The other day, early in the afternoon before I was called-up here, I had posted the following over on the Sun Deck:
We're not even a third of the way through the 2009 season, and there continues to be an interesting storyline developing: the return of shutouts.
After averaging 140 shutouts per season in the National League over a 3-year span from 2004-06, inexplicably, there was a total of a mere 16 shutouts in the league in 2007 over a period of 2,594 games. Strangely, last year was not much better with 30 shutouts in 2,588 games.
While the league runs per game have remained fairly constant over the past several years (just under 4.6 runs per game this year and last year), the shutouts have gone back up. This year, there have already been 43 of them in 808 games. That's one every 18.8 games, whereas two years ago there was a shutout only once every 162 games - that's an average of one per season per team.
Also interesting, and possibly contributing to the return of shutouts, is that home runs are being hit once every 40.4 plate appearances. This is more PA's per home run than any season in the National League since 1995. From 1999-2001, home runs were being hit every 33.3 PA's on average. It's been 1997 since the last time it even cracked 40 plate appearances per homer.
I think we're probably seeing some fallout of the affects of drug testing and a changeover into the next generation of ball players. Both batters and pitchers' average age has been trending back down to pre-steroid levels. It was customary that the average age of league players ranged between 27.5-28 years old. In the early portion of this decade, the help of medical science (and performance enhancers) spiked the average age to above 29 years old of each team. It seems the last few years, we have seen the refusal to re-sign many veteran players and we're not seeing a new generation of younger guys take over.
That was my work regarding pitching and home runs.
Well then, just a little while ago, CNNSI posted an interesting article about the return of speed:
Speed has returned to baseball in form of rampant base stealing
So stolen bases are up to a 10-year high, while homers are a at a 10-year low. Though we'll probably never return to the pitching-crazy era of the late 1960's, mostly because of lower mounds, stronger players and smaller ballparks, it does seem the game is going through another cycle as it customarily does every decade.