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Tuesday, October 05, 2021

There Were Fewer Homers This Year, but the Long Ball Still Reigns Supreme

MLB’s plan to de-juice the baseball this year seems to have worked. Home runs were down in 2021 compared to the last couple of seasons, though not by so much as to warrant a complete shift in the game’s current offensive paradigm. Instead, run scoring — which remains heavily concentrated around home runs — decreased overall. Non-pitchers hit just .247/.321/.418 this year, representing the second-lowest batting average in the live ball era (1920-present and excluding 2020) but the fourth-highest isolated power.

In slightly de-juicing the baseball, MLB erased some home runs. But as we can see in the sudden drop in batting average, which is down nine points for non-pitchers compared to 2019, shaving off homers didn’t result in other types of hits. As I wrote in my second of two pieces analyzing early 2021 home run trends, these lost homers mostly just became outs. That explains the significant reduction in overall offense, even as the league-wide home run total remained quite high in the context of baseball history.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 05, 2021 at 05:06 PM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: juiced baseballs

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   1. sanny manguillen Posted: October 05, 2021 at 05:48 PM (#6043782)
NL pitchers finished .110/.149/.140 for the year.
   2. John DiFool2 Posted: October 05, 2021 at 06:37 PM (#6043788)
Quick and dirty for just four seasons, but I think this speaks for itself. % of runs scored on home runs:

2021: 43%
2019: 45%
1998: 35%
1980: 27%
   3. Walt Davis Posted: October 05, 2021 at 06:45 PM (#6043790)
I'm sure non-pitcher stats are somewhere on b-r but I'll just use AL to mostly keep pitchers out of it ...

Interestingly, the K-rate didn't shift at all, 23.0% in both 2019 and 2021; same with BB rates at 8.5% in both years. The HR% dropped from 3.7 to 3.4%. The H% (never calculated) dropped from 22.7 to 22.0% so less than half of that drop is due to the drop in HR.

The big change is that despite 2 more team-games (1 more game completed), the number of PAs dropped by 2,400. That's more than a 2.5% drop from 38.4 PA/g to 37.4 PA/g. The 7-point drop in OBP explains less than 1/3 of that (directly) and, what, maybe 1 percent of that drop with carry-on effects? ... Oh, it's the 7-inning DHs and the unearned runner isn't it? About 340 fewer innings pitched in 2021.

FWIW, a drop in AL avg EV from 89.2 to 88.5 and hard-hit % from 40.4 to 39.5. LDs down 1.8% points and FBs up 1.6% points, I don't think that's what we wanted. Pull a little less, up the middle a little more.

   4. Walt Davis Posted: October 05, 2021 at 07:01 PM (#6043794)
Also speaking for itself: % of outs on strikeouts

2021: 32.5
2019: 32.7
1998: 23.7
1980: 16.9

So nearly a 100% increase from 1980-2021 while %R on HR has gone up about 2/3. Some of that is on hitters trading Ks for power; some is on pitchers for trading shorter contact PAs (which would result in even more HRs) for Ks.

If pitchers had done nothing, everybody would be hitting 40+ HRs; if batters had done nothing, everybody would be hitting 240 without power.

   5. Rough Carrigan Posted: October 05, 2021 at 09:24 PM (#6043835)
Very interesting data. Thank you to the posters who supplied it.
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 05, 2021 at 10:08 PM (#6043866)


The big change is that despite 2 more team-games (1 more game completed), the number of PAs dropped by 2,400. That's more than a 2.5% drop from 38.4 PA/g to 37.4 PA/g. The 7-point drop in OBP explains less than 1/3 of that (directly) and, what, maybe 1 percent of that drop with carry-on effects? ... Oh, it's the 7-inning DHs and the unearned runner isn't it? About 340 fewer innings pitched in 2021.



Thank you. I noticed that PA were down significantly this year, but didn't put much thought into why.
   7. John DiFool2 Posted: October 05, 2021 at 10:47 PM (#6043888)
Very interesting data. Thank you to the posters who supplied it.


I take no pride or pleasure in it. Anyone want to make some bets on when it will hit 50%? Would likely involve another uptick in the HR rate along with drops in both on-base percentage and overall scoring rate. It's actually the OBP drop which has me most concerned; you don't see a lot of big innings of non-HR hits (& walks) anymore.
   8. Dr. Pooks Posted: October 06, 2021 at 12:57 AM (#6043916)
I'm surprised league average OBP is .321.

Higher than I'd expect.

I could have sworn it was trending downwards just a few years ago.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: October 06, 2021 at 05:27 PM (#6044060)
#8: Walk rates tend to be pretty stable ... obviously year-to-year variation but pretty stable ... so OBP tends to vary with BA and BA tends to vary with K rates.

MLB BB rate

entire expansion era: 8.5%
2021: 8.7%

Here's a weird one: total PA this year was 181818

EDIT: Walk rates were quite low in 2014-2015 around 7.7%. MLB introduced the new rabbit ball mid-2015 and pitchers had to go back to nibbling more.

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