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The 1998 expansion - how much did it boost offense?

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  • The 1998 expansion - how much did it boost offense?

    This is mainly because on 2 different threads, a comment suggesting that the offensive boost be considered was ignored because the hot button topic of steroids was already part of the discussion.

    However, nobody seems to remember that there were two major league teams added in 1998. Actually, the owners of the Devil Rays don't seem to have noticed yet, but that's another story :-)

    And now that I have your attention with that line...

    Offense picked up mostly in the home run area in 1961, but somewhat in average, two, and again some in 1962, but not a lot. There was still enough, even though it settled back down, to be noticed, even though baseball was really approaching its best position with 20-24 teams, since black players were allowed to play and hadn't been before 1947. Before than, 16-20 teams was about right in terms of optimizing to get the best talent.

    1969 saw a big jump in power, a man who would never again hit as many hit 47, and only in his 3rd year - guy named Reggie. Willie McCovey had a huge year, and so did Killer and Frank Howard. Offense settled back down, though, and the DH was added to boost it some in the A.L.. However, there was still a spike. Not that much, because 24 teams was probably about right.

    1977 saw Carew hit .388, and some mighty big bats in Kansas city in 1980, where the Royals had the highest team batting average in decades! Definitely an expansion effect. Add to that the fact that offense continued to remain rather consistent, even as the game changed so that hitters weren't facing tired starters in the 7-9th innings as much anymore.

    In 1993, we saw another offensive spike, lots of 30 and 40 homers guys over the next 3-4 years, nearly a .400 hitter, Jeff Bagwell on his way to impersonate Lou Gehrig, Frank Thomas on his way to impersonate Ted Williams, and 1 and possible 2 men with a shot at breaking Maris' mark if the season continued. (Lest we forget, Griffey had a great year, too.) 1993-4 were *huge* as far asexpansion effects are concerned, even *if* steroids are taken into account. It couldn't all be steroids.

    So, given those spikes, why does nobody ever look at the 1998 expansion as part of the reason why certain players like Sosa and Bonds have been productive longer, or at the very least were much more productive for 2-3 years. You cannot say, given the above, that it's *all* steroids or even that certain players were certainly on steroids. Some were, yes. However, while I don't have time to go further, I'm sure there is more evidence in the other expansion years in question to point toward a jump occurring solely because of expansion.

    So, please, when discussing some of these players, let's be fair and consider the effects of 20+ new pitchers suddenly being thrown into the fray after 1997. I'm not saying that was all of it - but it *has* to be some percentage of it.
    Last edited by DTF955; 02-22-2006, 06:26 PM.
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  • #2
    One of several factors, yes.


    • #3
      Expansion was certainly a factor. Most of the time, statistical inflations as a result of expansion come back to earth within a few years. At this point, one would think perhaps even more quickly because of the increased ability to filter top level talent from all over the world into the game. Quite logically, there must exist a critical mass, or tipping point for expansion whereupon the offensive numbers see a more pronounced and possibly permanent spike. There's really no way of telling when that is poised to happen or if it already did.

      There are so many confounding variables to the offensive explosion. Expansion, PEDs, smaller ballparks, noticable differences in hitting approaches, the list goes on and on. Perhaps the further popularization of sabermetric stats even has some influence, as the Earl Weaver style was glorified statistically. There are many factors that when combined cause an offensive avalanche only subdued by the occasion guy named Roger, Pedro, Randy, Greg, etc.

      What's frustrating as a fan and analyst is that it is virtually impossible to discern which advents account for how much of the jump. What about the fact that there are several legitimately great hitters during this time?

      One factor that isn't really brought up in terms of this discussion is payroll imbalances. Financial inequity is, in this sense, tantamount to a form of expansion. When you have teams that are priced out of the market for quality starting pitching, you have guys filling out their rotations who have no business being in the majors. Many of the teams devoid of more than even two major league quality pitchers, let alone an ace, are small market franchises. These teams are forced to fill their rosters out with many of their best minor leaguers. Teams like the Mets, Yanks, Red Sox, etc have rotations that are practically entirely composed of free agent acquisitions. This means only one, if any of those spots is filled by their top minor league talent while other teams are forced to go three or four deep into their minor league systems to put together their staff. I have a hard enough time justifying my anti-Adam Dunn stance, and he doesn't even get to hit against the Reds' pitching staff.

      This is why despite having, perhaps, the most skilled crop of players yet, the league is not at the pinnacle of competitiveness. The distribution of the talent undermines the level thereof.
      Last edited by digglahhh; 02-23-2006, 07:48 AM.

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