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Offense was at its lowest level since 1992

Sep 30, 2011, 8:50 AM EDT

Adam Dunn AP

With the final totals in we can officially see what was pretty darn obvious throughout the season. Offense was down. Way down. Down to a level we had not seen since there were 26 teams in the league, I had a full head of hair and people actually thought that Mike Myers was hilarious. 1992, people. A different time. A different place.  The specifics, via Stats, LLC:

  • Teams averaged 4.28 runs per game. Lowest since 1992’s 4.12. The peak of the recent big-run era was 5.14 in 2000;
  • The home run average was down to 0.94 each team per game, also the lowest in 19 years and a sharp drop from 1.17 in 2000;
  • The major league batting average of .255 was the lowest since 1989;
  • The 3.94 ERA was also the lowest since 1992.

This stuff always brings out the “see, they’re not on steroids anymore” mob.  As I often say, I don’t find this to be a very satisfying explanation. No single-factor explanation of a complicated process every sits well with me, and baseball teams scoring runs is a complicated process.  Steroids testing likely had some effect in offensive decline over the past several years, but there are other things at work.

The way pitching is scouted and developed is one. It’s like anything else: there was a pitching shortage for many years, pitching became more valuable to teams and thus better pitchers and pitching approaches were discovered and developed. Defense has been emphasized. A lot of hitters have been slow to adjust to an era in which strikeouts are more harmful to offensive production than they were back when homers were easier to come by. I’m still not entirely convinced that there hasn’t been a change in the ball, but we’ll probably never know that.

Anyway, point is that offense is down. I think it’s all a part of the pendulum swinging back and forth like it always has in baseball. Your mileage may vary. But just be wary of silver bullet explanations about anything. They’re very rarely correct.

  1. Old Gator - Sep 30, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    Drug testing.

  2. Jonny 5 - Sep 30, 2011 at 8:54 AM

    Better pitching this season and better attendance. But I thought it was the long ball everyone dug?>?>?

  3. Old Gator - Sep 30, 2011 at 8:54 AM

    Silver bullets? Easy to say when you’re not a werewolf. I still think the drug testing regimen is having its desired effect: the game has become less interesting.


    • Jonny 5 - Sep 30, 2011 at 9:00 AM

      “the game has become less interesting.”

      Speak for yourself Gator, the Game is still very interesting up in these parts, ya know since there still is baseball going on and all….

      Nyuknyuknyuknyuk…. 😉

      • El Bravo - Sep 30, 2011 at 9:55 AM

        Don’t you make me turn this car around…

  4. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 30, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    But there is likely one thing that matter more than others, and I think the whole steroid era being over is what is contributing the most to the offense being down. I don’t think it is a crazy or unfair statement…at least not any crazier than speculation about changes in the ball. The Phillies and the Giants put up ERAs that are the lowest in 23 years. Only 2 guys hit 40 home runs. 10 years ago, 43 home runs would have barely cracked the top 10.

    • paperlions - Sep 30, 2011 at 9:16 AM

      When steroid testing began (2004), offense did not go down….in fact, increased slightly through 2006.

      When amphetamines were banned and suspensions given for positive tests (starting 2007), offense did go down.

      I’m sure it was just a coincidence though.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Sep 30, 2011 at 9:22 AM

        Thank you PL….Amphetamines absolutely played a gigantic role in offense production. It doesn’t get talked enough about by mainstream media.

    • danandcasey - Sep 30, 2011 at 10:33 AM

      So – you are saying team “chemistry” is to blame for the low offense numbers and the demise of the Red Sox?

    • professor59 - Sep 30, 2011 at 11:06 AM

      Don’t forget – pitchers used steroids too.

  5. proudlycanadian - Sep 30, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    Mike Myers was hilarious in 1992. Like baseball players, his talent has declined with age. Pitching has changed and pitchers seem to be using different pitches

    • nolanwiffle - Sep 30, 2011 at 9:54 AM

      The Speedball Theory

      • Old Gator - Sep 30, 2011 at 10:05 AM

        Meyers seemed funny but what it really was, was that next to Tia Carrere he looked ridiculous. He still does.And the Austin Powers series was one of the lamest, limpest, dullest, dumbest excuses for satire in cinema history. Big, fat yawn. They didn’t even have the nerve to come right out and call the sequel The Spy who Porked Me.

    • foreverchipper10 - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:10 PM

      My name is Simon and I like to do drawings.

  6. Francisco (FC) - Sep 30, 2011 at 9:03 AM

    of a complicated process every sits well with me

    Since you have the benefit of an edit function, use it:

    of a very complicated process sits well with me.

    There, I just did your job for you. You don’t even have to type. Just copy & paste. 😀

    • dlevalley - Sep 30, 2011 at 10:35 AM

      Craig more likely meant:

      “…of a complicated process ever sits well with me…”

      When editing, reading comprehension must always be maintained.

  7. deep64blue - Sep 30, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    Are we finally seeing the impact of pitch counts etc protecting pitching talent? No more Kerry Woods or Mark Priors?? (Well except in Atlanta!)

    I agree it’s likely to be only one factor but over the last 10 years teams have taken more care of the arms in their systems and perhaps now we are seeing the fruits in the Majors.

  8. dihigosghost - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    I will agree with you that pitching has improved because of better coaching techniques, pitch counts, use of bullpens, etc. However, most people were wondering if offensive production, primarily home run production, would decrease because of the end of the steroid era. Offensive production has decreased, so believe what you want.

  9. scatterbrian - Sep 30, 2011 at 1:05 PM

    I love the fact that people lean on steroids as the reason….because history has shown only hitters were using and therefore only offense will be affected by stricter testing.

    I think emphasis on defense has contributed to this. Strong defense suppresses batting averages, lowering the number of runners on base and runs scored, which lowers ERA as a result.

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