Scoring in Baseball Has Returned to Deadball Levels

From Phil Coffin at The New York Times on September 25, 2011, with mention of SABR members John Thorn, Rob Neyer, John McMurray and David Fleitz:

As baseball finishes up a fifth consecutive season with declining offense, its numbers have shrunk to levels just below those of 1911, the middle of the dead-ball era. Through Thursday, major league teams were averaging 4.28 runs a game while batting .255 with a .321 on-base-percentage. Walks per game, even hit batters per game, are virtually identical a century apart.

The end results — runs, batting average, on-base percentage — are strikingly similar, but the elements of offense have of course been radically reconfigured in a century of evolution. Compared with the teams of 1911, teams now hit more than four and a half times as many home runs and many more doubles — and they strike out three and a half times as often. Teams a century ago hit three times as many triples as they do now, stole twice as many bases, hit sacrifice bunts almost five times as often and made almost three times as many errors.

But over the decades, as the style of play, the ball, the ballparks and the ballplayers have changed, runs per game have kept moving like a sine curve, always returning to the middle. Major League Baseball was only 0.01 off the modern game’s median for runs per game just last year.

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Originally published: September 26, 2011. Last Updated: September 26, 2011.