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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Why Are MLB’s Base Hits Disappearing?

In those 25 full seasons since the strike, MLB’s BABIP never dipped below .283 in any stretch of 18 game days. Not since September 1991 has MLB’s BABIP been as low as .276 over any equivalent span. Granted, this latest stretch of 18 game days has yielded fewer plate appearances and batted balls than the average stretch of 18 game days, both because of COVID-caused cancellations and because of the record strikeout rate. Still, this stubbornly low BABIP has persisted over more than 16,000 plate appearances and more than 10,000 batted balls, so it’s probably not purely a fluke. To make matters more perplexing, one might have expected that the universal DH would buoy BABIP in light of the ineptitude of pitcher hitters, although the NL and AL have boasted identical BABIPs dating back to 2002. Plus, the warm months of July and August are typically the peak period for BABIP, so any weather or temperature effect should be acting in the opposite direction of this downturn.

Relative to last season, BABIP is down by between 17 and 23 points on ground balls, fly balls, and line drives. It’s down for left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters, albeit more for the former. It’s down in every inning, although the dips in the first two innings have been particularly pronounced. Pick a split or a circumstance, and hitters are having a harder time getting hits, which has flummoxed front offices. Another team analyst notes, “The most likely explanation is that it has to do with the shortened season, or the fans being gone. Something about this whole COVID situation.” But nobody seems to have narrowed things down. “Haven’t been able to come up with any single great explanation,” an R&D director says. “Might be a confluence of a number of things. But it’s super weird.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 12, 2020 at 09:18 AM | 88 comment(s)
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