Fans who have hoped baseball would reduce its reliance on home runs, take note: Through Sunday, 39.7% of runs have been driven in by home runs, down from 42.7% in 2021.
But for those who hoped for more base hits and action on the bases to take up any scoring slack, no such luck. Runs per game are down from 4.53 per team to 4.33, and a small rise in singles per game is no more than could have been expected from the National League’s adoption of the designated hitter.
Halfway through the season, it’s time to check out some trends:
Home runs: Teams are averaging 1.08 homers per game, the fewest since 1.01 in 2014. The average was 1.22 last season after 1.28 in 2020 and an all-time high of 1.39 in 2019.
A home-run dip doesn’t have to be a bad thing if there is enough diversity in offense that runs stay around 4.5 per game to hold fan interest. In 2000, when runs hit a post-World War II high of 5.14 per team per game, the home-run average was 1.17, but only 36.8% of runs scored on homers.
This season, the Cubs (one homer per game) and White Sox (.79) are below the major-league average. They’re also less homer-reliant than others, with the Cubs scoring 33.4% of their runs on homers and the Sox 32%.
Prime Chicago power sources have been Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom, who is tied for 15th in the majors with 17 homers, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras with 13 and White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with nine.
Strikeouts: After an all-time high of 8.81 strikeouts per team per game in 2019, there was a dip to 8.68 in 2020 and 2021.
Strikeouts have fallen to 8.34 per team per game this season, the lowest since 8.25 in 2017. The drop is almost entirely because of the NL using DHs.
Not including pitcher plate appearances, strikeouts in 2021 were at 8.24 per game. A final number would have been higher because of DH strikeouts, but you get the idea. Part of the strikeout drop this season is just a difference in conditions.
Sox right-hander Dylan Cease, at 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings, continues to lead American League qualifiers and trails only the Brewers’ Corbin Burns (12.6) in the majors.
Sacrifice bunts: Only to be expected, sacrifice bunts have been cut by more than half to .07 per team per game after .16 last season. They also stood at .07 in the 60-game 2020 season, when NL teams used DHs.
Sacrifices by non-pitchers have fallen out of favor except in the late innings of close games. Numbers have been declining since .34 per team per game in 2011.
Singles: The 5.27 singles per team per game are up from 5.15 last season and 5.06 in 2020, but that’s still the third-lowest in history.
The 13 lowest singles averages in major-league history are the most recent seasons, 2010-22, as power-based offenses have taken over.