In 2014, Khris Davis hit .244. Then, from 2015 through the end of this season, he did something that had never before been done (by a position player)–he hit exactly the same, .247, for four straight years! Cleveland’s John Lowenstein hit .242 in three out of four seasons once (1974-1977).
Jacob deGrom ended the season with a microscopic ERA of 1.70 to lead the NL. However, here’s a bar bet you would probably win: what Met had the lowest ERA over the second half of the season? It wasn’t deGrom–it was Zack Wheeler at 1.68 versus the 1.84 ERA deGrom posted.
In case you missed it: for the 11th straight season MLB set a new high for total strikeouts. 2018 marked the first year ever with more than 40,000 K’s and it was the eleventh consecutive season in which a new strikeout record was set! This season also was the first one ever with more strikeouts than hits (last year there were 2,111 more hits than K’s. The Yankees set a new single season major league team record with 267 HR. I don’t like the new brand of baseball with tons of upper cuts, a slew of homers, but so many strikeouts, often inning-ending, futile whiffs. There were 41,207 strikeouts, up 1,103 from ’17.
Tying in with the above item, baseball’s offense didn’t flourish–the overall batting average in the majors fell to its lowest point since 1972, partly due to a 30% hike over 2017 in defensive shifts and last year there were already quite a few shifts in play. The cumulative batting average in the majors in 2018 was .248, down 23 points from 1999 during the steroid era. In 2013, there were 6,882 shift used; in 2018, there were 34,673. Five teams doubled their shift usage.
Starting pitchers are giving way to the bullpen more and more, too. The average innings pitched by starters per game is down to 5.36 with the average pitches starters were permitted to throw by cautious managers was 88, down from 95 in 2012. An average of nearly seven relievers are used in each major league game played in ’18 (3.4 per team per game). Naturally, all those pitching changes slows the game down.
Complete games? A vanishing stat. This year was the fourth straight season in which the total of C.G. dropped–all the way down to 42, with only 19 complete game shutouts, the lowest total in the modern era and the lowest output since 1874 when there were eight teams in the majors (now we have 30).
Small ball? Forget it. Toronto had a record low five sacrifice bunts and three teams had just six. The Red Sox slugged away and had just seven sac bunts all year long. The overall MLB total was 823, the fewest since 1900, another year with only eight teams in Organized Baseball. Multiply 30 teams times 162 games and you get 4,860 games on a year’s MLB schedule. If I did my math right, that means a sac bunt took place so rarely that about six games went by before one was successfully laid down.
Oddity: On August 22, 1886, Cincinnati outfielder Abner Powell was chasing down a fly ball hit by a Louisville Colonels player with the unlikely name of Chicken Wolf (I’m not making that up– I read it in The Plain Dealer). Now, and I’m not making this up either, a dog had been napping by the outfield fence but during the play he woke up. He then chased after Powell, caught up to him, and bit him on the leg. The dog clung tenaciously to Powell so he was immobilized and Wolf dashed around the bases for a bizarre inside the park homer.
Trivia: Name a former big league pitcher whose last name, though spelled differently, is the same as an item of food. Clue: the man’s initials are B.V. and he was a teammate of another pitcher named John Lamb. Answer will appear in a later blog.