Baseball by the numbers: Despite new rules, hitters are still having a blast

Runs per team have increased from 4.28 per game in 2022 to 4.55 so far this season. But have offenses become less home run-dependent? It seems not.

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Jake Burger celebrates a home run with Elvis Andrus on June 15 at Dodger Stadium.

Jake Burger celebrates a home run with Elvis Andrus on June 15 at Dodger Stadium.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Fans love home runs, but not necessarily home run-or-nothing offenses.

That’s a message baseball execs took to heart in designing rules changes, including restrictions on defensive shifts, pitch clocks and bigger bases.

Runs per team have increased from 4.28 per game in 2022 to 4.55 so far this season. But have offenses become less home run-dependent? It seems not.

So far in 2023, we’ve seen major-league batting averages climb to .248 after .243 in 2022, hits per team per game to 8.36 after 8.16 and stolen bases to 0.71 after 0.51

Home runs also have risen to 1.15 per team per game after 1.07 last year. The all-time peak was 1.39 in 2019, followed by 1.28 and 1.22 before a steeper drop last year.

As for the percentage of runs driven in by home runs, it’s slightly higher than in 2022.

Last season, major-league teams scored 20,817 runs and slugged 5,215 home runs. Bases were empty for 2,962 homers, with one on for 1,543 homers, two on for 594 and the bases loaded for 116.

The 8,294 runs on home runs were 39.84% of baseball’s total.

Through Sunday’s games, teams had scored 10,634 runs with 2,696 homers. Bases were empty for 1,556 homers, with one on for 784, two on for 290 and bases loaded for 66.

Home runs have driven in 4,258 runs, or 40.04% of the total.

It’s a tiny rise. Home runs are driving in very close to the same proportion of runs as last season.

The White Sox have been more and the Cubs less dependent on home runs than baseball as a whole. Sox scoring is down from 4.23 runs per game to 4.06 despite increasing from .92 homers per game in ’22 to 1.15. The Cubs have stepped up to 4.63 runs per game after 4.06 last season and 1.12 homers per game from .98.

With Luis Robert Jr. (21 homers), Jake Burger (17) and Andrew Vaughn (12) leading the way, the Sox have homered 91 times in 79 games. They homered 149 times in 2022, led by Vaughn’s 17.

The ’22 Sox scored 38.18% of runs on homers, which has risen to 41.74% in ’23. They’ve bucked other trends with drops in batting average from .256 to .235 and hits per game from 8.86 to 7.99.

The 2022 Cubs scored 238 of 657 runs, 36.22%, on 159 home runs. This year, they’ve scored 124 of 352 runs, or 35.23% on 85 home runs. Patrick Wisdom leads with 14 homers and Christopher Morel has 13, but only four of Wisdom’s have come since May 1. Last season, Wisdom slugged 25 and departed catcher Willson Contreras 22.

Changes designed to make more diverse offenses more rewarding don’t stop at this season’s new rules. Earlier restrictions on sticky substances for pitchers’ hands and multibatter requirements for relievers are part of the equation.

No one should expect everything to change in one season. Rosters built to emphasize power remain in place. For now, offenses are about as power-dependent as they were before the latest changes.

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