Are Record-Low Batting Averages Having an Impact on MLB Totals?

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Major League Baseball is experiencing its lowest league batting average in over 45 years. You have to go way back to the late 1960s and early 1970s to find worse league batting averages. Does such a substandard league batting average affect other areas of the game? Well, let’s start in 1967 when the average was just .242.

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That season saw teams average 3.77 runs per game. The league batting average dropped down to .237 in 1967 and team runs per game also dropped down to 3.42. When batting averages went back up to .248 in 1969, the team scoring average also rose to 4.07. There definitely seemed to be a correlation between the two stats back then.

However, this hasn’t always been the case. There have been many exceptions to this rule. Not only that, if we take 2011, 2012, 2016, and 2017 seasons where the league average was .255, there is quite a difference in team scoring.

Teams averaged 4.28 runs per game in 2011, 4.32 runs per game in 2012, 4.48 runs per game in 2016, and 4.65 runs per game in 2017. Comparing 2011 with 2017, there is a difference of nearly .4 runs per team per game which is close to a full run with respect to game totals.

With a league average of .249 this season, we have seen teams score an average of 4.45 runs per game. But, consider this: In 2010 the league batting average was .257 but teams scored only 4.38 runs per game. They scored 4.28 runs per game a year later with a .255 collective average and then 4.32 runs per game in 2011 with a .255 batting average.

In fact, the average number of runs per team per game over the past decade is 4.37. It would seem that average team scores haven’t dramatically dropped at all. Despite the league batting average being the lowest in 10 years, team scoring this season is the 4th-highest in that time frame.

How Is This Affecting Over/Unders?

The under has prevailed in 51.9% of games so far which would indicate that the oddsmakers have been setting totals very tightly. As usual, some individual teams have been much more profitable than others with their game totals. Colorado has been the most profitable team to bet the under on. The under has prevailed in 56.4% of their games.

The under is 55.9% in Giants and Tigers games and it’s 54.8% in Tampa’s games. The Angels, Dbacks, Royals, and Phillies have also seen unders come in over 53% of the time. It might be worthwhile to bet unders when those teams play down the stretch.
Only Toronto at 55.1% and Cincinnati at 53.6% have been profitable over bets. The Brewers, A’s, and White Sox have seen their games go over 50% of the time while Miami and Texas have gone over in most of their games but not enough to turn a profit.

Other Things to Consider

Batting averages aren’t necessarily poor on every team. However, the Padres, Mets, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Orioles all have averages below 2.40 and bad slugging percentages which helps to drag down the entire league. Baltimore and San Diego even have OBP averages under .300. The fact that 5 other teams are sitting at .244 doesn’t help matters.

Other factors that are making up for poor batting averages this year are things like home runs. This year has seen 1.16 homers per game which is the second-best total in nearly 20 years. The number of RBIs, total bases, and walks are also hovering around the same numbers as we’ve seen over the past couple of seasons. The one area that we are seeing record numbers in is strikeouts which are averaging 8.46 per game. That’s a historic high although strikeouts have been steadily increasing since 2008.

Conclusion

Yes, the league batting average being so bad has an effect on things but its impact isn’t nearly as severe as one might be inclined to believe. Teams are still scoring a relatively similar number of runs per game and they are hitting into the least amount of double plays since 1967.

However, as well as the oddsmakers have adjusted their game totals, they could certainly tighten them up on certain teams although they are not likely to react too dramatically in September. Nonetheless, don’t expect much to change in terms of betting totals unless there is a noticeable change in average runs per game.

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