Last season, run scoring cratered to its lowest level since 1992. Fans and observers like to spitball all kinds of reasons for this. The implementation of drug testing (although pitchers used PEDs, too, you know), weather patterns, an increasing emphasis on fielding in many organizations, a new "golden age" of pitching, a secret cabal of humidors, and so on. One reason that's not commonly put forward is umpiring. But might our men in blue be playing a crucial role in all those 2-1 games?
The findings of David Golebiewski of BaseballAnalytics.org suggest that umpires are indeed contributing to declining levels of offense. For instance, since 2008 the percentage of pitches taken by the batter correctly called as strikes has risen from 74.5% to 79.1%. Lest that not sound like much, that amounts to almost 6,000 balls that became strikes. Needless to say, that makes a substantial difference on the scoreboard.
Golebiewski digs further and finds that umps in the main are calling the zone a bit differently than they were just a few years ago. While the death of the high, at-the-letters strike is still widely lamented, it's the low strike -- the strike at the knees -- that's making a comeback. The pretty pictures linked to above prove it.
If you're partial to connoisseur's baseball as opposed to the five-hour mutual bludgeoning, then all of this is a good thing.
(Hat tip: Rob Neyer)