By DYLAN MALONE
With all of the no-hitters and perfect games this season, it has become clear to some that pitching is on the rise but reading between the lines, steroids are on the down.
There will be no race for 70 homeruns this season and certainly no controversy to follow. A few seasons back the MLB and its front office frowned at Toronto Blue Jays heavy-hitter Jose Bautista for hitting 54 homeruns in 2010, tops in the bigs and most since A-Rod had 54 in 2007.
With the steroid buzz hitting new heights, it became like a Communist witch hunt in the league every time a player had a suspicious stat-line. Granted, Bautista had only 13 dingers in 2009 and the leap to the 50+ club did come out of nowhere.
The point being we have come a long way in just a decade and some change after the Sosa/McGwire debacle in 1998. Steroids are on the out (at least the catchable kind) and baseball is leveling out.
McGwire retired. Sosa retired. Bonds...just went away. All with asterisks. All reputations tarnished. Even the pitchers were juicing at the time but apparently Roger Clemens wasn’t. Right.
So with the talk being that the pitching is becoming dominant again, why do I feel that the statistics are saying otherwise?
Yes, R.A. Dickey became the first pitcher in 30 years to record back-to-back one-hitters. Yes there have been a total of 22 perfect games in MLB history and two of them happened this year already. But I’m not ready to commit to the pitchers’ band-wagon if this turns out just to be another statistical anomaly.
Just last night, the MLB coughed up 42 homeruns in 15 contests (the Yankees and Braves had nine of them!)
Josh Hamilton hit four homeruns for the Rangers in early May and that’s only been done 16 times. Why is no one talking more about that?
From a statistical standpoint, the MLB is on track to hit 4,594 homeruns this season (1,925 to date) compared to a mark last season of 4,552. In 1998, during the homerun race, there were 5,064 homeruns hit in the league.
I’m not willing to say that pitching has become dominant this season. If anything, batters are picking up the ball a lot better after last season.
The pitchers have hurled 126 shutouts this season in the MLB already, however, that is undeniable. Compare that to 330 all of last year. The stellar pitching is headed for a projected...300.
This is still an upgrade from 1998 when baseball had a mark of 240 shutouts.
I guess what I’m driving at here is that baseball certainly has turned into a pitcher’s game, but not overnight. It can be easy to point at five no-hitters already this season after just three all of last year and four the year before. It does help that two of them have been perfect games...
Is the pitching getting better? Who can say?
Personally, I think that steroid-using batters benefitted from the drugs more than the pitchers, and now that everybody is clean, pitchers are becoming more confident.
The hurlers on the mound in MLB games are taking more chances with their heaters with that confidence and they are challenging batters. The length of starts is a testament to this as pitchers are starting to go the distance more often and the bull-pen is not a crutch anymore.
Strikeouts are no longer a premium and batters are now on their guard. I like that. It makes a homer more special when it’s off a pitcher’s best shot.
Who wants to see good pitching anyways?
I know I don’t turn on NASCAR to see how many laps Junior has led. I want to see the crashes. Ok, I don’t watch NASCAR unless I want some background noise when I take a nap (I do the same with golf) but you get the point.
Fans want to see homeruns.
I don’t remember seeing anyone with a ball on their trophy case for the strikeout a pitcher threw. Usually its a foul ball or a homerun ball. I personally would not mount a foul ball I caught but if it was a homer from a player on my favorite team? Heck yes! It would go up on the wall of my man-cave for all to see (as if I hit it myself).
I like comedian Daniel Tosh’s take on the topic.
“I want my athletes like my video games. I want to see the best athletes science can create. Juice up, let’s go!”
A bunch of bulky, juiced up jocks ripping 80 homers in a season?
Sounds good in theory but I’m afraid it may tarnish the record books. Oh well, there’s always the x-box.