Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Over Long Arc Of Time, Does Baseball Really Change?

Bradley Woodrum of The Hardball Times offers the following fascinating thesis: baseball doesn't change—and, therefore, there are no 'steroid' or 'juiced-ball' eras. Woodrum arrives at this conclusion by looking at the arc of key baseball stats over time—going back to the beginnings of the sport in the 1870s. True, things change—rules, park dimensions, the ball—but today it's just as it's always been: the battle between a pitcher and a hitter. The central finding of his thesis is that the so-called 'Steroid Era' looks pretty similar to 2016-17 in many respects. Specifically, the narrowness in the gap between ERAs in key years—4.77 in 2000 and 4.36 in 2017. As Woodrum states, "In fact, since the peak of the Steroid Era, the gap between ERA and RA9 has been ever-narrowing. The narrowing distance between Run (R) rates and Earned Run (ER) rates help illustrate this change. The Steroid Era could just as easily have been called the “( ಠ ʖ̯ ಠ) Defense Era." It's something to think about—especially as a number of steroid-linked players get closer to the Hall of Fame.