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Where Has All The Offense Gone?

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If you read the Mug daily, you may have noticed occasional notes about how run scoring is down throughout the major leagues in 2010.  A look at the numbers bears that out (all statistics in this post are through Monday's games).

2009 MLB:  4.61 Runs/G, 1.04 HR/G, .262/.333/.418
2010 MLB:  4.47 Runs/G, 0.93 HR/G, .259/.329/.406

It definitely looks like power and scoring are both down throughout the major leagues.  Slugging, home runs, and total runs scored are all down from 2009 to 2010.  One explanation, reduced use of steroids, immediately comes to mind whenever a decline in power occurs in today's game.   However, if you dig slightly deeper, you can see the power drain isn't spread evenly throughout the majors:

2009 AL:  4.82 Runs/G, 1.13 HR/G, .267/.336/.428
2010 AL:  4.56 Runs/G, 0.94 HR/G, .262/.332/.409

2009 NL:  4.43 Runs/G, 0.96 HR/G, .259/.331/.409
2010 NL:  4.40 Runs/G, 0.92 HR/G, .256/.327/.402

While both leagues have seen a dip in slugging, home runs, and total runs scored, clearly the junior circuit has seen a much larger drop off.  Of course, not all AL hitters have been impacted.  Furthermore, looking at AL splits by age is revealing.

First, the figures for 2009:

Split AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
Ages 25- 17735 2506 4744 975 113 456 2204 457 151 1506 3456 .267 .328 .412 .740 .307
Ages 26-30 32186 4571 8543 1676 184 1163 4430 633 221 3210 6548 .265 .336 .437 .773 .298
Ages 31-35 24682 3467 6695 1303 88 823 3344 441 164 2559 4574 .271 .342 .431 .773 .301
Ages 36+ 3362 394 801 177 3 118 459 10 6 419 731 .238 .325 .398 .723 .270
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/22/2010.

 

Now, for 2010:

Split AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
Ages 25- 5688 709 1455 303 32 109 633 105 46 510 1235 .256 .319 .378 .697 .307
Ages 26-30 15422 2078 4031 843 86 424 1975 320 104 1513 2985 .261 .331 .410 .740 .297
Ages 31-35 9070 1271 2383 512 31 313 1251 146 62 938 1780 .263 .336 .430 .765 .293
Ages 36+ 3063 388 838 164 7 75 373 54 25 325 489 .274 .346 .405 .751 .303
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/22/2010.

 

While players over 30 have maintained their power, those under 30 have not.  Batters 25 and under have really struggled this year.

This isn't an AL-only phenomenon.  National Leaguers under 25 have seen a decline as well:

Split AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
2009 NL, Ages 25- 21435 2933 5638 1122 161 686 2748 428 188 2116 4975 .263 .332 .426 .758 .311
2010 NL, Ages 25- 6781 965 1726 323 67 174 777 168 64 638 1644 .255 .321 .399 .720 .310
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/22/2010.

 

You can click the View Original Table link and switch between 2009 and 2010 to see that the older hitters in the NL have kept their numbers relatively steady for 2009 to 2010.

To me, it seems the leaguewide offensive downturn can be attributed mostly to players under 30 in the American League and under 25 in the National League.

Examples are always nice.  This is by no means a complete list, but here are some players in those age groups who have seen their numbers nosedive in 2010 (age in 2010 in parenthesis):

Adam Lind (26)
2009: 654 PA, .305/.370/.562
2010: 285 PA, .213/.277/.357
Gordon Beckham (23)
2009: 430 PA, .270/.347/.460
2010: 253 PA, .205/.277/.259
Asdrubal Cabrera (24)
2009: 581 PA, .308/.361/.438
2010: 149 PA, .287/.322/.368
Luis Valbuena (24)
2009: 398 PA, .250/.298/.416
2010: 170 PA, .167/.274/.243
Aaron Hill (28)
2009: 734 PA, .286/.330/.499
2010: 247 PA, .193/.287/.372
Pablo Sandoval (23)
2009: 633 PA, .330/.387/.556
2010: 290 PA, .280/.341/.433
Matt Wieters (24)
2009: 385 PA, .288/.340/.412
2010: 244 PA, .223/.287/.326
Adam Jones (24)
2009: 519 PA, .277/.335/.457
2010: 287 PA, .259/.287/.405

 

If you blame young players in each league for the decline in offense, the question becomes why they are struggling as a group this season.   One theory out there is improved pitching.  However, you would expect to see all batters struggling if that was the case.  My own theory is older players have been replaced by cheaper, younger players who do not hit as well but offer more on the defensive side of the ledger, but I don't know if that alone is enough to account for the entire difference.  Maybe that and some brutal "sophomore slumps" are to blame.  What are your thoughts?