Two and a half weeks into the season, and a lot of the talk surrounding MLB is how much scoring is down in the sport. Runs have been even harder to come by, in a relative since, for the Diamondbacks, the next opponent for the Dodgers for three games in Arizona.
Major League Baseball teams are averaging just 4.02 runs per game in 2022, which would be the lowest figure since 1976. Scoring is at least reasonably close to 2014, when teams averaged 4.07 runs per game, but considering the National League now has the designated hitter the difference should be magnified.
Several factors are playing a role, with three standing out:
The baseball: Perhaps the deadening of the baseball was best displayed during a Dodgers game last Monday when Gavin Lux’s fly ball didn’t leave the ballpark, causing manager Dave Roberts to appear to say “Are you shitting me?”
Rob Arthur at Baseball Prospectus researched the early going of 2022, and found baseballs have a higher drag this season. That reduces home runs, which have been hit 0.89 times per game this year, the lowest mark since 2014. The level of distrust among players toward the league is high, and Arthur’s summary captures this feeling: “We don’t know if MLB’s trend of using multiple baseballs has continued into the 2022 season, and given their history of not admitting to alterations in the baseball until after they’ve been proven by outside investigators, we may never know.”
Expanded rosters: Teams have 28 active players through this Sunday, and with no cap on pitchers (unlike limiting teams to 13 pitchers once rosters revert back to 26 players next Monday) teams have been able to use fresh pitchers more often. The Dodgers carried 16 pitchers for their first eleven games and have carried 15 pitchers for the last four games.
Across the league, relievers have faced more batters than starters. As Mike Petriello at MLB.com showed, that is driving some of the offensive downturn.
Humidors: This probably could be lumped in under the baseball itself, but with all 30 ballparks using humidors this season, rather than just a handful of extreme parks, that has also helped limit offense.
Petriello noted that the year-over-year difference in offense in parks which already had a humidor is minimal, but the parks with new humidors have had greater effects.
2nd is .. there's 20 new parks with humidors. It's so important to split them into groups, because ...— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) April 25, 2022
*The parks that already had them*
- down .003 in OBP
- down .005 in SLG
*The 20 new parks*
- down .035 in OBP
- down .107 in SLG
(APR only, pulled flies/liners, TOR ignored)
But even in a league in which offense is way down, the Diamondbacks stand out among the league’s worst lineups through the first 16 games.
Arizona is averaging just 3.06 runs per game, third-worst in MLB, and hitting just .189/.286/.326, for a paltry 79 wRC+. For comparison, the 2003 Dodgers — the most extreme team of my lifetime, combining pitching excellence and offensive ineptitude — had a 78 wRC+ as a team.
This year’s Dodgers lead MLB with 5.47 runs scored per game, and sport a 119 wRC+.
Even at the relative hitter haven of Chase Field, the D-backs are averaging just three runs per game while hitting .177/.286/.309. On the season, they’ve scored more than three runs just six times in 16 games.
It’s still early, so numbers could still normalize both across the league and in Arizona. But runs have been hard to come by so far.
- Teams: Dodgers (11-4) at Diamondbacks (6-10)
- Starting pitchers: Walker Buehler vs. Merrill Kelly
- Location: Chase Field, Phoenix
- Time: 6:40 p.m.
- TV: SportsNet LA, ESPN+ (out of market)