Runs Aplenty in April.

One of the biggest stories of the young 2006 season is the explosion of runs we’ve seen in just under a month. Theories of why include a juiced ball, drug policies, and continued watering-down of starting pitching. The juiced ball theory has been the most prolific thus far as many want to believe that the more stringent steroid policies have stifled performance-enhancing drugs’ presence in baseball. I’m not completely averse to the idea of a juiced ball, but I’m reticent to jump on the bandwagon of gumdrops and glitter crediting the tougher policy with the eradication of PEDs just yet. I also don’t necessarily buy into the idea that starting pitching is significantly worse than years past so as to allow such a jump in offense.

Just how high have the numbers jumped as we near the end of the first month of play? Thus far, runs per game are their highest since 2000 at 10.05. League slugging percentage is also at its highest since the same year at .439. Here’s a look at things since 2000:

Year Runs/Gm Lg AVG Lg SLG
2000 10.77 0.270 0.450
2001 9.61 0.260 0.425
2002 9.26 0.258 0.410
2003 9.44 0.261 0.418
2004 9.83 0.268 0.427
2005 9.14 0.262 0.409
2006 10.05 0.267 0.439

We’re seeing almost an entire run more per game so far this season and seemingly two or three double-digit postings per night. In fact, through the first 23 days of the season there have been 58 double-digit run totals put up or about 2.5 per night. Oddly, only 10.33 runs per game have been scored in 12 games at the launching pad known as Coors Field. That total is the third lowest monthly total since 2000 for Coors Field. In 2000, the last time runs per game topped five in April, Coors Field checked in with 16.30 runs per game.

So what do we make of this fast start? For the time being, nothing. Sample size is an issue being that it has only been a month and while runs are up 0.91 from last year’s April output, they are only up 0.22 from 2004’s April output. One thing is for sure, it will be increasingly difficult for pitchers to stifle the run parade if they continue to pitch to Albert Pujols and Jonny Gomes. The two lead their respective leagues with 12 and 10 home runs this season.

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