I've got a bit of a bone to pick with this guy, David Schoenfield, who writes for ESPN's Sweet Spot. In a post today entitled, "Pineda suspended, but ramifications?," Shoenfield writes:
The bigger issue here remains: Is this something teams, managers and MLB will be willing to crack down on moving forward with other pitchers? Or even want to? As offense continues to decline and strikeouts continue to rise to ridiculous levels, has the game swung too far in favor of the pitchers? Is it just a coincidence that pitchers are dominating at the same time the use of pine tar or spray-on sunscreen is apparently so widespread that the reaction from within the game was basically, "Pineda just should have done a better job of hiding it"?Last year, with 30 major league teams, the cumulative BA was .253, with 4,661 HRs and 20,255 runs scored. For those of you keeping score at home:
HR per team, average: 155.36
Runs per team: 675.16
Runs per team per game: 4.167
In 1998, when the bulging physiques of McGwire and Sosa hit a bazillion homers apiece -- maybe the height of steroidal madness if you minus Bonds -- there were 5,064 home runs and 23,297 runs:
HR per team, average: 168.8
Runs per team: 776.56
Runs per team per game: 4.167
In the good old steroid/PED heydays of 1999, batters went that one better:
HR per team, average: 184.26
Runs per team: 823.03
Runs per team per game: 5.08
Let's go back to 1961. That year, baseball expanded the number of major league teams to 18 and the number of games per season to 162. The "watered down" pitching and extra games were cited by those who poo-pooed Maris' record 61 homers and even Mantle's then-impressive 54. So you'd think the offense would be pretty hot overall that year. But...
HR per team, average: 151.66
Runs per team: 719
Runs per team per game: 4.43
Basically, except for the strikeouts, this is pretty much what we saw last year, with 30 teams facing even more "watered down" pitching.
Jump to 1985. The mound had been lowered almost two decades before, the wisdom of the elders determining that Gibson's amazing ERA of 1.12 in 1968 was a sign that offense needed goosing. (The DH would come not long after, to goose the AL even more.) PEDs were limited to coffee and maybe some greenies, perhaps a few piles of coke here and there.
HR average: 138.53
Runs per team per game: 4.3
Fewer home runs back back in '85 for sure, but I don't remember hearing the alarm bells going off about the terrible decline in offense in those days. And in terms of runs, runs per team per game, and BA, pretty dang close to last year.
So, the point: when Schoenfield bemoans today's declining offense and "ridiculous levels" of strikeouts, what's he comparing today's offense to, exactly? The strikeouts are high, but I'd say that's because the fences have been pulled in to "ridiculous levels" in a lot of parks compared to 30 or 50 years ago and that -- along with the emphasis on the HR that really hit its stride in the post-strike steroidal desperation of Bud Selig and a lot of frightened owners -- players have learned to swing for the fences a lot more than they used to. If pitching was really dominant today, the other offensive numbers would be more in line with the SO9 number, and reflect that domination.
I think, like a lot of today's sportswriters and fans, Schoenfield basically grew up during a statistically freakish era when men were men and expected to stick a needle in each other's butts. Where we are today is somewhere in the historical ballpark for offensive numbers.
Let's hope he's an anomaly and not the beginning of a new wave of sportswriter stupidity.