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October 25, 2001

The Daily Prospectus

Your Mileage May Vary

by Joe Sheehan

Did you know that in all of the 2001 postseason, we have yet to have a game in which both teams reached five runs scored? Just twice have both teams scored even four runs, and in one of those the fourth run for the loser was a meaningless solo home run in the ninth (Game 1, Braves/Astros). Here's the run distribution--I'd present it graphically, but this column wouldn't get done until Tuesday--of all the postseason games to date:

1 run: 3
2 runs: 2
3 runs: 1
4 runs: 2
5 runs: 5
6 runs: 3
7 runs: 0
8 runs: 5
9 runs: 1
10+ runs: 6 (2 11s, 2 15s, a 17, and a 19)

Thirteen of 28 games in the postseason--nearly half--have been pitchers' duels. We've had a few blowouts, about one per series. There have been no slugfests. None. This on the heels of the ninth season of a fantastic hitters' era.

We kicked around some of the reasons for the lack of run scoring last week, and I won't go back into them now. My reason for bringing this up is that one of the things I often get asked is whether baseball now leans too much towards the hitter, what with so many home runs and hitters' parks and the mythical "rabbit ball." There's a notion that these factors have caused the games to have a sameness to them, and turned off many fans.

My response is always the same: baseball presents a ton of variety, as much as at any time in its history. On any given night, you can see slugfests and pitchers' duels and everything in between. Yes, we have Coors Field and Enron Field and other good hitters' parks, but there's also Dodger Stadium and Qualcomm Stadium, great places for pitchers. Some of the best hitters in history play now, but so do some of the game's all-time great pitchers. On a day-to-day basis, all kinds of baseball games are played, although the focus tends to be--paging Mr. Kurkjian--on the ones with lots of home runs.

I believe the backlash against this era has to do with the age of the people who define the discussion, many of whom grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, periods of much lower run scoring. To them, that's the way baseball is "supposed" to be, because that's what they saw when they were learning the game. But that's not the way baseball has always been; it goes through periods of high run scoring and low run scoring, and our current era is just another of the game's cycles. It's not good, bad, or indifferent: it's just baseball.

In the last few weeks, we haven't had the kind of variety that we usually see in the regular season, and to be honest, I miss it. The postseason has been exciting, with great individual and team performances, and I've enjoyed it tremendously. (Actually, I've been going through withdrawal the last few days. Any chance we can scare up the Mariners and Braves for a couple of exhibitions?) But the games have had a sameness to them, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping for a 9-8 barnburner or two in the World Series.

What's interesting to me is that there's been no complaining about this, because the postseason games fit the established criteria for "good" baseball: pitching, defense, little ball, etc. If we had a stretch of 28 postseason games with no pitchers' duels, 13 slugfests, and a handful of other games, there'd be all kinds of hand-wringing about the state of the game. Because the uniformity goes in the other direction, though--the 1960s direction--there's nothing but praise.

To me, it's all baseball, and it's all great. I just wish everyone saw it that way all the time.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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