Early Returns: AL Runs Scored Down Again

Last year, I wrote about how 2010 AL run scoring was significantly depressed. AL batters scored 4.45 runs per game in 2010, down from 4.82 in 2010. In fairly robust 330 game span, here are the early returns from 2011:

AL batters have scored just 4.29 runs per game in 2011. If that were to hold up over a full season, it would be the lowest level of run scoring since 1989.

It should be noted that while there are validity concerns in projecting run scoring down (Baseball conditions are different in April than in other months, although there was little monthly variation last season), 330 games is a pretty robust sample in terms of random variation. We can say with a lot of confidence that run scoring is down, even though that may change in the future.

What does this mean for the 2011 season? First, it means that the Yankees’ 4.19 runs allowed per game and 3.90 ERA so far are worse than they seem. The Yankee pitching staff has basically been league average. I also think it might help to explain to early returns on retreads Bartolo Colon and in particular Freddy Garcia. A more forgiving run scoring environment means that pitchers with more marginal stuff can probably find more success. A less forgiving environment might push a pitching hanging onto the edge of a good start over the breaking point.

If the trend persists, it means that baseball will be returning back to 1980s-levels of run scoring. That means that special plays like steals, bunts, squeezes, hit and runs, etc become more effective on the margin. It also means that guys who can still hit to career norms – I’m looking at you, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez – are enormously valuable. It also makes the early Yankee run scoring (on pace for 879 runs, which looks like 1,000 runs in 1996 terms) pretty darn impressive.

As I said last year, your guess is as good as mine on the cause of depressed run scoring. I think its a combination of a natural talent cycle, steroids exiting the game, renewed emphasis on defense and better maintenance of health for young pitchers.

About EJ Fagan

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

5 thoughts on “Early Returns: AL Runs Scored Down Again

  1. I still think it’s the size of the strike zone increasing. Why MLB let the umps get questec removed is beyond me. Baseball is nearly as in the hands of the officials as the NBA now. When was the last time an ump was told a ball in the opposite batter’s box can’t possibly be a strike?
    History is very clear about what happens when scoring is down: attendance goes down with it.

  2. I have to agree with oldpep on one thing: the expanded strike zone. With the top tier of tenured (that’s what they are) umps growing older and fatter and led by “Country” Joe West, it just feels like they’ve all become a lot more militant and activist about speeding up the game so they can get back to the free buffet in the locker room. Heck, they’re even tossing some managers before they’ve barely taken a step out of the dugout to argue in some recent instances. Also possible there’s some pressure from the national TV folks to do so as well, since everyone knows how much networks and national advertisers despise time slots crashing into or preempting another.

    • I think that there is definitely something there. I know that I’ve thought to myself that umpires are calling low pitches more frequently lately.

  3. Only one small quibble. Colon, thus far, has not had marginal stuff. He has shown the second or third best stuff on the team right there with cc. Dont expect it to continue but his pure stuff. Especially the 2 seamer and his slider have been ace quality offerings. garcia and hughes have shown marginal stuff