This season .300 hitters have been hard to come by

I was driving around today after taking the dogs down to the local reservoir for a walk when a disgruntled Dodgers fan called in to MLB Radio. His complaint: Dave Roberts doesn’t utilize the sacrifice bunt enough.

As the hosts pointed out, the Dodgers are actually fourth in the majors in sacrifice bunts — though with 39 entering Wednesday’s game, that’s a far cry from the 103 that Walter Alston had the team execute in 1965 or the 95 under Tommy Lasorda in nike nfl jerseys cheap

Both of those Dodgers teams won the World Series, but the point here is that the game has changed. Nobody bunts anymore. Four American League teams have fewer than 10 sacrifice bunts. The Dodgers have just eight from position players, so the caller was right: Roberts doesn’t bunt.2

We know the reasons. Everyone is trying to hit home runs, and the Dodgers are very good at that, leading the National League. The analysts in the front office have proven that the bunt is usually a bad strategy, giving up an out while decreasing the chances of a big inning.

This gets to my other point: The base hit is dead. Well, it’s not dead, but it’s getting close to needing life support. The overall MLB average of .248 is the lowest since a .244 mark in 1972, which so scared major league owners that the American League instituted the designated hitter for 1973. Why bunt if the next batter is likely to strike out or hit a home run?

This brings us to the batting races. In an era when the value of batting average is discounted, with fewer singles and more strikeouts than ever, it isn’t a surprise that we’re also seeing fewer .300 hitters. At the moment, there are just 17 qualified regulars batting .300. There are just two batting .320 or better: Red Sox Mookie Betts (.334) and J.D. Martinez (.331). Christian Yelich leads Scooter Gennett in the NL race, .319 to .317.

To put those totals in perspective, let’s go back to 1969, the first year after the mound was lowered (plus an expansion season that gave us 24 teams). Two .320 hitters would be the fewest in a season since then (four seasons had three: 1973, 1974, 1978 and 1982). Compare that to 2000: 26 regulars hit at least .320 that year, including 15 who hit .330, with Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Helton both batting .372. The 17 .300 hitters wouldn’t quite be the lowest total since 1969 — there were 16 in 1973 and 1978 — but in 1999, 55 players hit .300!nike nfl jerseys cheap paypal

This isn’t whining, just pointing out how the game has evolved and why Dave Roberts never bunts. The pitchers are better and throw harder, and the same group of players from 1999 wouldn’t all hit .300 against today’s pitchers.