With Justin Verlander’s no-hitter on Saturday — the second this season and the seventh since the beginning of the 2010 season — some have begun to wonder if the 2011 season will be the “Year of the Pitcher, part 2.” But if we look at the data, a better name might be “Year of the Steroid Testing, part 6.”
Scoring in both leagues (8.4 in AL, 8.3 in NL) is actually up from a year ago (8.0 in AL, 7.9 in NL). However, both leagues are still down about one run per game since 2000 (9.5 in AL, 9.1 in NL).
But where we really see the difference in offensive production is when we look the power numbers. Specifically, we can use a simple statistic, Isolated Power (ISO) which is just Slugging Percentage minus Batting Average. (Think of ISO as raw power and the number of extra bases a player averages per at bat.)
What we see, is outside a brief surge in power in the American League in 2009, ISO has been in a steady decline since Major League Baseball instituted their new tougher steroid policy in 2006. In fact, 2011 is on pace to have the lowest power totals since 1993. It was in 1994 when we start to see the rapid rise in power that peaked from 1998 to 2001.
With the positive drug test from Manny Ramirez earlier this season, we know baseball has not completely eliminated Performance Enhancing Drugs. And recent comparisons of Jose Bautista to Barry Bonds certainly raises eyebrows. But it seems like more than a coincidence that power is down since 2006.
Unfortunately, now the game may be a little more boring. With fewer juiced players, maybe it is time Major League Baseball took a page from the 1987 and go back to a juiced baseball.
All data via BaseballProspectus.com (through Saturday’s games)