I should’ve been convinced that the Cape Cod Baseball League had more talent in 2012 than in 2011 during the first pitch of my first game of the season. I had my youngest cousin with me and put him in charge of running the radar gun as Bourne visited Chatham on June 21st. I was scribbling down notes while Chatham’s Scott Frazier (Pepperdine) threw the first pitch of the game when my cousin said, “Ninety-six!” Now, I saw 96 a total of one pitch last season and that was by a now-injured Jack Armstrong, Jr. for Y-D. A quick disclaimer, I saw some good arms last season but missed some of the better arms like Mark Appel and Kevin Gausman. I was shocked to hear that the first pitch I saw this season registered at 96. Frazier’s next pitch buzzed in and registered at 95. He sat at 93-94 the rest of his outing. Bourne’s starter, Jon Keller (Nebraska) sat at 93-94 and bumped 96, too. In my first game of the season I had already seen more arm strength than I saw all last year. And the thing is, they’re not the only ones showing arm strength.
Clearly, there’s more to pitching than arm strength, but from what I’ve seen this season, the talent on both sides of the ball has been consistently better throughout the league. I will take a more in depth look at Frazier and Keller during the season but, for now, let’s see how the 2012 season stacks up against the 2011 and 2010 seasons by a few statistics.
The most eye-opening number thus far has been the explosion of home runs. As of the games of July 4th, Harwich already has more home runs, 32, than last season’s leading club, Orleans with 28. Overall, there have been 149 home runs hit compared to 159 in 2011 and 158 in 2010. Read that again, I’ll wait. We’re a couple of nights away from surpassing 2010 and 2011′s home run totals by early July. From a rate standpoint, a home run is hit on average, approximately every thirty-eight at bats this season compared to eighty-eight at bats in both 2010 and 2011. Harwich’s power surge doesn’t inflate the data all that much as the league averages one home run every forty-four at bats when Harwich is removed as from the analysis.
It’s not surprising then that hitting, using triple slash lines, is up across the board. This season’s triple slash line is .263/.344/.399. Compare that to .248/.326/.337 in 2011 and the horrific line of .233/.313/.310 in 2010.
How have the hurlers stacked up? The league-wide increase in offense has, obviously, impacted the league’s ERA as it has bloated to 4.38 compared to 3.31 in 2011 and 3.05 in 2010, though some of that could be due to a seemingly increased amount of defensive lapses. The league’s WHIP has jumped from 1.22 in 2010 and 1.29 in 2011 to 1.40 this year. Similarly, pitchers are walking more batters this season, averaging 3.52 walks per nine innings compared to 3.37 and 3.34 in 2011 and 2010, respectively.
While home runs have sharply risen this season, so too have strikeouts. In 2011, pitchers struck out 7.58 batters per nine innings which was a small step back from 2010′s pace of 7.78. The 2012 season is off to a staggering start as pitchers are striking out a whopping 9.48 hitters per nine innings.
Maybe things will normalize during the rest of the season but from what I’ve seen, I don’t expect things to slow down too much. I will revisit this in a couple weeks.
I’ll have write-ups on several players throughout the rest of the season. Tomorrow, I’ll have a few thoughts on Amherst’s own Kevin Ziomek (Cotuit/Vanderbilt).