Over the recent years, the MLB has been dominated by pitchers. Even with homerun rates skyrocketing, strikeouts and the overall offense have begun to diminish. The 2021 MLB season really showed this. Whether it is the number of strikeouts, low batting average, or the 5 no-hitters in a month and a half, it is evident what is happening around baseball. And two teams that have been affected by this a lot have been the New York Mets and New York Yankees. So what is causing the dip? Well, I believe it is a combination of a few things.
What is Exactly Going on in The MLB?
So far in 2021 (as of 6/21), the league batting average is .239 (via Baseball-Reference). That number is tied for the 2nd lowest all-time which occurred in 1888. Yes, 1888. It is also only .002 below the league batting average in 1968, which was known as the year of the pitcher. The result of that 1968 was the lowering of the mound. The average amount of strikeouts is 8.92, which is the highest all-time. The dip in offense gets shown here, as the 10 highest totals have come in the last 10 years.
The one stat that doesn’t seem to be affected has been runs per game. In 2021, teams are averaging 4.42 runs per game. In 2020 it was 4.65, and in 2019 it was 4.83. So even if the number has gone down over recent years, the overall trend through history is that runs have been going up. This is most likely because there are 1.17 home runs per game, which is tied for the 4th highest all-time. The highest total of 1.39 was set in 2019. If home runs didn’t go up, there would be practically no runs being scored.
New Approach To Pitching
So why can this be? The way pitching is now approached is one of the causes. Pitchers have made a big adjustment over the last few years, and that has been limiting the use of the fastball. Velocity does win anymore because everyone is now used to facing mid to high 90s. Over the last decade, the trend of using the fastball has gone down. In 2010, the usage was 57.8% (via Fan Graphs). In 2020, the usage was 50.3%. Even without the number for 2021 so far, you can infer that the trend has been to use the fastball less. The reason for this is likely due to the hitters now being used to mid to high 90 mph fastballs.
What does this mean? Well, it is pretty simple. Less use of the fastball means more use of the off-speed. More use of the off-speed/breaking balls means more hitters will chase pitches. More chasing means more strikeouts, which has been evident.
New Approach To Hitting
The new way to hit is to hit the ball in the air and try to hit home runs. By doing this, you will probably strike out more and hit a lower average. The thing is people don’t care about these things anymore. Batting average is considered an irrelevant stat, and striking out isn’t an issue if you hit home runs.
Pitchers changing their approach can be viewed as an adjustment to the new approach hitters have. Throw more off-speed there will be less chance of a home run. Throw the ball out of the zone to get guys to chase and it is practically impossible. And when everyone is throwing mid to high 90s, a fastball at the top of the zone is tough to catch up to.
What Effect Does This Have on The Mets And Yankees?
Both of these teams that were supposed to be top offensive teams haven’t been that. The Mets are in the bottom 5 of the NL in average hitting .229 as a team. The Yankees are hitting just .232, the 6th worst in the AL. The Yankees have been hitting home runs, whereas the Mets have not. They are amongst the bottom of the entire league in home runs. And lastly, with runs, the Yankees are 25th in the entire league in total runs scored, and the Mets are 29th, or second to last in total runs scored.
Both of these teams that were supposed to be offensive powerhouses have been greatly affected by the new trends across the MLB that have caused the dip in the offense. It is probably the reason neither of these teams has taken off yet this season.
Should The MLB Look For Solutions?
The MLB has thought about ways to help bring back offense. The main change they have looked at is moving the mound back. However, I think it would be ridiculous for any change to occur. They can’t lower the mound again, and moving it back makes no sense. The mound has been the same distance since the 1800s. If the MLB wants to change, the guys who get paid millions to hit should begin to make adjustments.