MLB batting average jumps 7 points with substance crackdown

Sports
Art Warren, Jim Wolf

Cincinnati Reds’ relief pitcher Art Warren (77) gets a glove and cap check for sticky substances from umpires, including second base umpire Jim Wolf, left, after pitching against the Minnesota Twins in a baseball game, Monday, June 21, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

NEW YORK (AP) — The major league batting average jumped to .246 in June amid a crackdown by the commissioner’s office on foreign substances utilized by pitchers, raising the season average to .239.

The season average is the lowest through June since it was .233 in 1968, the Elias Sports Bureau said Thursday. That was the last season before the pitcher’s mound was lowered.

Hitters batted .232 in April and .239 in May. The June average was closer to recent levels, down from .245 in 2018.

Major League Baseball officials began saying on June 3 that they intended to start stricter enforcement against the use of sticky substances used by pitchers to improve grips and spin rates, and umpires started checking all pitchers on June 21.

The average fastball spin rate in June was 2,257 revolutions per minute, according to MLB Statcast, down from 2,323 in May and 2,313 in April. That left the season average at 2,298.

Velocity was basically unchanged, with fastballs averaging 93.8 mph in June, up from 93.7 mph in May and 93.6 mph in April for a season average of 93.7 mph.

Seattle Mariners pitcher Héctor Santiago became the first player disciplined as part of the crackdown, given a 10-game suspension Tuesday. Santiago and the team have denied wrongdoing after umpires found a sticky spot in his glove.

Runs per team per game averaged 4.36 through June 2 and 4.64 since, and the batting average was .236 through June 2 and and .246 since. Strikeouts dropped to 23.2% of plate appearances from 24.2% and home runs increased to 3.4% from 3.1%.

Part of the uptick may be due to offense usually increasing as weather warms.

On-base percentage and slugging percentage rose, too.

The June on-base percentage of .320 was up from .315 in May and .309 in April. The season OBP though June is the lowest since .314 in 2015, Elias said.

Hitters had a .417 slugging percentage in June, up from .389 in April and .393 in May. That raised the season slugging percentage to .401, its lowest since .396 in 2015.

Strikeouts exceeded hits by 388 in June after topping them by 1,091 and 838 in May. That left the strikeouts topping hits by 2,317 for the season, 21,285 to 18,968.

Strikeouts have averaged 8.89 per team per game, down from 8.99 through May. Still, strikeouts are on pace to set a record for the 13th consecutive full season — up from 8.81 two years ago and nearly double the 4.77 in 1979.

Hits have averaged 7.92 per team per game, up from 7.78 though May. The average is on track to be the fourth-lowest behind 7.91 in 1968 and 7.92 in 1908 and last year. Through May it had been the second-lowest behind 1908’s dead-ball era figure.

Seattle remains last in the major league with a .218 batting average, just below Milwaukee, but the Mariners raised their average after hitting .205 through May. The Mariners no longer are on track to break the major league low of .211 by the 1910 Chicago White Sox.

Home runs have averaged 1.18 per team per game, up from 1.13 through May. That is down from 1.28 last year.

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