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Baseball belongs to the pitchers

With the home run era over, the game is now dominated by quality arms
07/22/2013 2:11 PM ET
By Doug Williams

With so much depth among starting pitchers, an ace like the Yankees' Hiroki Kuroda was unable to find a spot on this year's All-Star team.(AP)
Like it or not, this league is dominated by pitching and probably will be for the foreseeable future. Offensive output is decreasing and pitchers are getting better and better. In this week's All-Star Game at Citi Field, the National League had just three hits and the A.L. didn't necessarily kill the ball either, scoring just three runs with the first two coming via sacrifice fly and groundout. Not necessarily summer of '98 stuff right there.

But getting away from statistics for a second, did you watch the All-Star Game? Because if you did, you know that 90 percent of the pitchers that came in were almost unhittable. I found myself focusing on the radar gun much more than who was at the dish. The Home Run Derby was over, and it seemed like hitting a home run was nearly impossible.

There are two exceptions to the trend this season: Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera. Davis is on pace to break Roger Maris' former home run record and Cabrera is on pace to hit over .360, while also slugging over 50 home runs.

But the lists used to be longer for hitters having seasons like this. In 1998, for example, 13 hitters hit 40 or more home runs. That's more than 2010, 2011 and 2012 combined. And those 13 hitters were not Adam Dunns. They were also hitting for significant average. Notice also that it's easy to forget the great pitchers of that time too? Rotations weren't nearly as deep as they are now and pitchers spent much more time watching the ball fly.

For those of us who already love the sport, this all has the potential to be a good thing. We can all agree that Dustin Pedroia is a once-in-a-lifetime player and he is being considered for an MVP with a .310 average, six home runs and 57 RBIs. In 1998, it's very possible he would have flown beneath the radar because of home run hitters that were twice his size, but the new MLB allows us to appreciate greatness in different ways. Pedroia is a leader, a hustler, a terrific fielder and plays the game with respect. The home run column is starting to be ignored, while a .310 average against today's pitching is highly respected.

The pitching doesn't just seem better … it is better. In 1998, the N.L. and A.L. league ERAs were 4.23 and 4.65. In 2012, they were 3.94 and 4.08. The batting averages have also gone down eight points in the N.L. and 16 points in the A.L.

The main misconception, however, is that this lack of powerful offenses is hurting the attendance at ballparks when, in fact, that really isn't the case. Let's look at the year 2000, when many believe PEDs were still very much in the game. The top four teams in home runs ranked 7th, 22nd, 24th and 19th in attendance. That same year, the top four teams in team ERA ranked 6th, 11th, 12th, and 3rd in attendance. This leads us to think that the clubs with high team ERAs were winning games, which is what brings people to the park … not home runs. And this year, the top four teams in attendance are 27th, 25th, 28th, and 21st in the home runs.

Bottom line: the league HAS changed, but it's hard to make the argument that a lack of home runs will leave fans bored and uninterested. While we all may think you love seeing the long ball, it's always been great pitching that wins and brings fans to the park. And baseball is lucky, because it has more of that than ever. 

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