Mains: Where did all the running go in baseball?

From SABR member Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus on November 15, 2016:

One of the knocks on contemporary baseball is that it’s a little boring. The proliferation of the Three True Outcomes (since the term was coined by a BP alum, Christina Kahrl, I can use it without sending her a royalty payment) make for less action. In 2016, 32.3 percent of plate appearances ended with a strikeout (21.1 percent, the most in history), a home run (3.0 percent, also the most), or a walk (8.2 percent, the 13th-fewest since World War II, but let’s not spoil the narrative here).

Nobody even has to run when that stuff happens, unless it’s the rare inside-the-parker, an outfielder futilely pursuing a fence-scraper, or a fielder going after a foul ball that goes out of play. In all, the 32.3 percent of plays that ended with one of the TTO crushed the old record of 30.7 percent set way back in … well, 2015.

But how about running otherwise. One of the minor stories of the season was the Orioles stealing only 19 bases, tied for the eighth-fewest in history. That’s the lowest total since the 1972 Tigers, who stole just 17 in a strike-shortened (156-game) season with a team on which only one of the 11 players appearing in at least half their games was under 29. Over the summer, I discussed on Effectively Wild whether smart baseball is boring, evidenced by the stolen base totals of Vince Coleman in the 1980s compared to Billy Hamilton 30 years later. Stolen base attempts are fun, right? So if there are fewer of them, that’s less fun.

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Originally published: November 17, 2016. Last Updated: November 17, 2016.