Earlier this week, I did a big team-by-team update as the season is now essentially half over. When I posted it, 90% disappeared. I was so mad, I just deleted what did post and walked away. I’m over it now and ready to try again. This time, however, I’m going to break it down to this and a post for each division over the next few days. Each team will be addressed in order of their position in the standings.
The real story of 2021 is pitching, or batter helplessness, however you wish to think of it. MLB teams are striking out an average of 9.1 times per 9 innings, an all time high. (The rate was also 9.1 in last year’s pandemic shortened season.) The rate has been generally climbing for a century, but was approximately 5 through the 1980’s. The league batting average is .240, the lowest since the “Year of the Pitcher” in 1968 (.237). There are 1.56 doubles per team per game, the lowest since 1992. There are 0.13 triples per game, the lowest ever.
There have been 7 official no hitters. I say official because anyone logical has to acknowledge that a pitcher allowing no hits over the course of an entire scheduled game should be credited with a no hitter. Not so to MLB. Even though MLB scheduled double headers this year as 7 innings, even though they credited him with a complete game, MLB says Madison Bumgarner did not pitch a no hitter in April when he obviously did. MLB insists a no hitter can only happen with a 9 inning or longer game—I guess Bumgarner’s Diamondbacks let him down by actually scoring that day rather than going to extra innings in a scoreless tie. Shame on them. Anyway, 7 no hitters ties the post-1900 record for a full season. 8 ties the all time record, set in 1884, the first year pitchers were allowed to throw over handed. Anybody think this record is not going down this year?
Speaking of 1968, that is when Bob Gibson set the mark for lowest ERA in a complete season—1.12. Yesterday Jacob deGrom actually allowed 3 runs over 7 innings, raising his ERA all the way to 0.95. He also struck out 14. It says something when 14 strikeouts isn’t even headline worthy.
MLB’s response to the “Year of the Pitcher” was to lower the mound. That did help offense, although baseball remained in a pitchers’ era through the 1980’s. MLB’s response to the Year of the Pitcher II thus far has been to try to clamp down on pitchers using foreign substances instead of only using rosin to help with grip on the ball. They have thus far suspended one pitcher…who used…rosin, apparently on the glove and not the pitching hand. The horror. There are various experiments going on in the minors. Maybe some will trickle up to the majors. So far there is no move to enforce the rule on how long pitchers are supposed to be allowed to have between pitches.