David Pinto has a very interesting graph in this article about hit batters. The graph shows that high ERA pitchers have been facing more and more hitters, (as opposed to historical norms, in which the worst pitchers faced substantially fewer hitters than the best). Starting around 1993, the number of batters faced by low ERA pitchers and high ERA pitchers essentially converged, and stayed that way for most of the next ten years.
I found that to be striking, since my own research indicated that the real spike in offense began within a couple of years of then. The first time I looked at the issue, I picked 1995 as the cutoff; however, I may have been too hasty to forget about 1994. If you consider that in 1994, the strike year, Matt Williams had a chance to break Maris’ record, and Tony Gwynn had a shot at batting .400, I think you’d have to come to the conclusion that the offensive spike had already begun.
What’s more noteworthy, is that if you look at David’s graph full size, you can see that in 1999 and 2000, the bad pitchers faced more hitters than the good ones. So right as Bonds entered the stratosphere, the number of poor pitchers in the game skyrocketed. I’d say David may have stumbled into yet another contributing factor to the offensive onslaught that has so many people in an uproar. Which means that, even more so then when I first wrote it, it was the game that changed, not the players.
…. Batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, total hits, home runs…. offense as a whole exploded just after Bonds 30th birthday. Bonds also began his serious weight training not long after his 30th birthday as well. Could it be that the combination of the two is the real explanation for his power surge? Isn’t it at least possible?
I’ll tell you what, Bonds didn’t change, the game conditions changed. If more sportswriters took the time to write about what is really happening, as opposed to doing the same thing the casual observer does; there would be far less speculation.
The speculation hasn’t stopped, in fact, it’s increased exponentially, regardless of the fact that the more we know, the less likely it becomes that steroid and PED use were really behind the huge numbers these players were putting up, the more likely it seems that the real benefits of PED use were more subtle, enabling pitchers (relievers, primarily) to recover more quickly, and allowing position players (like, say, McGwire) to avoid those little nagging injuries, and stay in the lineup.
Which, of course, is hardly adequate cause for the outrage so common to today’s baseball writers.