Shift in Power Numbers During 2018

by Teegan Leader

Since the 2014, Major League Baseball season, total home runs hit throughout the big leagues have increased every season through 2017. The 2014 season saw a total of 4,186 home runs, the fewest since the 1995 season that had 4,081. The former record of 5,693 home runs hit in 2000 was surpassed last season when fans saw 6,105 baseballs leave the ball parks across America. With the skyrocketing home run totals and the newfound metrics of launch angles and exit velocities, the importance of elevating baseballs is being preached about all across the game. However, this season saw a dip in home run totals, down to 5,585. Not a significant decrease in home runs, but a decrease nonetheless. What are pitchers doing differently this season than recent ones?

 These zones are known as the “Detailed Zones” that Statcast has created. It’s an expansion of the strike zone (1-9), detailing other zones that are borderline ball/strike calls (11-19), and definite balls (21-29).

These zones are known as the “Detailed Zones” that Statcast has created. It’s an expansion of the strike zone (1-9), detailing other zones that are borderline ball/strike calls (11-19), and definite balls (21-29).

The following charts display the statistics on a pitcher as he works higher in the zones, displaying the home run totals, pop/fly ball outs, swing & miss rates, and the corresponding average spin rates on those outcomes.

The correlation among these four charts is that from 2014 to 2018, as a pitcher raises the eye level of a batter from zones 1-3 to zones 11-13, the swing & miss rates have increased. With swing rates increasing year by year, the opportunity to connect on a ball and hit a home run is greater in 2018 than 2014. However, the home run totals decrease as pitchers raise the spin rates and pitch locations of the baseballs. Even zones 21 through 23, which are definite balls, have seen an increase in swing & miss percentages, higher chase rates resulting in pop/fly outs, and a significant fall in home run totals year by year. For pitchers, this technique of combating the recent surge of launch angles and exit velocity trends in the game of baseball is proving to work and getting hitters to chase.