Record Shutouts? Another 2014 Fail.

Much has been made this season about the record pace of shutouts and the overall trend of diminished offense coupled with increased strikeouts. The last two decades have been ugly in terms of at-bats ending in a whiff as every year since 1995 is listed in the Top 20 for total strikeouts, K/AB, and K/PA. In fact, the years from 2014 through 2008 are ranked one to seven in highest percentage of K/AB and K/PA. ’14 has sort of hit its nadir with at-bats ending in a strikeout 22.5% of the time.

Have all those patient at-bats, waiting for the right pitch to hit, led to more runs? Before answering that, have all those patient at-bats led to more walks, which in turn by conventional wisdom (it is a television commentator staple to say that walks always come back to bite a pitcher) lead to more runs?

The short answer is no, not really. 2014 is near the bottom for BB/PA, with batters walking just 7.69% of the time, currently ranked 92nd of all seasons since 19141. 2013 was ranked 83rd and 2012 was 81st. In fact, the 1990s showed pretty well in terms of walks per plate appearance (2000 was 6th, ’99 was 10th, and ’95-96 were 16th and 17th respectively), but nowadays batters have the same old approach but pitchers are winning more battles. As you might expect, runs per game are down to the lowest they’ve been since 1981. Removing the Dead-ball era from our returns, 2014 is the 22nd worst season for runs per game with teams scoring a paltry 4.10 runs per, only slightly up from 2013 when it was 4.17.

Is this the year, then? Are we finally going to supplant the dead-ball era season of 1915 as the dead-ballsiest season ever? Will, with just the right sort of San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays ineptitude (both tied with being shut out 17 times this season) 2014 go down as the best of the worst?

No, damnit.

Currently, there have been 297 shutouts this season, and at the present rate of one shutout every seven games (7.05% of the time) and with 323 games remaining, give or take a play-in game or two, 2014 will likely finish 9th or 10th all-time with around 315. That will, however, give the years from 2010-14 a firm lock on the top 12 spots, which is just the sort of negativity that writers across our good nation love to gripe about.

Just for goofs, here’s the current top 15 seasons for shutouts (with total games2 and SHO/G):

Season Games Shutouts SHO/G
1915 3728 359 9.63
1972 3718 357 9.60
1914 3758 357 9.50
1968 3250 339 10.43
2013 4862 331 6.81
2010 4860 329 6.77
1976 3878 325 8.38
2011 4858 323 6.65
1971 3876 315 8.13
2012 4860 310 6.38
1978 4204 305 7.25
1969 3892 300 7.71
1992 4212 298 7.08
2014 3886 297 7.05
1973 4212 293 7.54

Top 15 Shutouts in a Season

And, if you’re wondering what teams have been shut out the most and fewest time this season, I have that very thing for you too.

Team Times Shut out Rank
San Diego Padres 17 1 (tie)
Tampa Bay Rays
Seattle Mariners 15 3
Boston Red Sox 13 4 (tie)
Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds
Houston Astros
Philadelphia Phillies
San Francisco Giants
Chicago White Sox 7 23 (tie)
Kansas City Royals
New York Yankees
Pittsburgh Pirates
Cleveland Indians 6 27 (tie)
Miami Marlins
Los Angeles Dodgers 4 29
Los Angeles Angels 3 30

Top (Worst/Best) Teams by Shutouts

  1. All stats here gathered using Team Finder tool
  2. Halve the number for individual games played. Since there are two teams, and two opportunities for a shutout, the number just looks huge.

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