The decade is just about over, though it has been in the books for baseball for weeks, ever since the Nationals finished off the Astros in Game 7 of the World Series back on Oct. 30. That has given us plenty of time to produce All-Decade teams and such, which is always fun to do. But I’ve got a more fundamental question to pose today: What just happened?
On the field, the game has changed. We can debate how much this is actually apparent when watching any given contest, but you can’t deny that baseball is different. More homers. Lots more strikeouts. Fewer singles. Longer games. But is it that different? Has the rate of change in these areas and others actually accelerated?
To put a little bow on the 2010s, that’s the line of inquiry we’ll follow today. Using league-level statistics from Baseball-Reference.com, I sliced per-decade numbers into as many different shapes as I could conjure. These are some of the highlights, shared in the form of a kind of All-Decade team, but one that features players who embody some of the changes we’ve seen.
Before we jump into that, there is a general observation to be made about these data. While we’re at record levels (high and lows) in several categories, there is no category in which the game has transmogrified over the last 10-year period. The rate of change varies by category, but the shifts mostly tell a longer story about how baseball has continuously evolved over the past 150 years. We’ll touch on that.
The 2010s were also very much a tale of two decades, with metrics in a few areas looking quite different from the first half of the decade to the second. As we compare the decade overall to those that came before, we’ll keep an eye out for some of the startling numbers that have come out of the past half-decade of play.
For the members of my all-decade team, you’ll notice a reference to “Decade Index.” This refers to an ad hoc version of my Awards Index formula, created for this piece. Like AX, the number represents how much better the player is as compared to the average player, based on a mash-up of leading metrics. The number represents how many standard deviations the player was above or below the overall player pool.