After a dramatic drop in runs scored in major league baseball in recent season, offenses are on a slight uptick in 2015.
All the same, the overall trend remains the same: since 2000, offense is waaaaaay down in MLB — and you really only have to go back to 2009 to see a pretty drastic difference as well.
While most of us have noticed this in the games we watch, I have a feeling some of us — and I’m as guilty as anyone — haven’t yet made the adjustment when it comes to the idea of an average performance and an excellent performance.
Let’s start here: The average game had 10.28 runs in 2000 and 9.23 in 2009, but even with a slight increase this year from last year that number is only 8.39 — roughly 4.2 per team, whereas 15 years ago it was about 5.15 per team.
If you adjusted your expectations 15 years ago so that five runs was an average performance, it’s time to drop that back down to four runs begin an average performance and anything above that being what should be more than enough runs to win on most nights.
Similarly, the average ERA in 2000 was 4.76; so far this year, it’s 3.91. Here’s where I’m particularly guilty of failing to adjust my calibration and expectations — and have therefore tended to overrate pitchers like Kevin Correia (career era with the Twins: 4.49) as functional when really they are below average.
And finally, a quick look at OPS, which started to become more mainstream around 2000 — when the MLB average was .782. The average remained around .750 for most of the 2000s; last year it dipped all the way to .700, while this year it has inched back to .710.
The typical standard has been that an OPS over .800 stands out; Bill James, a stats guru, wrote in 2009 that an OPS over .900 is great, over .833 is very good and over. 766 is above-average. We probably need to readjust our thinking on that to account for the times. I’d say now that an OPS above .675 is acceptable, the 725 to .775 range is above-average, .775 to .850 is very good and anything over.850 is great.
By that measure, Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe and Torii Hunter all fit into the “very good” range, while Joe Mauer, at .722, is technically above the league average but is on the borderline between acceptable and above-average (at least when compared to all of baseball, though as a first baseman he is expected to hit with more power). The Twins, with a .698 OPS, are below the MLB average but are still fourth in the AL in runs scored thanks largely in part to hitting with runners in scoring position.