Vanishing Southpaws

Left_Handed_PitchersData via the Baseball-Reference Play Index

In an insightful analysis today, Matthew Trueblood shows that the share of plate appearances thrown by left-handed pitchers is declining. As seen above, only a quarter of plate appearances have featured a southpaw this year, continuing a three-year downward trend.

The 70s and 80s were the golden age of lefties, who faced at least 30% of batters in every year save for the strike-shortened season of 1981. (Baseball-Reference does not have complete data prior to 1974.) The current rate of 25.1% would be by far the lowest since 1999-2002, when expansion may have made finding quality southpaws difficult.

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One And Done?

 

MLB_Elimination_Bracket

What if the MLB season was a one-and-done tournament, like the NCAA tournament or the FA Cup? The bracket above represents one such scenario based on games actually played to date.

First-round games were based on Opening Day matchups, with teams bracketed by league and roughly by division. Later rounds were decided by the first game after pairings were set. The bracket shows the randomness of baseball (the struggling Red Sox in the semifinals; Atlanta and Philadelphia in the third round), but also strong seasons from the likes of the Royals and Astros.

Based on the remaining schedules, both finalists will be determined by August. The only championship game that could feasibly happen this season, however, is Houston-San Francisco — unless a different pair of finalists happens to meet in the World Series.

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Prospect Bonanza

Top_MLB_prospect_debuts_2015Data via Baseball America and the Baseball-Reference Play Index

As many baseball writers have noted, 2015 is a banner year for top prospects. After last weekend’s promotions of Byron Buxton and Francisco Lindor, nine of Baseball America’s preseason top 20 prospects have debuted this year, including each of the top four (Kris Bryant, Buxton, Addison Russell, Carlos Correa). That number is tied for the fourth-highest since BA started ranking prospects in 1990 (2010 was the most productive, with 11) — and more than three months remain in the 2015 season.

This trend partly reflects the fact that BA’s top prospects in 2015 were particularly green. Only three of this year’s top 20 had previously debuted (such players can be ranked if they still have rookie eligibility), resulting in more players who could get called up for the first time. In contrast, four of the top five prospects in BA’s 1990 rankings had already reached the major leagues.

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Attendance trends

MLB_Attendance_changes_2015Source: Baseball-Reference.com

Attendance is roughly flat this year across MLB: The league has averaged 29,340 fans per game so far, compared to 29,290 through the same period in 2014. The trend varies considerably by team, however.

Weather and schedule can affect the data so early in the season, but a few patterns are evident. The Royals, fresh off a surprising run to the World Series, have the league’s fastest-growing crowds, rising to 32,000 fans per game from 21,000. Other risers include the Nationals, Padres, and Mariners, who made moves over the offseason and/or entered the season with high expectations. On the other side, teams losing the most fans include the Yankees, Rangers, Phillies, Braves and Rays, which entered the year in decline (though some have been successful so far).

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