Scoring is Down in the Arizona Fall League

This was going to be a post about performance of Mets’ farmhands out in the desert in the Arizona Fall League, but instead it turned into a post about league itself.

I was going to apply the usual AFL caveat that this is an extreme hitters’ league and thus, one should treat the numbers produced by both hitters and pitchers with a light touch, or normalize them for league values. Then I looked at the numbers. The AFL is still is absolutely a hiters’ league, but it is less so than in recent years.

This year, the AFL is hitting a collective .266/.344/.397 and scoring 5.2 runs per game. That’s roughly comparable in terms of scoring to the 2012 version of the Pacific Coast League (.278/.345/.430; 5.1 R/G), but with a little less power. However, it is the lowest level of offense for the AFL in the last five years. The AFL’s isoloated slugging, a measure of power, is down to its lowest level in eight years (before that the data is scattered and hard to collect). On a year over year basis, AFL scoring is down 13%.

YearGRR/GAVGOBPSLGISOOPS
2012663435.2.266.344.397.131.741
201122013116.0.286.362.454.168.816
201019211085.8.283.357.431.148.788
200919211506.0.283.361.443.160.804
200822815296.7.293.365.473.180.838
200720410044.9.258.339.391.133.730
200619210875.7.275.358.413.138.771
200519211666.1.296.360.470.174.830

What’s going on here? I do not know, although I’m open to suggestions. Some potential explanations follow.

  • The league’s season is only two weeks old and this is just a dreaded small sample size blip. By November, the AFL’s power and scoring numbers will be right back to their recent historical levels. This we can test by waiting a month.
  • Perhaps teams are sending younger, less experienced and thus less powerful prospects to the AFL. The Mets’ delegation this year is a strong example of this. Among the position players, the Mets sent two outfielders from Advanced-A (Darrell Ceciliani and Cesar Puello) and an infielder from low-A (Dustin Lawley). There is not a single regular season AA plate appearance among this group. (This too is testable by comparing the average age of the players in this year’s AFL delegations to year’s past.)
  • The decline is a reflection of the overall decline in offense in baseball at the MLB level. (This is testable too – do AFL scoring and power levels track those in MLB closely?)

I’m open to other explanations as well.