This could prove to be a unique year in Major League Baseball. It could turn out to be the first one we’ve ever seen where there are more strikeouts than base hits.
Years ago, there was no chance we would see that. But in an excellent column recently in the New York Times, Tyler Kepner wrote this:
“This could be the first season in major league history to feature more strikeouts than hits, a slowdown that worries many league officials. Thirty years ago, batters compiled nearly 13,000 more hits than strikeouts. Last season, that edge dwindled to about 2,000. This season, through Wednesday, it was nearly even, with hits only slightly ahead: 30,678 hits, 30,569 strikeouts.
Fifteen years ago, only seven qualified pitchers averaged 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings. Now, 8.4 is the major league average. Collectively, batters are hitting .248, the lowest average since 1972, the year before baseball introduced the designated hitter.”
Fans are seeing fewer baseballs put in play to create action and attendance is down. It could be a critical time in the game’s history or it could just be a cycle that will lead to hitters making big adjustments. Baseball has always endured and certainly it will through this current wave of increased strikeouts.
But a combination of hitters going for homers, coupled with more velocity in the game than ever and more defensive shifts that take away hits, is limiting offense and action.
I mean, 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings is now average. That is crazy. Will we see a time soon when striking out a hitter an inning is merely average?
The increased use of analytics has been a part of this. Managers are now more reluctant to have starting pitchers face lineups a third time. And where many years ago a lineup may have faced a tiring starter that third time, it now faces a reliever who may throwing 96 mph, if not more. Remember when someone throwing 100 mph seemed incredibly rare? That is no longer true.
I think we are going to see the game evolve and respond to this over several years to feature more players that put in the ball in play, strike out less, and create action more with doubles and triples than homers. Run production is still the key, but there are more ways to score than just hitting homers. Players that maybe can’t hit 40 homers might be productive with higher averages, more contact and the ability to hit 30 doubles. A player like Cedric Mullins seems such a breath of fresh air in Baltimore. What if a team featured four or five such players in its lineup?
You can click here to read the full Kepner column. Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
On to Toronto: Coming off Sunday’s loss at Cleveland, which gave the Orioles another road series loss, the Orioles begin a three-game series at Toronto tonight.
The Orioles are 0-7 this year at Rogers Centre. Baltimore has had three winless season series at Toronto, going 0-6 in 1987 and 1999 and then going 0-9 in 2010. Rogers Centre has not always been a house of horrors for the Orioles, who went 6-4 in that ballpark just last season.
When the Orioles were swept four straight there in June, two of the losses were in 10 innings and one featured a late blown lead. Toronto entered that series having gone 1-10 in its previous 11 home games and then swept four at home from the Orioles for the first time since June 26-28, 1978.
Last month, the Orioles lost three games in Toronto to start their post-All-Star break play - two more of those losses were by one run.
So the Orioles have lost four one-run games and three extra innings games in Toronto where they have gone winless this year and been outscored 44-23 in seven games. They have hit .212/.279/.380 as a team in those seven games with 10 homers and 72 strikeouts.
Do the O’s get at least one win in Rogers Centre on this trip?
Akin wins again: Double-A Bowie lefty Keegan Akin picked up another victory Sunday as the Baysox beat Erie 3-1. Akin pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts. It was the latest strong outing for Akin, who is now 14-6 with an ERA of 2.77. Since the All-Star break, he is 6-0 with a 2.34 ERA. Over 42 1/3 innings, he has walked 14 and fanned 40. This was Akin’s fifth scoreless start of 2018.
Bowie’s Yusniel Díaz hit a three-run homer in the win. It was his third with Bowie and his second in the last six games.