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Year of the Pitcher III?

Are we heading into Year of the Pitcher III?

It’s still early of course but the general trend of runs being scarce and offensive powerhouses few looks to be firmly in place for 2012. Some have speculated that since the performance-enhancing drugs have been driven from the game (and let’s not mention Ryan Braun, please), certainly power numbers are down. There seems to be little reason to dispute that fact.

The five-year trend is compelling. If we look at the National League, we can see a clear downward trend since 2007:

Year Runs Avg Runs/Game
2007 12,208 4.71
2008 11,741 4.54
2009 11,481 4.43
2010 11,211 4.33
2011 10,691 4.16

What in the Sam Hill is going on here? True, some of the new ballparks that have come on line in the past decade, e.g., Petco Field in San Diego, CitiField in New York City, Comerica Park in Detroit, Target Field in Minneapolis are spacious and are considered “pitcher’s parks”; so much so that at CitiField they actually moved in the fences last off-season. But there are plenty of launching pads, too, such as New Yankee Stadium, The Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, and The Ballpark at Arlington. All in all, I think that rather balances out.

The mound has not been raised; it was 15” until 1969 offense became so anemic the game began to resemble soccer in the difficulty in scoring and it was lowered to 10” in 1969, where it rests today. Some students of the game were calling for the mound to be raised to something like 12” or 12.5” during the power explosion of the 90’s and early 2000’s. Today there is obviously no need to do that.

There has been much speculation on the effect that the “cut-fastball”, also known as “the cutter” has had on the balance between pitcher and batter. During the 1960’s, the last time offense was on the wane, the slider was frequently mentioned as a culprit. Today, the cut fastball, a slider-type pitch combined with a four-seam fastball grip, is similarly credited (or blamed) with the offensive longeurs that beset the National Pastime.

As a former position player myself, the one thing I can tell you about pitching is that it’s tough to hit, and the more talented the pitcher, well it just becomes a cruel and barren exercise. And so I leave you with that desultory thought today.

Although, if you’re like me and prefer pitcher’s duels, which move faster and have more clearly defined decisive moments, it may not be so bad.

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