Murphy: Infield defense changes with three true outcomes

From Blake Murphy at The Hardball Times on February 13, 2014:

The point wasn’t to make Andrelton Simmons’ defensive performance in 2013 seem even more impressive.

It ended up that way, but the idea was actually to show that infield defense has become less important over time. Let’s back up and examine the idea: three true outcomes have increased dramatically throughout baseball history thanks to the proliferation of strikeouts and a steady increase in home runs.

Of course, the inverse would then be true for balls in play—a plate appearance either ends in one of the three true outcomes (walk, strikeout or home run), or it ends with a ball in play. If three true outcomes are on the rise, balls in play must be on the decline.

First, let’s make sure the data bears this out. The graphs below show the home run, walk and strikeout rates throughout baseball history and then the summed three true outcomes and, inversely, the proportion of balls in play.

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Originally published: February 13, 2014. Last Updated: February 13, 2014.