The Era of Strikeouts

This is the era of strikeouts in Major League Baseball.

The simple most obvious trend in MLB is the rising rates of strikeouts per team per game. Including this season, the five seasons with the most strikeouts in baseball history ARE THE LAST FIVE SEASONS. In order. Meaning, 2008 is the season with the fifth highest strikeout frequency in the history of major league baseball. And 2009 is the season with the fourth highest frequency of strikeouts in MLB history. You can see where this is going right? 2013 is the season with the highest frequency of strikeouts in major league baseball history.

When strikeouts started rising during the Home Run Era (1996-2006), some commentators suggested that the relationship between rising home-runs and more frequent strikeouts was causal – that hitters were all swinging for the fences, thus striking-out more because they were trying to hit home runs. Superficial data observations like this are a weak foundation for a hypothesis, and true to form the foundation of this causal hypothesis has collapsed – home-run frequency has been fairly steady over the past five years (fluctuating between .94 – 1.04 home-runs per team per game), but strikeouts are rising dramatically.

At the peak of the Home Run Era (2000 – 1.17 home-runs per team per game), strikeouts were at 6.45 per team per game. In 2013, they are at 7.51 per team per game (up just a bit from 2012’s 7.50 strikeouts per team per game), an increase of 1.06 strikeouts per team per game since the height of the Home Run Era.

Bracketing the strike-shortened seasons of 1994 and 1995, 1993 was the last time the frequency of strikeouts per team per game was under 6.00. Before the 1993 season, there had never been a season in the history of baseball when the frequency of strikeouts been over 5.99 per team per game.

So before the Home Run Era, 6 stikeouts per team per game was unheard of. Now we are at 7.5 and climbing.

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