Trends come and go every so many years in baseball—there was the dead-ball era for roughly 20 years in the beginning of the 1900’s, the live-ball era which immediately followed thanks in large part to Babe Ruth, the late 60’s pitching era where Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson absolutely dominated hitters and more recently we’ve seen the steroids era where home runs were hit out of the park like never before. So now as the league moves from out from under the black eye of the steroids era, are we seeing a resurgence of the pitcher in 2010? I can’t help but think that after watching some of the performances already this season and comparing overall numbers for the previous five years.

In just under two months this season there has already been a no-hitter and a perfect game, and if you go back to Mark Buehrle’s perfect game last year, it marks only the second time in MLB history that two perfect games were tossed in consecutive years and first since ’98-’99. Plus, there are three pitchers with an ERA currently under 2.00 and one hovering around that mark. In fact Ubaldo Jimenez, who pitched the first no-hitter this year, has an ERA under 1 at 0.99. Of course, there’s plenty of baseball left to be played but Jaime Garcia, Livan Hernandez are also well under a 2.00 ERA while Doug Fister sits at 2.03. Also, last year the Dodgers lead the majors with a 3.41 ERA, but there are four teams below that mark so far in 2010 including the first-place Rays with a sterling ERA of 2.94.

Those are incredible performances going on this season, but we can’t just look at individual performances. Let’s take a look at some of the overall stats from this year compared to the last couple of years. Through 46 games in 2010, teams are scoring an average of 4.43 runs per game (RPG). That figure is down from last year’s 4.61 RPG. Then if you throw the next to years out there: 4.65 RPG in 2008 and 4.79 RPG in 2007, you start to see a trend. The runs are decreasing steadily each year, including a significant amount through May this year. One intriguing stat I noticed while compiling these numbers is that the National League is on pace with last year’s runs per game, but the American League is significantly less at 4.47 from 4.82 in 2009. Not exactly sure why this is, but it’ll be interesting to watch if that continues throughout the season.

Moving on to batting average,  teams are hitting at a .257 clip in 2010. The averages from the past four seasons look like this:

2009     .262
2008     .264
2007     .268
2006     .269

As you can clearly see, the averages have dropped each year and teams are hitting a good 12 points lower than they were back in 2006. It’s not a surprise, given these numbers, that home runs are also down with just over one home run being hit out per game (1.04) in 2009 to just under one per game (0.93) this year. If the home runs stay below one a game all season, it’ll be the first time that’s happened since 1993 (0.89).

Will these numbers continue to shrink? I don’t see why they wouldn’t right now with the league finally having a strict steroids policy and testing program that has already caught one of the games biggest stars (Manny Ramirez). Also, there’s a young crop of pitchers like Jimenez, Garcia and Fister (and very soon Stephen Strasburg) coming into the game that look to be good for some time. Of course this will eventually revert back to teams putting more effort into finding and developing better hitters to counteract this wave of pitching, so this trend of the pitching will obviously not continue forever. But there’s no way in predicting when that will happen.

I tend to enjoy this trend of better pitching and well played games, so I don’t have a problem with this trend. It will definitely be something to track this season to see how far the numbers continue to drop from recent years.

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