In 2008, we first wrote about the Decline of the Dinger when home runs dropped to just 2.01 per game. Home run totals bounced back in 2009 to 2.07, but home runs suffered a severe decline in 2010 when they fell to just 1.90 per game–the lowest total since 1993 when major leaguers hit 1.78 home runs per game. Home runs peaked in 2000 at 2.34 per game and we think we have a pretty good idea of why there were so many hit in 2000.
In commenting about the decline of the home run, free agent second baseman David Eckstein said: “Definitely pitching has been very good this year. Hopefully, it’s a sign that we’ll clean this game up.” Spoken like a true 5′ 7″ guy.
But, it isn’t just the homerun that is in decline. Offensive production all around MLB was down last year.
- Home runs = 1.90 per game, the lowest since 1.78 in 1993.
- Runs scored = 8.77 per game, the lowest since 8.23 in 1992.
- Hits = 17.51 per game, the lowest since 17.35 in 1992.
- Average = .257, the lowest since .256 in 1992.
- ERA = 4.07, the lowest since 3.74 in 1992.
- Strikeouts = 14.12, the highest per game of all time!
“I think the strike zone is a little lower,” Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. “Over 12 years, I’ve never seen that low pitch get called. This year, I’ve seen so many low pitches called. Once they call it, you know you’ve got to swing. The next pitch that’s there, you’re going to get the ground ball or the strikeout. Home runs are down. It’s hard to drive a ball that low. Only a handful of guys can really hit that low pitch and really drive it.”
The corresponding decrease in home runs has been buoyed by a corresponding increase in strikeouts per game. In 2010, there was an all-time 14.12 strikeouts per game. The second highest total to date was 13.82 set in 2009.
“I don’t see why pitching can’t be dominant,” Padres setup man Mike Adams said. “In the early part of the 1900s I think pitching was very dominant, and then you had the whole Steroid Era, and that’s when hitting became dominant. Is it coincidental that the whole Steroid Era has come and passed and now the pitching era takes over? Who knows?”
One thing is for sure. The point totals for hitting home runs in fantasy baseball have not changed along with the corresponding drop in home runs hit. Therefore, home runs are a scarcer commodity than they have been in many years so it’s important to draft power into your lineup. In fantasy baseball, power means not only adding to your home run total, but also racking up RBI’s. And, you aren’t penalized in most fantasy baseball leagues by a power hitter’s normal propensity to strike out a lot.