Fantasy Articles

So was the year of the pitcher an aberration?  Or was it something more than that?  That's a question managers all over the Majors, as well as fantasy owners, are trying to figure out.  For MLB managers, it could mean the difference between a good or bad season, but they aren't dealing their own hand.  That's dictated by the general manager.  But for fantasy owners heading into a draft, especially an auction draft, the question is a conundrum.

So was the year of the pitcher the start of a trend?  Or not?

lee_clif_3
Nobody exemplified the year of the pitcher
better than Cliff Lee
Photo by sidehike, used under  creative commons license.
Despite what some folks will tell you, there is reason to believe the year of the pitcher wasn't an abnormality.  Since the release of the Mitchell Report and a semblance of a steroids policy came into effect, the number of pitchers posting sub 3.00 ERAs has been steadily increasing.  Going from only a single pitcher in 2007 (Jake Peavy) to 15 in 2010.

That spike isn't an aberration -- at least not historically.   Between 1969-2010, 551 pitchers have managed to post ERAs of 3.00 or less (we use 1969 as the starting point as that was the year the pitchers mound was lowered from 15 inches to the current 10.5 inches).  That would be an average of 13.1 per season if we didn't take the time to correct for a couple of other factors.

The introduction of the DH in 1973 is another major correction as between 1969-1972, 112 pitchers posted ERAs below our threshold line of 3.00.  That leaves 439 pitchers or 11.5 per season on average who managed to accomplish the feat.

That number gets a further boost when we take a serious look at the 1990s and early 2000s when steroids were rampant in the game.  Between 1973-1992 there were only four seasons where fewer than 10 pitchers achieved that 3.00 or less (307 pitchers or 15.4 per season)

But in 1993 that number suddenly tumbled and the game took a strange turn in the batter's favor.  In the 15-year span between 1993 and 2007, only 98 pitchers, or 6.5 per season, had an ERA below 3.00.  The reason, or at least the biggest reason, can probably be attributed to steroids and MLB's joke of a drug policy, which only gained teeth following the release of the Mitchell Report just prior to the start of the 2008 season.

Perhaps not surprisingly the number of pitchers meeting our criteria has been rising since then with 2010's 15 the most since 1993 and being far more in line with the period of 1973-1992 when the number of 3.00 (or less) ERAs varied between 4-22 each season and averaged just over 15.  That number may actually be low due to the increased number of teams and players who've come into the game since then.

In conclusion, it's probably safe to say the year of the pitcher probably wasn't an aberration but a statistical correction and that we probably won't see the number of pitchers with better than 3.00 ERA grow by a third like it did last year. But that the current rate, plus or minus a handful, looks like a historically sustainable trend.