1992 vs 2012: The game has changed a lot in 20 years

As the Steroids Era has faded away, offensive levels have returned quite close to where they were in 1992, The Year Before Everybody Got Jacked. On the surface, the two seasons look pretty similar in terms of numbers:

Stat              1992      2012
BA                .256      .255
AB per game     33.93     34.00
Hits per game    8.68      8.65
Runs per game    4.12      4.32

While those basic numbers are just about mirror images, there are some massive differences as well.

For starters, league-wide slugging percentage was .377 in 1992 and .405 in 2012. The overall rate of hits is just about identical, but their distribution is different. Doubles are up about 9% and homers are up a whopping 42% while singles are down 7%. I suspect the main factor here is that pretty much all players swing for the fences now, plus those fences are a bit closer on average.

Here are some other things that have changed significantly:

Stat                   1992      2012    Change
Sacrifices per game     0.40     0.30     -25%
TB per game            12.80    13.78     + 8%
Intentional BB per gm   0.31     0.22     -40%
Stolen bases per game   0.77     0.66     -14%
Walks per game          3.25     3.03     - 7%
Strikeouts per game     5.59     7.50     +34%

Keep in mind that these stats have all been trending–it’s not like these differences are due in large part to random noise.

So while batting average and run scoring have returned to similar levels, a lot of other things about the underlying scoring mechanisms have changed.

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30 Comments on "1992 vs 2012: The game has changed a lot in 20 years"

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Kenny
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During that same period, what can you say about pitching performance? Does it too show some characteristics that reflect 1992, or are there also major changes that have been trending?

John Autin
Editor

Interesting and timely piece, Andy.

The SO/BB ratio has increased by 44%.

Pitches per PA has gone up about 5% (3.65 to 3.82), but unintentional walks have gone down from 7.8% to 7.5% of PAs (excluding IBBs).

The distribution of IP among SPs and RPs has gone from 69/31 to 66/34.

To my surprise, Saves as a percentage of Wins has gone down a tad, from 52.7% to 51.9%. I think that peaked around ’91 and has held pretty steady ever since. That figure shot up from 46% in 1987 to 50% in ’88, and has been over 50% ever since.

birtelcom
Guest

As you point out, pitches per PA are up about 5% from 3.65 to 3.82. PAs per team per game are actually down since 1992, although to a negligible degree, from 38.11 to 37.99, a decline of about 0.3%. The result is that pitches per team per game are up from about 139.4 in 1992 to about 145.1 in 2012, an increase of about 4% or so.

bstar
Guest

I thought the idea that a higher percentage of relievers throwing 95+ was a possible reason for the increase in strikeouts, but the numbers don’t really bear that out at all.

Starter SO/9: 1992-5.51 2012-6.55 28% increase
Reliever SO/9: 1992-7.14 2012-8.37 17% increase

So it’s the opposite. Strikeouts for starters have improved over the last 20 years at a higher rate than that of K’s for relievers.

Mike L
Guest

I think one of the more interesting stats in the drop in intentional walks, which is the only measure that is philosophy-based rather than performance-based.

JDV
Guest

I think the decreases in sacrifices and in IBBs are linked. Both have to do with the increased offensive capacity throughout the lineup. It used to be that a sacrifice might have been a particular player’s (8-9 hitter) best probable contribution to the offensive inning. Now, that guy might be just as likely to drive a ball to the gap. On defense, the IBB used to be more common in order to pitch to a near-automatic out. Now, the next guy up is almost always another offensive weapon.

Doug
Guest
I wonder to what extent strategy adaptation is lagging a bit behind the pretty sudden change in offensive environment. Runs per game has dropped almost a full run from 2000 to 2011, which is both dramatic and quick. Yet there was no change in sac hits, and a reduction in sac flies. When runs were cheap, exchanging an out for a base or two was a poor bargain. As runs become more dear, the value of a sacrifice should start to gain, although runs may need to drop further still for that to happen in a noticeable way, especially in… Read more »
deal
Guest

Is my inference that BABIP would be up in 2012 true? Since BA is even and Ks are up BABIP should also have gone up correct? This seems odd to me. I would have thought defense would improve.

Doug
Guest

Increased pitching rosters has reduced the number of bench players and in-game substitutions.

Excluding pitchers, there were 9131 substitutions in 1992, but only 8895 in 2012, even with 4 more teams. On a per team basis, that’s a 15.6% drop.

topper009
Guest

Is it really logical to assume the entire league all got together and took steroids at the same rate to uniformly increase offense all in one offseason? I thought Canseco had started infiltrating the league in the late 80s? Why didn’t runs gradually increase from the 80s to the 90s? The numbers do not support the conclusion that steroids caused the spike in offense starting in 1993.

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/changes-in-home-run-rates-during-the-retrosheet-years/

Doug
Guest

Part of the reason was 1993 was an expansion year, and one of the those expansion teams played at Coors.

Mark in Sydney
Guest
That is a funny season, Andy, just by the numbers. Games Played: 2012 4860 (+15%) 1992 4212 Number of Players Used in Games 2012 1284 (+28%) 1992 1007 The 3B are near the same (0.20 v 0.19), the OBP is the same (0.319 v 0.320), so with homers up, the OPS is up. Though there were more stolen base (0.77 v 0.66) and lots more caught-stealing (0.23 v 0.38). Fewer players on the teams, more swinging for the fences meaning more Ks and HRs, less running. Slugging brings in the punters, so I expect we’ll see more of this in… Read more »
Mike L
Guest

If steroids played no role than many players were indulging themselves in mass hypnosis. The hr rate increased in two steps in successive years. And them stayed high.

Obsessivegiantscompulsive
Guest
Obsessivegiantscompulsive

You should read High Boskage House, where Eric Walker, of the Sinister Firstbaseman book and the writer of the Athletics bible for baseball analysis, analyzed the runs scored data and concluded that it was a juiced ball that likely caused that era, not juiced humans.

He also researched the info on steroids and concluded that the ball players were not being helped by the drugs.

bstar
Guest

I’ve linked to his study a couple of times on here, but here it is if anyone wants to that hasn’t:

http://highboskage.com/juiced-ball.shtml

mosc
Guest

I like noting the 5% rate of run scoring increase in relation to the “everybody swinging for the fences” comment. Statistics have changed baseball in the past 20 years most notably in the area of telling hitters to swing away more often. I think that change alone back in 1992 would have raised run scoring and slugging, at the expense of a tiny bit of obp.

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