Fun With Baseball Stats: Comparing Numbers in 2014 to 2004

By Mike Cardillo
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Once upon a time a cartoon version of Mark McGwire asked the people of Springfield if they wanted to “watch me sock a few dingers” on an episode of The Simpsons. The episode (Brother’s Little Helper) aired exactly 15 years ago, on Oct. 3, 1999 — right around the peak of the juiced era of baseball. Teams averaged 5.08 runs per game in 1999 and 5.14 in 2000, the highest total since 1936.

One of the recurring themes throughout the 2014 baseball season was a lack of offense. Teams finished the 2014 regular season scoring on average 4.07 runs per game — the lowest total since 1980. ESPN’s Buster Olney pointed out the disparity in runs in a Tweet last week:

The only three teams to break the 750-run mark in 2014 were the Angels, Tigers and Rockies. The Red Sox and Yankees — traditionally high offense teams in the modern era — finished just 18th and 20th in runs scored. By the same token, the Royals clinched their first postseason berth since 1985 and hit a mere 95 home runs as a team.

If there’s a key takeaway,  it’s that it looks like we’re inching closer to the post-PED era (reminder both steroid-type drugs and amphetamines), despite all the Biogenesis nonsense last summer.  The Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program went into effect in 2006 and appears to have made a big impact, even if the Major’s top home run hitter in 2014 and the only player to pass the 40-homer threshold, Nelson Cruz, was part of the Biogenesis suspensions last year.

Without getting into another fun argument about advanced baseball metrics, I thought it would be illuminating at some of the traditional baseball benchmarks such as 100 RBIs to show how much offense has changed in the last decade. Again, it’s fairly clear that if Bud Selig was so hell-bent on creating a “clean” sport or at least the illusion of a “clean” sport, some a lot of dingers would be sacrificed in the process.

Players with 30+ home runs in 2014 (11): Nelson Cruz (40); Chris Carter (37); Giancarlo Stanton (37); Mike Trout (36); Jose Abreu (36); David Oritz (35); Jose Bautista (35); Edwin Encarnacion (35); Victor Martinez (32); Antony Rizzo (32); Lucas Duda (30).

Players with 100+ RBIS  in 2014 (12): Adrian Gonzalez (116); Mike Trout (111); Miguel Cabrera (109); Nelson Cruz (108); Jose Abreu (107); Albert Pujols (105); Giancarlo Stanton (105); David Ortiz (104); Victor Martinez (103); Jose Bautista (103); Justin Upton (102); Yoenis Cespedes (100).

Players with 100+ Runs scored in 2014 (7): Mike Trout (115); Brian Dozier (112); Anthony Rendon (111); Hunter Pence (106); Miguel Cabrera (101); Jose Bautista (101); Ian Kinsler (100).

Players with OPS over 1.000 in 2014 (0): Victor Martinez, likely the runner up to Trout in the AL MVP, led the way with an OPS of .974. Andrew McCutchen led the National League at .952.

Players with 150+ strikeouts in 2014 (17): Ryan Howard (190); Marlon Byrd (185); Mike Trout (184); Ian Desmond (183); Chris Carter (182); B.J. Upton (173); Chris Davis (173); Justin Upton (171); Giancarlo Stanton (170); Marcell Ozuna (164); Adam Dunn (159); Chris Johnson (159); Tyler Flowers (159); Mike Zunino (158); Brandon Moss (153); Alex Avila (151); Jason Castro (151).

Players with 150+ strikeouts in 2014 (7): Of note: Adam Dunn, a decade earlier, led baseball with 195 whiffs. Guess some things never change.

To borrow another favorite Simpsons quote of mine — “Oh people can come up with statistics to prove anything Kent, 14 per cent of all people know that.” — you could dig through a lot and point to all sorts of eye-opening numbers from the 2014 season. Offense is clearly down from a decade ago.

How that affects you as a fan is probably down to personal choice, or how much you really like to watch ’em sock dingers.

(This technically counts as Yardwork …)

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