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Matt Garza No-Hitter: The Year of Fear, Not Pitchers

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Matt Garza No-Hitter: The Year of Fear, Not Pitchers
J. Meric/Getty Images

As Matt Garza finished off his no-hitter against the Tigers this evening, everyone watched in awe as "the year of pitchers" swarmed over them yet one more time. 2010 has been an interesting year when it comes to accomplishments, but this year, the accomplishments seem to have an interesting twist.

Consider the following list of some accomplishments we have observed this season:

 

- Roy Halladay pitches a perfect game.

- Dallas Braden pitches a perfect game.

- Ubaldo Jimenez pitches a no-hitter.

- Stephen Strasburg strikes out 14 Pirates in his MLB debut.

- Armando Galarraga loses a perfect game with two outs in the ninth inning.

- Edwin Jackson pitches a no-hitter.

- Ted Lily loses a no-hitter in the ninth inning.

If one thing sticks out on this list, it is -- obviously -- that all involve pitchers. It would appear that 2010 is “the year of the pitchers,” and the numbers back that up.

In the 2010 season, an average of 6.95 batters strike out every game. That is the highest in Major League Baseball history.

But before we begin to decipher “the year of the pitchers,” lets look at the other side. MLB averages .94 home runs per game this season. That is the lowest since 1993.

So which one is it? Is it the batters that are dominating, or is it the pitchers that are dominating?

That has been the talk of the baseball world for some time now. Many attribute the success of pitchers and lack of home runs to the performance enhancing drug (PED) suspensions that have been handed out in the last few years. The theory is that, after all the recent suspensions, players are afraid to continue using PED’s, and thus have experienced a decline in results. If we could prove that this is the case, then we could conclude that pitchers have not gotten better, but batters have gotten worse.

So how do we go about proving this? First we need to identify how PED’s influenced the game.

PED’s make players stronger. They do not increase coordination. So, PED’s add some kind of distance to a fly ball. In other words, a fly out to deep right for a player that is not taking PED’s would be a home run for a player who is taking PED’s.

But what would that look like in the stats? Essentially, if players are suddenly not taking PED’s, then less fly balls would result in home runs.

If you compare 2009 to 2010, that is indeed the case. Taking a look at the home run to fly ball ratio, 2010 has seen almost a one percent decrease compared to 2009. When looking at league averages, one percent is a very significant figure.

Thus, we can now conclude that the increase in strikeouts and the decrease in home runs is due to fear. Players are afraid of being suspended, and are therefore not taking drugs anymore. We do not have the data to determine how many players are on — or were on — PED’s, but the decrease in the amount of fly balls that result in home runs suggests that many players were indeed on PED’s.

Looking at this with a wider perspective, Major League Baseball has accomplished what many thought was impossible, and they did it quite promptly. For all the arguing over whether suspensions weren’t long enough, it seems as though the punishment didn’t stimulate the result, the fear did.

You can e-mail me at jess@jesskcoleman.com or follow me on Twitter @jesskcoleman .

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