A look at Major League Baseball 22 years ago.
Naturally, as a 2000 baby, the year 2000 holds a special place in my life. Also, 2000 had a full year of professional baseball. Let’s look at some of the interesting storylines from the season.
If you’ve been following Major League Baseball since then, you likely remember Pedro Martinez had one of the best pitching seasons ever with an absolutely insane 291 ERA+ (100 is league average). The next best ERA+ that year was fellow Hall of Famer Randy Johnson with a 181 ERA+. You may also remember the Yankees beating the Mets 4 games to 1 to win the World Series. What else happened that year?
The Award Winners
For as great as Pedro was, he didn’t receive an MVP Award. That went to Jason Giambi who had a .333/.476/.647 slash line for a 187 OPS+ (second behind Barry Bonds who would be unstoppable the next 4 seasons). In the National League, Jeff Kent brought home the MVP Award. Kent is most remembered for his 377 home runs which is the career mark for second basemen. Kent had himself a good year with 196 hits and a .334/.424/.596 slash line. While Kent and Giambi had amazing seasons, their performances are more forgotten than Pedro’s. This is because 2000 remains one of the most prolific offensive years in baseball history. Hitters crushed the ball while most pitchers saw their ERA jump (more on this later).
The top of the OPS+ list is certainly star-studded, but only Frank Thomas and Vladimir Guerrero have made the Hall of Fame. Todd Helton and Alex Rodriguez are two players who have a chance to make it in the coming years but the path looks difficult at the moment.
What Was the Age Range of Players in the MLB?
Pitchers Rick Ankiel (before he switched to the outfield) and Jon Garland, along with batters Corey Patterson and Luis Rivas were the youngest players in the league at 20 years old. Ankiel got significant playing time and looked good. Unfortunately, Ankiel’s struggles at the end of the season would overshadow his effectiveness for the year. On the other end of the age spectrum, Jesse Orosco would pitch 2 1/3 innings at the age of 43. Fellow 43-year-old, Doug Jones, would have a solid 3.93 ERA over 73 1/3 innings.
Offenses Dominated Baseball
I mentioned that offense flourished in 2000. The average team scored 5.14 runs per game. To find a season with as many runs per game, you would have to go back to 1936.
Last year, only the Astros, Rays, and Blue Jays averaged more runs per game.
I have often heard the 2000 season referred to as part of the steroid era where home runs were being hit left and right. This is certainly true when comparing it to past seasons. In 1990, batters managed 3317 home runs. That was up to 5693 in 2000. There were actually more home runs hit last year though. Last year welcomed 5944 home runs to the historical archives.
The big discrepancy here, which led to such a high-scoring environment, can be seen in batting averages. Teams averaged a .258 batting average in 1990. You would expect an increase in home runs to coincide with a decrease in batting averages. This holds true if you look at the last decade in baseball. League batting averages since 2012 have fallen between .244 and .255. The 2000 season doesn’t fit this mold at all. The league average was .270. Higher batting averages led to better on-base percentages and higher slugging percentages.
Taking this a step further, we can look at one main cause for these high batting averages. Our answer lies in the strikeout numbers. Batters struck out 31,356 times in 2000. Last year, they struck out 42,145 times. If we look at premier power hitters, like Aaron Judge or Pete Alonso, they swing and miss quite a bit which leads to a lot of strikeouts each year. Luckily, when they do hit the ball, they hit it very hard and get a lot of extra-base hits. The guys that do not swing and miss very often, such as Whit Merrifield, often end up with low exit velocities and few home runs. In the 2000 season, guys were hitting a lot of home runs but also managed to avoid striking out a lot. As a result, offenses were producing at a level we have not seen since.
Here is a reminder of how much Pedro was affected by the great offense:
Data via baseballreference.com.
Read More: The Tampa Bay Rays have been leading innovation in baseball the past few years. The way they handle their pitching staff would have been unthinkable for baseball executives in the year 2000.