The newest of the new baseball metrics focus on the leather. Thanks to comprehensive video recording systems at the ballparks, computers are churning out complex spray charts and helping track batter tendencies with precision. Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik is a big proponent of runs saved by defense and maybe that helps explain why two of the Mariners’ three no-hitters in club history have come this season.
Home runs are down. Runs are down. The fact is hitters often look overmatched these days. Opponents’ batting average has not been this low since 1995, according to STATS. Pitchers are holding batters to a .260 average this year. In 2010 and `11 it was .261. The .268 in 2009 looks pretty good now.
No, we’re not talking about players taking a seat far away from a pitcher with a no-no in progress. That’s superstition. We mean the call that goes a pitcher’s way _ i.e. Carlos Beltran’s ball ruled foul but TV replays showed it clearly landed on the left field line in Santana’s no-hitter. Or that impossible-seeming play: Cain got two. Mike Baxter made a bone-jarring catch to preserve Santana’s no-hitter in June, slamming into the wall during a play that landed him on the disabled list. Everyone can use a little luck now and then.
The suspension of Melky Cabrera on Wednesday shows the system is working. The gaudy numbers of the Steroids Era are gone, and while hitters weren’t the only ones cheating, pitchers appear to be getting more benefit from a return to a level playing field. With big boppers not nearly as readily available these days, emphasis has shifted away from the long ball _ except in New York _ and pitchers have reasserted themselves at the top of the game.
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