Sacrifice fly rule and the last two .400 hitters: Bill Terry, Ted Williams. Plus Joe DiMaggio. Sunday, June 12, 2011
The sacrifice fly scoring rule was re-instated in 1954 after a long hiatus Before 1954 stats did not differentiate between sacrifice bunts and flies; they were just sacrifice hits. Don't know why outs were called hits..
I have a reasonable knowledge of baseball history but I did not know that the old American and National Leagues credited sacrifices for fly balls that advanced runners who did not score. I stumbled onto that in the SABR article quoted in my previous post. This sacrifice rule existed from 1926 through 1930. See some data on this for individuals and AL/NL.
Sacrifice fly is a scoring rule that at first glance does not impact play on the field, which suggests that AL/NL powers were dumb at least as far back as 1930 and that dumb MLB, Inc. decisions have precedent.
Why change the rule because batting averages (BA) were high in 1930 (.296) as stated in the SABR article? Wouldn't AL/NL powers favor high BA? Wouldn't high BA increase fan interest? Was the SABR author unaware that before the five year change that reduced at bats (AB) and therefore increased BA, AL/NL BA was .292?
Rogers Hornsby batted over .400 in 1922, 1924 and 1925, with a collective BA over .400 from 1921 through 1925. Apparently that didn't bother the scoring rule makers because they made that change for the 1926 season that would increase BA. Oddly, Hornsby's BA plumeted in 1926 to .317 as he failed to take advantage of the expanded sac fly scoring rule and had zero sac "hits".
In 1931 BA dropped to .278. In the middle of the economic depression. How was that good for AL/NL? See data and graph. Per game attendance in 1930 was 7,482 in AL, 8,494 in NL. In 1931 it plunged to 6,243 and 7,275. It bottomed out in 1933: 4,680 in AL, 5,088 in NL. It did not really expand until 1946: 15,176 and 14,454. Changing the sacrifice fly scoring rule to lower BA could not have helped.
The sacrifice fly scoring rule requiring that a run score was re-introduced for one season, 1939, which caused a slight interruption in the trend of decreasing BA:
It's difficult enough to compare players from different eras without having the scoring rules and qualification criteria change. The data should be normalized for these two things. Eliminate the sacrifice fly scoring rule. It never made sense and it's erratic application increases confusion. The basic sacrifice fly scoring rule, which requires that a run score, provides a double reward to the batter for making an out: no AB and run batted in (RBI). The sacrifice fly scoring rule also impacts play on the field by providing the batter with a free pass to try for a home run; as long as the batter hits the ball at least 280 feet the run will probably score and no AB is charged.
Qualification criteria should be revised and applied for all seasons. The equation for an average should dictate the criteria. Plate appearances (PA) makes sense for on base percentage (OBP) since the equation is total bases (TB) divided by PA. However, using PA for BA does not make sense as the equation is hits (H) divided by AB. AB should be the criteria for BA.
Years ago games played was the criteria. This rule deprived Jimmie Foxx of a second triple crown: leading a league in BA, home runs (HR) and RBI in a particular season. Dale Alexander, who made his major league debut with Detroit in 1929 at the age of 26 leading the AL in hits with 215, batted .367 in 1932 playing for both Detroit and Boston even though he had only 454 PA and 392 AB; Alexander played in 124 games. Alexander was batting only .250 with Detroit with 22 PA in 23 games before his trade. Why the heck should Alexander qualify for any of the average categories? Give Foxx retroactive posthumous credit for leading his league in BA and give him that second triple crown, which would make Foxx the only player to have consecutive triple crowns.
We should also increase the criteria. Ichiro Suzuki pretty much qualifies for BA by early to mid August. When he was younger I hoped he would expose the silliness of the BA criteria by having a .400 BA as of August 15 and then simply going home for the season to be a Japanese national hero. Suzuki has at least 725 PA in 9 of his 10 full seasons with a high of 762 and leading the AL four times. The criteria to qualify is only 502 PA and as stated previously this criteria should be changed to some number of AB.
Another example is George Brett who is credited with being the only batter with a .390 BA since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941 without the benefit of the sacrifice fly scoring rule. In 1980 Brett batted .390 in 117 games with 515 PA and 449 AB.