Triple Jeopardy

After the jump is a table that shows the major league totals in various hitting categories for the 2013 regular season as compared to the 2012 regular season, and some discussion of what the table shows.

You’ll see that homers were down quite a bit from last year.  That drop did not take homers all the way down to where they were in 2010 and 2011, but it does seem to suggest that the increase from 2011 to 2012 was not the beginning of a new direction but just a blip in an overall trend toward homer rates of less than one per team per game.

Strikeouts were up a little, and walks were down a little.  That continues the overall direction of recent years, but much less dramatically than we had been seeing in prior recent years.

The numbers that jumped out at me most dramatically in the table below are the vary large 2012-to-2013 drops in the speed categories of triples and stolen bases.  The general  trend over the whole history of the majors has been a gradual but steady decline in triples, as ballparks have become less eccentric and outfielders more athletic and long hits have gone increasingly over fences rather than staying inside them.  But the triples rate  has been relatively steady over the last 15 years or so, until this big drop to an all-time historic low this season.  Maybe it’s just a random fluctuation — triples rates are so low at this point that a season’s worth is now a relatively small sample — but it’s interesting that the same type of precipitous drop also appeared this season in stolen bases and stolen base attempts.   Was there an unusual decline this season in playing time for players who emphasize the speed game?

By the way, you may notice, if you expand the table beyond 10 rows, that there was a bit of an increase in plate appearances and at bats this year that cannot be explained by a higher rate of hits or walks.  I think the primary explanation for the increase in ABs and PAs is that there were 243 extra-inning games this season compared to 192 last season.

20122013Pct. Difference
Dooubles8,261 8,222-0.47%
Triples927 772-20.08%
Home Runs4,934 4,661-5.86%
Walks14,709 14,640-0.47%
Strikeouts36,426 36,710 0.77%
Stolen Bases3,229 2,693-19.90%
Stolen Bases + CS
4,365 3,700-17.97%
Total Bases66,980 65,841-1.73%
Hits42,063 42,0920.07%
Plate Appearances184,179 184,8730.38%
At Bats165,251 166,0700.49%
Games4860 48620.04%

14 thoughts on “Triple Jeopardy

  1. 1
    Richard Chester says:

    Concerning the increase in PA, there were 43653 IP in 2013 vs. 43355 IP in 2012, indicative of a difference in extra-inning games as you mentioned. The number of home team wins also affects the number of PA.

    • 2
      Artie Z. says:

      And the extra Rays-Rangers “game 163” added 73 extra PAs. 14 of the extra 29 hits came from that game.

      With needing at least one interleague series per … “series” (hopefully that’s clear, it’s been a long day – when 15 games are on the schedule for the day one needs to be interleague), does this help or hurt offense? When an AL team plays in an NL park, it is clearly a hindrance because the pitcher (or pinch hitters) hit. When an NL team plays in an AL park, it should help the offense, but I’m not sure it is enough to offset the loss from AL teams playing in NL parks because (I’m guessing at this) NL teams don’t have a regular DH so they are just using a guy to hit for the pitcher.

      I was guessing that the run scoring environment was lower based on the table (run scoring dropped from 4.32 to 4.17 between 2012 and 2013), so I wonder how that “every day has an interleague game” effect impacts things.

  2. 3
    no statistician but says:


    I just took a quick look at 3B, HR, BA, SB, CS by league for 2012 and 2013. Most of the differences between the two years is attributable to the NL. In fact, the AL had more HRs (by 4) in 2013. As to triples, the NL decrease was 134 while the AL was 21. Stolen bases, the NL dropped a whopping 463, the AL 73, and CS showed the NL down 141, the AL up 12.

    I think the answer to the musical question lies somewhere in the goings on of the senior circuit.

    • 4
      birtelcom says:

      If you look at the raw numbers for the separate leagues, nsb, they are going to be thrown off somewhat by the move of the Astros from the NL to the AL. The NL’s raw numbers dropped by one team’s worth of games and the AL’s increased by one team’s worth of games. For example, on a rate basis, rather than a raw numbers basis, the AL’s homer rate per game dropped (from 1.10 per game to 1.03) by more than the NL’s rate did (.94 to .89).

      • 6
        no statistician but says:


        Get as old as I am and you, too, will have these temporary lapse of memory.

        Nevertheless, if we put Houston back in the NL, statistically, for 2013, the NL still declines in triples by 118 vs 37 for the AL, in SBs by 390 vs 183 for the AL, and in CSs 80 vs 49 for the AL. Now that my facks are a little straighter, I still suggest that the NL is worthy of analysis regarding the downturn.

        • 14

          Nobody in the NL got to face Houston’s pitching 19 times this year. Not sure that explains the decline in triples, but it was a little tougher to be an NL hitter in 2013.

    • 5
      RJ says:

      Angel Pagan, last years NL triples leader, was injured for much of his season and only amassed three triples. This got me wondering about how 2012’s other leading triplers stacked up this year. Whilst I imagine there is a large degree of variance in the triples leaderboard each year, it’s striking quite how poorly the cream of 2012 performed in this regard in 2013. Here are the top ten in NL triples in 2012 and their number this year in parentheses.

      Pagan: 15 (3)
      Reyes: 12 (0, in AL)
      Castro: 12 (2)
      Fowler: 11 (3)
      Cabrera, Me: 10 (2, in AL)
      Bourn: 10 (6, in AL)
      Colvin: 10 (0)
      Harper: 9 (3)
      Venable: 8 (8)
      DeJesus: 8 (3)

      TOTAL: 105 (22 plus 8 in AL)

      Only Castro and Venable had full years. All the rest lost a ton of time to injury. And although I suggested that the triples leaderboard is probably susceptible to wholesale changes in names year-on-year anyway, six of the ten have prior years of double digit triples, whilst DeJesus has bested his 2012 total on two previous occasions.

      So although, as birtelcom says, Houston’s departure explains a lot of the NL’s lower numbers, it seems plausible that a complementary explanation is that the Senior Circuit suffered from the injury and departure of many of its regular triples hitters.

  3. 7
    Doug says:

    I attribute stolen base reduction to sabermetric awareness and the decline in the run scoring environment since 2000. Managers understand the value of a stolen base is much less than the value of potentially losing a baserunner and an out. Further, just having the runner at first base improves the batter’s chances of getting a hit by keeping the first baseman on the bag, an advantage that is lost if first base is no longer occupied. Indeed, opening up first base also invites pitching around the next batter, a strategy more likely to be employed in a declining run scoring environment.

    What the raw numbers don’t show is that, for the 6th time in 7 years, over 70% of players with 10+ steal attempts were successful stealing 70% of the time. Until 2007, that number had never been higher than 66%.

    Here’s a table to illustrate that trend, where the % values are the % of runners with 10+ steal attempts who are successful 70% of the time (usually around the break-even point for stealing to be an effective strategy).

    Since 1951	First Time Above	Last Time Below
    • 8
      no statistician but says:


      Your figures got me curious about base stealing percentages of the pre 1951 era, American League only, since the NL kept no CS records prior to that year.

      In my researches I came across this weird fact that is worthy of one of your quizzes: In 1910, Eddie Collins led the league with 81 SBs, was 3rd in RBIs with 81, and scored 81 runs, ninth in the league.

      • 9
        John Autin says:

        There are 10 seasons of 70+ SB and 70+ RBI since 1901. Six came from 1909-15: Cobb thrice, Collins, Clyde Milan, and Benny Kauff in the [ahem] Federal League. Four came from 1983-86: Rickey twice, Raines and Eric Davis.

      • 10
        Doug says:

        Interesting you found Collins. He’s the only players to have equal R, RBI and SB with a number higher than 20.

        Between 5 and 20, there are only four others:
        19 – Roger Bresnahan (1915)
        8 – Eric Patterson (2011)
        6 – Eric Bullock (1991)
        5 – George Twombley (1915)

        • 11
          Richard Chester says:

          While we’re on the subject, Larry Walker in 1996: 58 R, RBI and SO.

          • 12
            Doug says:

            56 – Duffy Lewis (1916)
            45 – Keith moreland (1989)
            44 – Ron Santo (1960), Jack Fournier (1914)
            42 – Granny Hamner (1956)
            36 – Chick Fewster (1924)
            31 – Jerry Royster (1985)
            28 – Scott Rolen (2005)
            27 – Maicer Izturis (2010)
            25 – Pat Kelly (1975), Fred Abbott (1903)
            24 – Heinie Peitz (1901)
            23 – John Kennedy (1970)
            21 – Johnny Grabowski (1928), Mike Simon (1914)
            20 – Mark Kotsay (2007), Mike Tresh (1943)

      • 13
        Doug says:

        Evan Gattis this season had the first season ever with equal numbers of HR, 2B and BB, with at least 20 of each.

        Gattis has the 82nd player season in major league history with 20+ HR and 2B and an OBP under .300. ALL of those seasons have come since 1950. There have been 21 such player seasons since 2010, the same number recorded from 1950 through 1984.

        Pedro Alvarez this season became just the 3rd league HR champion with an OBP under .300. The others were Tony Armas (1981) and Dave Kingman (1982). Alvarez’s 36 HR are the lowest leading total since Fred McGriff led the NL with 35 in 1992. McGriff is also the last player to lead the AL with that low a total, with 36 in 1989.

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