Bats & Balls Notebook
A changing game — offense
The game of baseball, fueled by analytics, is changing drastically into a new age era. It may be the biggest change since the game left the dead ball era in 1920.
For the first time in baseball history, there were more strikeouts than hits in a season, 41,207–41,201. The youthful Phillies were right there, 1,520–1,270. Red Sox were exceptions, 1,509 hits, 1,253 strikeouts.
As far as a major league strikeout record, 2018 was the 13th straight season a record was set.
Teams relied on the home run ball as launch angle became more important than making contact. The Phillies were 65–47 when hitting at least one home run; 15–35 when hitting none. Their 186 home runs were right in the middle of the major league pack. Strikeouts, third most, one of three teams to exceed 1,500 (White Sox, Padres).
Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY wrote earlier this month: “More than half of today’s managers aren’t even making out their own lineups. Managers show up to their offices and the lineups are already on their desks, done by the front office.”
That trend is the result of analytical staffs that churn out endless statistical facts and charts as to which players are the best to face that game’s starting pitcher. Matchup baseball.
Steve Potter of PhilliesBaseballFan.com researched batting orders this past season. A summary:
**Each team used over 100 different lineup combinations. The Dodgers had the most, 154. Atlanta, the fewest, 103. The average number was 137 and the Phillies were right there, 138.
**The Indians and Pirates, 13 each, used the same lineup the most times. Average was 6. Phillies right there again, 5.
The Phillies opened the season with a 25-man roster that averaged 26 years and 334 days old, the youngest in the majors, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Offensively, Philly’s 3,919 plate appearances by players 26 or younger ranked 2nd in MLB to only the Cubs (3,989) and their 126 home runs were tied for the most with the Rangers.