How bad is baseball’s offensive futility? It’s the worst in generations
Earlier this season, I used to tune in when there was a no-hitter being pitched in the late innings. After all, no-hitters don’t occur every day, and throwing one is a huge deal.
Well, in 2021, it’s gotten to the point where they do seem to happen every day. Or at least once a week – and sometimes twice. Through May 20, there have been six – six! – no-hitters in the majors this season, and many have been thrown by guys who aren’t considered elite. Sure, John Means is having an ace-like season for the Orioles. But 34-year-old Wade Miley is a lifetime 89-89 hurler with a 4.22 ERA.
What exactly is going on?
As Chelsea Janes write in The Washington Post, the consensus explanation is increased pitcher velocity. The average major league fastball as of May 17 was 93.8 mph — more than 1 mph faster than a decade ago and 2 mph faster than in 2008.
That may not seen like much, but the offensive difference is startling. In 2011, the batting average in Major League Baseball was .255. This week, it was .236.
That would be the lowest in history if it remained unchanged, a hundredth of a point less than the .237 average recorded in 1968.
After that season, when St. Louis’ Bob Gibson post a 1.12 ERA with 13 shutouts and Denny McLain won 31 games, MLB lowered the pitching mound.
What will happen this time to restore more balance?