Do you miss the one handed home runs of 1998?? Do you miss the stadiums packed full of avid fans taking picture after picture with their film cameras waiting for their slugger to hit yet another bomb?
I, for one, miss 1968: The year of the pitcher. Everyone remembers Bob Gibson’s historic 1.12 ERA, but 1968 also featured men mastering the mound such as Juan Marichal, Denny McLain, and Luis Tiant. These men, among others, actually led to baseball lowering the mound. What these players did changed the game. What other athletes can say that for their respected sport?
While it’s not 1968, 2014 has seen the league’s offensive numbers lower as a whole. Major League Baseball has generally seen a decline in offense since 2000 and, to this point, 2014 is continuing the trend. In 2000 the league hit .270 as a whole. The league’s batting average has steadily declined since then and is at .250 today. Over this same time period strikeouts per game went from 6.45 in 2000 to 7.72 in 2014. On-base percentage, slugging percentage, and total bases are down as well.
So I guess the proper question is: Why?
Are the steroids finally gone? Has baseball finally quit taking its juice? Or are the numerous fireballers throwing upper 90s catching up with the hitters?
I do have a few points to go with those thoughts: All fans must remember the many differences in the game between ’98 and today. Today’s league sees a much wider, more fair strikezone for pitchers to work with. You don’t have to be Pedro Martinez or John Smoltz to get the call on the outside corner anymore. Fans must also keep in mind that the occasional pitcher was juicing in ’98 as well, in essence leveling the playing field. Furthermore, it must be kept in mind the state of the bullpens we see today. Each and every night every major league team is rolling out at least one reliever, and most teams have multiple relievers, throwing high 90s. The origins of all these outstanding arms is a post all of its own, but they are definitely changing offense in today’s league.
Is change imminent with the steady decline in offense over the years? Some are already recommending another lowering of the mound while others suggest a redesigned baseball. I think at some point the hitters will become acclimated to seeing 98mph each and every night leading to the numbers balancing out. If this point is never reached or it is reached after MLB determines too much offense has been lost, then changes can, and will, be made. But how little offense is too little offense?
All in all, this lack of offense raises a classic baseball question. Do you enjoy high scoring games or low scoring pitchers’ duels? Would you rather watch the A’s and the Tigers smash out a 9-8 game in 4 hours or would you rather watch the Dodgers and Cardinals result in a 2-1 pitchers’ duel in 2.5 hours? (This also raises the designated hitter question which is yet another post to come later.) Personally, I would prefer to watch a two hour pitchers’ duel, but that’s just my opinion. Tell me what you think!
Photo Credit, Ethan May: https://www.facebook.com/EthanMayPictures