Cameron: Does MLB need more offense in the modern game?

From Dave Cameron at FanGraphs on January 27, 2015:

On Sunday, Commissioner Manfred made some comments about considering the idea of restricting defensive shifts, an idea to which there was a considerable amount of public pushback. In an interview with Ken Rosenthal last night, Manfred clarified his position, and noted that there’s nothing wrong with exploring the idea of making changes even if they aren’t needed, chalking up the comments to nothing more than due diligence. On that point, I fully agree with him, as there’s no harm in asking questions.

There’s an implicit assumption in this particular question, however. The goal of restricting shifts would be to raise the level of offense in the game today, so those in favor of such an idea are tacitly stating that run scoring in Major League Baseball is currently lower than they would prefer. As offense has cratered over the last five years, it feels like the balance has shifted too far in favor of the pitchers, with the increasing size of the strike zone the primary culprit. As the game sets strikeout record after strikeout record, it becomes easy to conclude that changes are necessary, and the current run environment is just too low.

But I guess I’m not entirely sure that’s true. For reference, here is a chart of league average team runs per game for the 20th and 21st centuries.

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Originally published: January 27, 2015. Last Updated: January 27, 2015.