2016 Homer Spike Does Not Represent Return to 1999 Style of Game

Tuesday rob Manfred was asked about the spike in home runs. He essentially stated that it is not the ball and it is not due to players cheating the testing system for PED use. The numbers indicate he is probably right, that the spike is based on how today’s game is played and it may not be suited for quality baseball.

It is no secret that strikeouts are up significantly in recent years. Home run rates though were close to the record pace of 1999 and 2000 and the 2016 season broke a record with 111 players hitting 20 or more homers, the old record of 103 was set in 1999.

Using the Play Index at http://www.baseball-reference.com, I ran some quick comparisons of the 103 1999 batters who were in the 20+ homer club against the 111 from 2016. Note Carlos Beltran is the one player who made the list both seasons.

The numbers are rather striking in some particular areas. IN 1999, several players were well into the 40+ range with 2 going over 60, no 2016 player hit more than 47. The 103 players in 1999 averaged 29.75 homers, the 2016 figure was 27.5. The average age of the combined players was just a half year difference, nearly 29 in 1999 and 28.5 in 2016. The 1999 players averaged 13 more plate appearances, nearly 609.5 to 596.3, but the average number of official at bats was nearly identical, 531.5 in 1999 and 531.9 this season. The 1999 batters on average had nearly 12 more hits than the 2016 hitters, 155.1 to 143.4. The difference was similar for walks, 66.1 for the 1999 group to 53.8 this season. Where did the fewer hits and walks go since the number of at bats was similar and the total plate appearances was only 13 higher in ’99, you guessed it, strikeouts. This group of players averaged 101 in 1999, nearly 125 this season. While not the exact and proper figure, one can also get some insight by adding and dividing some numbers that don’t usually get examined in this way. By adding up all the batting averages and dividing them by 103 players, the figure for the 1999 hitters is a batting average of 0.291. doing real AVG combining all hits and dividing by all at bats creates a figure that is about a hundredth of a point higher. This figure as you can expect was way down for the 2016 hitters at just .268. Using a similar method for other hitting stats, the 1999 hitters lead in on base percentage .372 to .339 and in slugging .527 to .487. Among other stats, numbers were not too different for the two groups, more than 2 doubles, a .2 lead in triples, nearly double the rate of sac flies 0.9 to 0.5, a 0.3 lead in GIDP, a 9.5-6.5 lead in stolen bases and a 4.0-2.6 lead in caught stealing was all found with the 1999 group. What the 2016 group had more of besides strikeouts, a nearly 0.2 lead in hit by pitches. So clearly when looking deeper at the numbers, yes 2016 had a home run spike, but it does not mean we have a better game or a more entertaining game. I for one would rather have a 5-4 game with action on the bases and fielding plays, as opposed to home run derby with a 10-8 score, 8 combined homers and 20 plus combined strikeouts.

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