Corey Kluber no-hitter highlights problem with MLB offense

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Phillies' offense ranks way higher than it should because nobody can hit originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

As the Phillies were being held in check by Marlins lefty Trevor Rogers Wednesday night, the majors saw another no-hitter. Corey Kluber no-hit the Rangers, the sixth no-no of 2021.

It’s been an American League team no-hit each time, and surprisingly, none of those six instances have come in NL parks, all have been with a designated hitter.

The Mariners, Indians and Rangers have been no-hit twice apiece. The Mariners do not have a competitive lineup and will have trouble putting men on base most nights. They’re hitting .198 as a team with a lineup that basically ends after the cleanup spot. The Indians aren’t much better at .213. Those teams rank 29th and 30th in on-base percentage. 

The offensive climate in both leagues this season is stunningly poor, so much so that the Phillies rank 11th in the majors with a .241 batting average. Just two years ago, a .241 batting average ranked 25th.

Here are the league rates for batting average and OPS the last three seasons:

  • 2019 — .252/.758

  • 2020 — .246/.740

  • 2021 — .236/.705

Even in recent years of down offense such as 2014 when the league-average OPS was .700, the collective batting average was 15 points higher than this season at .251. It’s not that we’re seeing so many fewer runs than before, we’re seeing so many fewer hits and balls in play.

With runners in scoring position, the Phillies rank ninth in batting average at .258, a spot behind the Dodgers and in front of good offenses like the Blue Jays, Red Sox, Braves, Padres and Cardinals.

This isn’t to say the Phillies have been good offensively, or better than it’s seemed, just that things are going worse in many other cities across the majors.

There are plenty of theories why. The baseball itself is again under the microscope, as it was two years ago when home run rates reached ludicrous levels. Could an overcorrection be limiting balls in play?

Velocity is an undeniably important factor. The average fastball velocity in the majors this season is 93.6 mph. It has increased every year since at least 2008 when data was made available.

Baseball Savant

As of May 20, there have been:

  • 129 different pitchers in MLB this season to average 95 mph with their heater

  • 73 to average 96 mph

  • 32 to average 97 mph

Another undeniable factor is the scarcity of the contact hitter. I remember listening to Juan Pierre in the Phillies’ clubhouse in 2012 talk about how guys like him were going by the wayside, that teams all want the longball. I recall thinking, “This has probably been said by players for decades.”

But even now, a decade later, it’s not the same game.

The pesky slap-hitters like Ronald Torreyes stick out these days in a way they didn’t before because their approach is so much different than their peers. The game has obviously continued to trend toward power and perceived offensive efficiency. It’s hard to string together hits, it’s hard to successfully steal a ton of bases, so teams went in different directions. It’s easier to go walk, two-run homer against one of these relievers throwing 98 than to cluster three or four singles.

It has all resulted in a depressed offensive environment in which only a few teams are  satisfied with how they’ve hit, teams like the Red Sox and White Sox, the Astros and Blue Jays. Even the Dodgers, a top-five offense in most categories, are 70 points shy of last year’s OPS.

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