The International League started using Major League baseballs this year and the difference in offense between 2018 and 2019 is extreme. I wanted to take a quick look at some stat comparisons from last year and this year to show just how different it has been.
In 2018, Indianapolis scored the second most runs in the league at 625. Since we still have about 44 games per team in the International League this season, it’s better to go by runs per game for comparison sake. The Indians were second last year with 4.46 runs per game, trailing first place Durham by .24 runs. This season Indianapolis is averaging 4.57 runs per game, putting them on pace to score about 14 more runs than last year. Their rank in runs per game in the 14-team IL this year with that higher pace? 14th…dead last. They improved their offense, yet went from second place to 14th place in one year.
Perhaps the most glaring example of the difference this year is Rochester. They were the worst team last year, scoring a total of 485 runs all season. With 44 games left this year, they have scored 525 runs, and they aren’t even the top scoring team this year.
Those two should be enough examples to show the difference, but this wouldn’t be much of an article if I stopped there. If we go to the home run totals, we don’t even have to compensate for this season still having seven more weeks.
The entire IL hit 1,555 home runs last year. This year they have already topped that mark, crossing over the 1,700 home run barrier last night (1,707 on the season). The league had 1,663 homers in 2017, though part of that higher total comes from a slightly longer schedule. The IL went from 144 game schedules, to 142 in 2017, down to 140 last year and this year.
Just 18 players in the league last year reached 15 homers, including Kevin Kramer, who was tied for 15th place on that list. This year, 28 players have already hit 14 homers. Will Craig leads Indianapolis with 18 homers and he only ranks tied for 13th with four other players. With 18 homers last year, he would have tied for seventh place for the season.
Indianapolis is far from the best home run park due to the center field dimensions, where it’s 402 to right-center and 418 to straight away center. That being said, the team has 98 home runs this season after hitting 104 last year. They are going to eclipse that mark.
On the pitching side, Mitch Keller leads the league with a 3.21 ERA, holding a fairly big lead over the second place pitcher, who is 0.40 behind him. A 3.21 ERA in 2018 would have ranked him eight in the league, one spot behind JT Brubaker.
Last year wasn’t a down year for offense either. In 2017, Keller would have ranked seventh in ERA. He would have been fourth in 2016, which isn’t bad, but he would go all the way down to tied for 12th place in 2015. Yet this year he’s running away with the ERA title.
You have a record setting pace for homers and runs this season, which skews the stats for those who have followed the level for years. An .800 OPS in the past would have been a very nice number, especially playing in Indianapolis. Now that number is just above league average offense (.793), which includes pitchers batting in some games. On the pitching side, you wouldn’t look at a 4.00 ERA and be impressed from a starter, but this year he would be nearly one full run below league average (4.98).
That all adds up to adjusting for stats in this league compared to what we are used to from Indianapolis in the past.