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%.
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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?)