Offense is down at the start of the 2020 MLB season, but there’s more at stake than baseball without juice

We’ve been just over a week into the long-awaited Major League Baseball 2020 season, and there are clearly some stories bigger than baseball itself. However, given the explosion in crime that took place in 2019, it is never too early to take the small sample available and draw some initial conclusions.

What was the size of an outlier in 2019? Well, 6,776 home runs have been hit, almost 700 more than in any other season, just the second time the 6,000 mark has been hit. The ball wasn’t hit harder last season, it just went further. It was the season of the merry, fun ball.

The results are not carried over to the 2020 season. The progression can be viewed in several different ways.


  • 2018: .248-.318-.409
  • 2019: .252-.323-.435
  • 2020: .233-.316-.398 (until July 30)

MLB season: AVG-SLG on in-game balls

  • 2018: .325-.536
  • 2019: .334-.576
  • 2020: .311-.535

Using these numbers at the surface level, it may appear that we have just reverted to the attacking environment of 2018, with baseball 2018. The percentage of hits on balls in play is practically the same in 2018 (.536) than in 2020 (.535), and the decrease in the total number of offensives between then and now would apparently be explained by the increase in the overall K rate of 22.3%. in 2018 at 23.6% until July 30 this season.

However, when you dig a little deeper things get a bit tricky.

Let’s break down the balls hit by type and take a look at the differences in production levels.

Fly Balls AVG-SLG

  • 2018: .318-.851
  • 2019: .355-.974
  • 2020: .342-.928

AVG-SLG line readers

  • 2018: .653-.861
  • 2019: .649-.855
  • 2020: .641-.814

AVG-SLG Grounders

  • 2018: .218-.239
  • 2019: .213-.234
  • 2020: .189-.205

There’s a lot to unpack here, and the baseball itself is just one factor. The production figures of flying balloons are where one would go to see its impact.

Despite the drop in attack this season, the flying balloon production figures for 2020 are much closer to 2019 than to 2018. Additionally, the percentage of balls hit with launch angles of 20 to 50 degrees (the definition standard of a flying balloon) tends during this period from 29.45% to 30.41% to 31.24%.

The production of flying balls has therefore remained high per bullet and the volume of flying balls is increasing. So why the hell is overall in-game ball production going down? A few reasons follow shortly when we discuss liners and grounders. But this increase in the volume of the flying ball, caused by the hitters’ increased emphasis on the pitch angle, brought unwanted byproducts.

When trying to hit flying balls, you hit more pop-ups, defined as a hit ball with a launch angle of 50 degrees or more. MLB’s average pop-up rate has fallen from 8.70% in 2018 to 9.00% in 2019 to 10.77% through July 30 of this season. It may not seem like much, but it’s a 23.8% increase in pop-up rate during that time.

Another way to see? I define “free outs” as strikeouts and pop-ups. From 2018 to 2020, the “free out” rate fell from 31.0% to 32.0% to 34.4%. This is very important and can hide some of the impact of a more lively baseball.

Now on to the line readers. MLB’s performance on ocean liners is down sharply in 2020. While the batting average on liners is down a bit, the decline of the liner SLG is particularly marked. Digging deeper, I don’t think it’s baseball.

The line’s median exit speed is declining (95.7 mph in 2018, 96.1 in 2019, 94.9 in 2020). There have only been three cruise lines affected this season, but that’s because only 1.2% of liners were affected at 110 mph or more (up from 2.7% in 2018, 3.1% in 2019).

Aren’t the hitters quite in hitting form mid-season? Are they too focused on the launch angle? I think there is some truth to both statements. Case at point n ° 1, Christian Yelich. Example # 2, the higher the pitch angle, the harder you hit the flying balls, the weaker you hit the liners and Grounders, the more you shoot the ball (the percentage of pull increases as the angle increases). starting rate decreases).

Which brings us to the continued sharp decline in Grounder MLB production. Teams have improved to optimize the infield’s quarterbacks, and hitters continue to shoot baseball more. More traction equals more circuits from 95 to 99 mph (the rate of circuit ball per ball in this bucket increased from 14.0% to 15.7% to 18.6% from 2018 to the first week of the season 2020). Other than that, more pull hinders the attack rather than aiding it.

So to paraphrase The Clash, what do we have?

The offense is down, but I don’t think a change in baseball is the main reason. Flying balloon production is not far from 2019 levels.

In my opinion, the most depressing issues are the exacerbation of the upward trends in strikeouts and pop-ups, coupled with hitters being “offside” in this most unusual season. They hit liners / Grounders at least 110 mph at less than half the rate they did in 2018 and 2019.

The decrease in offense and baseball itself are just sideplots as the season unfolds. Hoping the sport can eliminate ongoing Covid-19 hotspots so players can stay healthy and finish the season.

About Norman Brown

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