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Scoring Trends

Publication Date: April 23, 2002

The Shape of the Game

Baseball, from a 10,000 foot point of view, can be looked at as a neverending struggle for supremacy between the pitchers and the hitters. Over time, strategies evolve on one side or the other, rules change, equipment changes -- it's an endless tug-of-war between the two sides that keeps the end result, the number of runs actually scored, bouncing back and forth over time between the two extremes. There's no "right" answer to the correct number of runs per game (actually, the right answer is that the game should always be the way it was when you were eight to fifteen years old, but since we weren't all eight at the same time, that presents certain technical difficulties), but it definitely does make a difference in the way the game is played, from hitting strategies to coaching tactics to pitcher workloads. This week, without too much commentary, I want to present a couple of sets of numbers to give you some idea of the state of the game at present and in a historical context.

This first chart shows scoring, in runs per team per game, by full month for the last five years:

      Feb  Mar  Apr  May  All

1998  6.9  7.1  6.9  6.7  7.0
1999  7.0  7.0  6.8  6.7  6.8
2000  6.6  6.5  6.4  6.4  6.4
2001  6.1  6.2  6.5  6.4  6.3
2002  6.6  6.5  6.4  ---  6.5

Now, weather patterns and the like can start to take effect when you get down to the monthly level (or, for that matter, at the seasonal level), but there's a definite trend for scoring to get lower as the season goes on. I could theorize about that all day, but I'd just be guessing, and haven't we all had enough of that? Anyway, that means that it's quite likely that this year's overall level will end up about the same as last year. That makes a certain amount of sense; there haven't been any major rules changes in the last couple of years to compare to the bat changes of the post-1998 and post-1999 offseasons.

Secondly, here are the runs per game numbers according to the NCAA per year going back to 1970. You'll note that there numbers differ from mine slightly; I suspect they're counting games against non-D1 teams in the mix.

1970  5.0
1971  5.3
1972  5.0
1973  5.1
1974  5.3
1975  5.4
1976  5.7
1977  5.8
1978  6.1
1979  6.1
1980  6.2
1981  6.5
1982  6.4
1983  6.4
1984  6.4
1985  6.9
1986  6.8
1987  6.7
1988  6.5
1989  6.2
1990  6.1
1991  6.3
1992  6.2
1993  6.1
1994  6.2
1995  6.2
1996  6.5
1997  7.0
1998  7.1
1999  6.9
2000  6.5

It's worth noting that, while 1998 was the modern peak and caused an uproar, especially due to the 21-14 CWS final that year, it's not terribly out of line with the explosion of the mid-1980's. One thing that will strike you as significant if you think about it, though, is to note when offense was at its lowest, think about what age those who were eight to fifteen then are now, and then think about what age most of the coaches and administrators worrying about offensive levels are. If you add to that the fact that, while there's no data available for colleges for the '60's, they were a historically low offensive level for the big leagues, you get the reason why there's so much hand-wringing about today's scoring levels.

Pitch Count Watch

Rather than keep returning to the subject of pitch counts and pitcher usage in general too often for my main theme, I'm just going to run a standard feature down here where I point out potential problems; feel free to stop reading above this if the subject doesn't interest you. This will just be a quick listing of questionable starts that have caught my eye or, on the other hand, starts where pitchers were pulled according to plan early despite pitching extremely well in close games.

Date Team Pitcher Opponent IP H R ER BB SO AB BF Pitches
Apr 19 Creighton Tom Oldham Wichita State 9.0 6 1 1 4 7 31 35 139
Apr 26 Alabama Lance Cormier Auburn 7.1 10 6 5 1 3 32 34 133
Apr 27 Tennessee Jeffery Terrell Mississippi 7.2 13 5 5 3 6 36 39 139
Apr 27 Fresno State Bob Runyon Hawaii 9.0 11 4 3 2 10 35 40 142

Terrell also threw 14 pitches in relief on the 26th and threw four innings on the 24th.

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Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Scoring Trends About the author, Boyd Nation