his letharchaic Al Kavelin and his Cascading Chords box set, Madden spews on…

The bigger picture here for baseball is the vanishing 25-30 homer hitter and the accompanying law of supply and demand. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there were only 30 hitters in baseball last year with 25 or more home runs, which was the lowest total since 1992. There were 65 in 2001, the height of the steroids era, and 55 as recently as 2009, three years after baseball began testing for amphetamines. While most baseball people agree the joint drug agreement, with its increased testing for steroids, HGH and amphetamines, has definitely had an effect on the decrease in power numbers, they are perplexed as to why teams are developing fewer and fewer power hitters today.

“You just don’t see them in the high school and college ranks the way you used to,” said one National League scout. “One reason could be — and I can’t quantify this or anything — is that years ago, the biggest kids on the high school teams were middle-of-the-order type hitters, with power. Now, the biggest kids in high school and college all seem to be pitchers. Just look at all the 6-5 and taller pitchers, who throw 95-97 mph, coming out of the draft every year. I think also we have to admit we’re losing more and more of the best athletes to other sports — and not just football and basketball. I’m talking lacrosse and soccer. There’s no question power in baseball is becoming a precious commodity.”

...“I realize 25-30 homer guys are hard to find now — guys with that rare combination of power and high average who don’t strike out a lot,” Schuerholz said. “That said, we’re certainly not gonna apologize for giving Freddie Freeman $150 million.”

Repoz Posted: February 23, 2014 at 10:30 AM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. jacjacatk Posted: February 23, 2014 at 11:17 AM (#4661005)
Seriously, lets just completely make up reasons.

BBCOR bats were introduced in 2009/2010, and HS and college players started hitting fewer HR when they were forced to use something that begins to approach wood. That explains HS/College raw power numbers.

HR/PA in the big leagues have been relatively flat for 20 years, and though we're in what looks like a slight lull from the early 90s spike that occurred from '93-'95 and peaked around 2000 we're still substantially above the previous established level. There have been roughly 4 HR eras if you look at a graph by HR/PA. Origin to 1919, 1920-1940, 1950ish-1990ish (the post war spike to the "PED era" spike), and 1995-today.

Also, there are more guys hitting 25-30 HR a year now than were doing so in previous eras. There are slightly fewer doing so than at the absolute peak of HR hitting around 2000, but the number hasn't really been substantially changing recently (around 20 a season).

   2. John Northey Posted: February 23, 2014 at 11:43 AM (#4661017)
Quick top 10 lists from B-R for MLB...
2013: 32-53 HR, just 2 over 40
2003: 40-47 HR
1993: 36-46 HR, 5 with 40+
1983: 32-40 HR, just the one at 40
1973: 29-44 HR, 4 with 40+
1963: 28-45 HR, 4 with 40+
1953: 30-47 HR, 6 with 40+
1943: 16-34 HR
1933: 16-48 HR, 48 HR led (Foxx), 34 2nd just 3 with 30+
1923: 17-41 HR, just 2 over 30, both with 41 (Ruth & Cy Williams)
1913: 9-19 HR, yeah, different era.
1903: 7-13 HR, just 2 with 10+
1893: 9-19 HR
1883: 5-14 HR
1873: 2-4 HR (National Association)
1863: nothing considered 'major league'

So yeah, 2003 is a clear anomaly with all top 10 being 40+. 2013 is a lot like 53-83-93 with a bit less at the top (40+) but close enough while 73-63 had a bit less at the bottom of the top 10.

The bigger issue is the number of teams looking for those top sluggers. In 1953 you had just 16 teams vs 30 today, 28 in 93, 26 in 83, 24 in 73, and 20 in 63. So twice the teams but no more 30+ HR guys means a big shortage.
   3. bfan Posted: February 23, 2014 at 12:26 PM (#4661041)
The game and what managers are willing to put on the field has fundamentally changed. It used to be that you could put a LF out on the field like Greg Luzinski, because he could hit (and hit for power), and you accepted poor fielding, through low field coverage.

Last year the Yankees put a RF (traditionally the 3rd or 4th best hitting position in the line-up) who SLUGGED .342 and had an OPS+ of 75, and this was excused because the guy played wonderful defense. I assume/hope that the pendulum has swung too far toward defense, and we will float back to a different balance between offense or defense in a few years. But for now, the crappy hitting corner OF with some nice speed is going to get their AB's, and they are taking AB's away from the slow running guy who can drive the ball.
   4. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: February 23, 2014 at 01:31 PM (#4661065)
I realize 25-30 homer guys are hard to find now — guys with that rare combination of power and high average who don’t strike out a lot

Those kind of guys - power, high average, don't strike out a lot - are kinda hard to find anytime, yes?

   5. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 23, 2014 at 01:49 PM (#4661071)
I was kinda thinking the same thing, it used to be draft lists were totally populated with lots of great hitters, and some pitchers. The last 5-10 years I've noticed a bigger emphasis on pitchers, and speedy outfielders and glove-first infielders. I wonder if there has been a greater emphasis on putting athletes on the mound rather than at the plate. I think its led to the pendulum swinging the other way, as I think teams are now starved for good young power hitters in their organizations.
   6. jacjacatk Posted: February 23, 2014 at 02:45 PM (#4661102)
FWIW, I'm reasonably certain offense has gone down in College and HS recently in part due to an over-reaction to the effects of the BBCOR introduction. If that's acting on offensive perceptions in such a way as to make pitchers seem more valuable it's possible that some of the problem is just self-perpetuating. Scouts aren't finding good hitters because offensive levels are down because people are over-reacting to an expected drop in offense by emphasizing pitching and defense more.

If that's the case, maybe the NCAA push to introduce the pro ball will swing the pendulum the other way when they can look to the ball for the increase in offense instead of the fact that college and HS 4-hole hitters shouldn't be bunting guys from 2nd to 3rd because they're afraid no one can hit HR anymore.

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