MLB  > General MLB  > The Weakest Power Hitting Season in MLB History?
December 18, 2009, 04:57 PM
(Originally written August 8, 2008 while I was replaying 1976; 20 seasons have now been played in the EOBHR project...)

As part of my "Entirety of Baseball History Replayed" project (see Delphi blog of that name or just google all or part of the title), I am now playing 203 games with the recently-released 1976 season. I am at Game 150, with the average runs scored per game 7.2 per both teams (e.g., 4-3 would be a typical score) and a .240 MLB batting average.

Isolated power (total bases contributed by extra bases divided by at bats) is just slightly less than .100. Even though my 11 other replays to date (I started in July 2006) included the likes of 1911, 1914, and 1917, 1976 promises to be my most anemic replay yet. Even in my 1917 replay I had 7.5 runs per game and a .251 batting average.

This provoked me to do some research, and to my surprise found that REAL 1976 IS ARGUABLY THE MOST ANEMIC TRUE MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL SEASON EVER!!

1. Most of the real MLB seasons with lower isolated power than 1976 (.106) were pre-1921, which are not comparable to modern seasons. The cork-center ball wasn't fully introduced until 1911, and until 1921 both the spitball and other now-illegal pitches (many that had the effect of defacing the ball) were legal. Just as importantly, before 1921 fresh balls were very sparingly put into play as a few progressively more beat-up balls were used in the game. As I recall, one of the reasons for the modern "fresh ball every few pitches" custom was the fatal beaning of Cleveland star Ray Chapman, where it was felt that Ray simply didn't see Carl Mays' offering.

2. The "war years" of 1942-46 also had slightly lower isolated power numbers (.091-.104) than 1976 (.106), but those were arguably not true major league baseball seasons, with inferior players most of whom were gone once the "real" big leaguers returned -- plus a less-lively ball was used during some war years due to war shortages of the right ball-making materials.

3. Aside from the war-time exception, the only other post-1920 season with lower isolated power than 1976 was 1968. This was the famous "Year of the Pitcher" that led to the adoption of the A.L. designated hitter rule that was in place in the A.L. by 1976. Therefore, the .104 isolated power of 1968 with no A.L. DH cannot be fairly compared to the .106 of 1976 with DH's used in the A.L.

4. It is probably also worth noting that the two 1976 teams (Red Sox and Cubs) who are still playing in stadiums that are unchanged since 1976 had a much-higher ISO of .122 -- even though they only benefited from these parks in their home games. So there is some suggestion that the relatively cavernous cookie-cutter multi-purpose stadiums of the 1970's had a huge impact on isolated power, the way the game is played, and even the type of athletes in MLB. All this changed drastically with the gradual introduction of the "retro", bandbox, "arena baseball" parks. Isolated power now is routinely around .150 or a little above (i.e., 50% more "power" than 1976), but there is some suggestion that even the 1976 teams might have approached that level if they were playing in the ballparks of 2008.

One interesting footnote to the anemic 1976 season. On July 19th of 1976, Dave Kingman of the Mets tore the ligaments in his thumb diving for a ball in left field and was lost to the Mets for six weeks. At the time, Kingman had already hit 32 home runs and was seven days ahead of the home run pace set by Hack Wilson when he set the then N.L.-record of 56 homers in 1930. Quite an accomplishment in spacious Shea Stadium in anemic 1976!!
April 27, 2011  12:00 PM ET

I am sorry to see that my Uncle's message board was banned. It was extremely popular and, while edgy in certain ways, was good-hearted, inclusive, life-affirming, and friendly. Perhaps people were confused in the most recent episodes that 'Toastie'. the drunken Tolstoy impersonator, was Tolstoy himself?

Since Uncle Walt's posts were in many ways the bright spot of this board and 'carrying' it, it seems not only unfair but not very bright and self-defeating on the part of the editors to 'ban' it.

For myself, I will not ever post here again unless Uncle Walt's board is 'un-banned'.


P.S. In the past week or so, my brand posts received about 1,000 views on this board and Uncle Walt's received more than 1,000. It's always amazed me how self-defeating the editorial practices of message boards are -- a few people are offended by (or, really, jealous of) an edgy, extremely 'hot' thread... and there goes the poster... and the board. Meanwhile, the posts blatantly selling athletic apparel remain. Well, this will now return to being a gloomy, nowheres-ville board now with little traffic and interaction. I hope you know what you're doing. ..

Read more: age-board-banned#ixzz1Kjv846J8


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