Wednesday, June 21, 2006

HR and ERA: a 25-year perspective

This week on Wild-Card Wednesdays, columnist Alan Eliot takes a look at how the game has changed, graphically, over the last 25 years- using HR and ERA.

In light of baseball's "steroid era", many have called for the erasing of personal records and statistics of suspected cheaters- but realistically such endeavors are impossible. Who juiced and when? What if a pitcher juiced- do you give "extra" credit for the batter getting a hit? Do you take away the batter's K?

Obviously, with regards to the time in baseball from the mid-90's to the early 00's, there will be some historical adjustment, whether a fuzzy asterisk over the era, or just a mental adjustment to the numbers (not unlike numbers garnered in Coors Field, for example). Now of course, expansion baseball, smaller ballparks and juiced balls may all add into the equation, but anyone who downplays performance-enhancing substances and their effect on baseball in the last 15 years is not paying attention to reality. Today, as baseball endeavors to clean itself, we look back at what once was, to the numbers that impressed us in a given year, and how our expectations of great players changed over a quarter-century.

Harken back to 1992, the last year a player was able to lead his league with thirty-something HR. Note that in the ten full seasons since 1996 (with twenty league-leaders, one per league), only once, in 2004, did someone lead their league with 46 HR or less. That's 95 percent who hit 47 + HR. Compare to the 15 prior years, where only four of thirty, or 13.3 percent, led their leagues with 47 + HR.

Also note that the NL has not had a collective ERA under 4.00 since 1992. In the 12 seasons between 1981 and 1992, the NL's collective ERA was under 4.00 11 times.

We provide the numbers. Ultimately though, we leave the judgement of historical legacy up to you, the reader.

HR League Leaders, from 1981-2005 (with average total of top three leaders in parentheses) ; graph to follow

1981* NL: 31, Schmidt (25.7) /AL: 22, four tied (22)
1982 NL: 37, Kingman (36) /AL: 39, R. Jackson/G. Thomas (38.3)
1983 NL: 40, Schmidt (36) /AL: 39, Rice (36.7)
1984 NL: 36, Murphy/Schmidt (33) / AL: 43, Arman (37)
1985 NL: 37, Murphy (34.7) / AL: 40, Darrell Evans (37.7)
1986 NL: 37, Schmidt (33) / AL: 40, Barfield (36.3)
1987 NL: 49, Dawson (44) / AL: 49, McGwire (43.3)
1988 NL: 39, Strawberry(32.7) / AL: 42, Canseco (36)
1989 NL: 47, Mitchell (39) / AL: 36, McGriff (34.7)
1990 NL: 40, Sandberg (37.3) / AL: 51, Fielder (42.3)
1991 NL: 38, H. Johnson (34.7) / AL: 44, Canseco/Fielder (40.7)
1992 NL: 35, McGriff (34)/ AL: 43, J. Gonzalez (40)
1993 NL: 46, Bonds (41.3) / AL: 46, J. Gonzalez (44)
1994* NL: 43, M. Williams (39.7) / AL: 40, Griffey (38)
1995* NL: 40, Bichette (37.3)/ AL: 50, Belle (43.3)
1996 NL: 47, Galarraga(43.7) / AL: 52, McGwire (50.3)
1997 NL: 49, L. Walker (44.3)/ AL: 56, Griffey (47.3)
1998 NL: 70, McGwire (62) / AL: 56, Griffey (50.3)
1999 NL: 65, McGwire (57.7)/ AL: 48, Griffey (46.3)
2000 NL: 50, Sosa (48.7)/ AL: 47, Glaus (44.3)
2001 NL: 73, Bonds (64.7)/ AL: 52, A. Rodriguez (49.3)
2002 NL: 49, Sosa (45.7)/ AL: 57, A. Rodriguez (50.7)
2003 NL: 47, Thome (45.7) / AL: 47, A. Rodriguez (43.7)
2004 NL: 48, Beltre (46.7)/ AL: 43, Ramirez (41.7)
2005 NL: 51, A. Jones (46)/ AL: 48, A. Rodriguez (46.7)
* 1981 was a shortened season of 103-110 games. 1994 was a shortened season of 112-117 games. 1995 was a shortened season of 144 games.



Please note the very obvious upward trend in the graph.

Average League ERA, from 1981-2005; graph to follow

1981 NL: 3.49 / AL: 3.66
1982 NL: 3.60 / AL: 4.07
1983 NL: 3.63 / AL: 4.06
1984 NL: 3.59 / AL: 3.99
1985 NL: 3.59 / AL: 4.15
1986 NL: 3.72 / AL: 4.17
1987 NL: 4.08 / AL: 4.46
1988 NL: 3.45 / AL: 3.97
1989 NL: 3.49 / AL: 3.88
1990 NL: 3.79 / AL: 3.90
1991 NL: 3.68 / AL: 4.09
1992 NL: 3.50 / AL: 3.94
1993 NL: 4.04 / AL: 4.32
1994 NL: 4.22 / AL: 4.80
1995 NL: 4.18 / AL: 4.71
1996 NL: 4.22 / AL: 5.00
1997 NL: 4.21 / AL: 4.57
1998 NL: 4.24 / AL: 4.65
1999 NL: 4.56 / AL: 4.86
2000 NL: 4.63 / AL: 4.91
2001 NL: 4.36 / AL: 4.47
2002 NL: 4.11 / AL: 4.46
2003 NL: 4.28 / AL: 4.52
2004 NL: 4.30 / AL: 4.63
2005 NL: 4.22 / AL: 4.35




Stats courtesy of our fave, B-Ref.com

"Wild-Card Wednesdays" appears every Wednesday

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