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Old 05-24-2019, 03:37 PM
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What specifically about the game has changed to make triples so less common?


The record of 36 of course was set over a century ago, and no one has really come close in decades- what specifically now makes triples so less common? Thanks all!
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Old 05-24-2019, 03:53 PM
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-Ballparks used to have much deeper dimensions to center field than they do now.
-Triples were more common in Astroturf parks than natural grass. The ball moves faster on Astroturf, so it would get past the outfielders and roll to the outfield wall more often.
-Way more bulked-up power hitters and fewer speedsters in the game today than in past eras.
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Old 05-24-2019, 04:51 PM
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Chief Wilson played his home games in Pittsburgh's spacious Forbes Field when he set the single season record. It was 462 feet to the center field fence. There were some strangely shaped ballparks back in the day. Check out the Polo Grounds.. It was only 258 feet down the line, but check out center field and the power alleys.
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Old 05-24-2019, 05:01 PM
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Here's a site that has interactive diagrams of every MLB ballpark, past and present, and the alterations through their lifetimes.
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Old 05-24-2019, 05:21 PM
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Most likely geometry and risk aversion/different strategy. Is a triple really that much more valuable than a double in today's baseball?
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Old 05-24-2019, 08:02 PM
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The turf in general is in better shape than it was a century ago. A ball is much less likely to hit the outfield grass and take a strange bounce away from an outfielder. Same thing with outfield fences.

Unless you already have two outs, a triple doesn't have a lot more strategic value than a double (aside from a wild patch.) Why risk getting thrown out trying to stretch an extra base.

Last edited by Kent Clark; 05-24-2019 at 08:02 PM.
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Old 05-24-2019, 08:21 PM
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While I don't necessarily seeing it being as big an effect as changing the size of ballparks, there's a different approach to conditioning. Once upon a time you practiced the sport itself and did "12 ounce curls" at the bar. Now players actually spend time working out. That should have some small effect on the ability of outfielders to throw accurately and far. Better arms on outfielders makes the triple riskier.

Last edited by DinoR; 05-24-2019 at 08:22 PM.
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Old 05-24-2019, 09:14 PM
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you can score from 3rd on a sac fly so that is an advantage a triple has over a double.
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Old 05-24-2019, 09:35 PM
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Plus a lot of outfielders have stronger throwing arms now. Jason Heywood, Yeonis Cespides, Bryce Harper all have better-than-average throwing arms (a lot of times called "a cannon"), among others, which makes taking that third base a bigger gamble.
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Old 05-24-2019, 09:45 PM
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you can score from 3rd on a sac fly so that is an advantage a triple has over a double.
Wild pitch, passed ball, bunt, slow ground ball or a ground ball that's knocked down but not fielded cleanly.
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Old 05-24-2019, 09:53 PM
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Plus a lot of outfielders have stronger throwing arms now. Jason Heywood, Yeonis Cespides, Bryce Harper all have better-than-average throwing arms (a lot of times called "a cannon"), among others, which makes taking that third base a bigger gamble.
Even if true, I don't believe this makes a difference. I do not at all believe that throws are more accurate now, and that any throws that are faster or further do not make a significant difference in comparison to the reduced time it takes for outfielders to get to the ball because of smaller fields and fewer blind corners.
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Old 05-24-2019, 10:04 PM
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Wild pitch, passed ball, bunt, slow ground ball or a ground ball that's knocked down but not fielded cleanly.
Infield error.
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Old 05-25-2019, 06:08 AM
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does any stadium have a rule for a ground rule triple? Ground rule doubles happen when a ball bounces over the outfield fence as one example.
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Old 05-25-2019, 09:47 PM
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bigger parks with odd dimensions and crappy playing surfaces, I can see. I seriously doubt Chief Bender and Sam Crawford could out run Vince Coleman, Rickey Henderson, et. al. so player speed not a factor. No one hit more the 21 in the entire Astroturf era. Bigger players means stronger arms, but not automatically more accurate, plus yearly totals for outfield assist leaders were much higher 80-100 years ago then now. The power increase WOULD have I thought led to the 80 year old record of doubles of 66 falling by now, but no one has gotten within six or seven of that one strangely to me- I mean, one ball off the wall or down the line or up an alley every 2.5 games for a power hitting player doesn't seem that unlikely .
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Old 05-25-2019, 10:37 PM
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100% shape and size of stadiums. 483 to dead center of the Polo Grounds. Ballparks are now built for home runs not triples
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Old 05-26-2019, 06:07 PM
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100% shape and size of stadiums.
Nope, not 100%; there are other things going on. We can see that by isolating on parks whose dimensions haven't changed. For example, Wrigley Field hasn't changed at all since 1938. Here are the average number of triples per game (Cubs and visitors combined) by decade at Wrigley Field since then:

1940-49: 0.536
1950-59: 0.630
1960-69: 0.523
1970-79: 0.514
1980-89: 0.521
1990-99: 0.438
2000-09: 0.320
2010-19: 0.384

That's a pretty dramatic decline. The numbers at Fenway Park tell a similar story, down from about 45 triples per season in the 1940's to about 30 today.

Others have suggested a number of factors--faster outfielders, outfielders with better arms, less aggressive baserunners, or maybe just different batting stances and swings that are geared toward hitting home runs instead of low line drives. I don't know the relative importance of those factors, nor how they could be quantified or separated. But there's something more than just ballpark dimensions.
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Old 05-26-2019, 08:51 PM
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Nope, not 100%; there are other things going on. We can see that by isolating on parks whose dimensions haven't changed. For example, Wrigley Field hasn't changed at all since 1938. Here are the average number of triples per game (Cubs and visitors combined) by decade at Wrigley Field since then:

1940-49: 0.536
1950-59: 0.630
1960-69: 0.523
1970-79: 0.514
1980-89: 0.521
1990-99: 0.438
2000-09: 0.320
2010-19: 0.384

That's a pretty dramatic decline. The numbers at Fenway Park tell a similar story, down from about 45 triples per season in the 1940's to about 30 today.

Others have suggested a number of factors--faster outfielders, outfielders with better arms, less aggressive baserunners, or maybe just different batting stances and swings that are geared toward hitting home runs instead of low line drives. I don't know the relative importance of those factors, nor how they could be quantified or separated. But there's something more than just ballpark dimensions.
95.67%
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Old 05-28-2019, 09:04 AM
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does any stadium have a rule for a ground rule triple? Ground rule doubles happen when a ball bounces over the outfield fence as one example.
There isn't one right now.

This is a fascinating question but really I think there's two main factors:

1. Outfield defense is better.

2. Runners are less aggressive in going to third.

There is very little doubt that the quality of fielding in the major leagues is far better than it used to be. You still have the odd terrible fielder but there used to be more of them.

On top of that, MLB runners just don't attempt as many high-risk extra bases as they used to.

It's a funny thing, really, because MLB players are absolutely just as fast as they have ever been. Even in the 1950s, when baseball was not a baserunners' game and there were very few stolen bases there were far more triples than there are today. In 1956 there were more triples than there were stolen bases, something I think is just totally impossible now.

Loach, while ballpark dimensions may affect it, I think Freddy has conclusively proven it's not just ballparks, and not even MOSTLY ballparks. If it were, his observations about Wrigley and Fenway would clearly not be true; at a glance, it also appear to be true of Dodger Stadium, which goes back far enough to be relevant.

Ballparks definitely have some effect; if one looks at triples totals for teams in parks with unusually deep outfield fence points, they are noticeably higher in triples, on average, than teams with short and standard fence distances. But it can't be the whole story.
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Old 05-28-2019, 09:25 AM
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bigger parks with odd dimensions and crappy playing surfaces, I can see. I seriously doubt Chief Bender and Sam Crawford could out run Vince Coleman, Rickey Henderson, et. al. so player speed not a factor. No one hit more the 21 in the entire Astroturf era. Bigger players means stronger arms, but not automatically more accurate, plus yearly totals for outfield assist leaders were much higher 80-100 years ago then now. The power increase WOULD have I thought led to the 80 year old record of doubles of 66 falling by now, but no one has gotten within six or seven of that one strangely to me- I mean, one ball off the wall or down the line or up an alley every 2.5 games for a power hitting player doesn't seem that unlikely .
The doubles record is 67, of course.

That's actually an interesting related point too. There have been 53 seasons in which a player hit at least 52 doubles, and jut more than half were before the expansion era. Almost all the ones since then were in the 1990s and 2000s hitting boom; only three men (Jose Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera and of all people Johnathan Lucroy) have done it in the last ten years, and between the expansion of 1961 and the start of the steroid era, which I will arbitrarily start in 1993, only TWO men did it; Hal McRae and Don Mattingly. In the steroid era it was being done by such luminaries as Jeff Cirillo, Mark Grudzielanek and Brian Roberts, but guys like Frank Robinson never did it. I have no problem with Mark Grudzielanek but he wasn't exavctly a super elite hitter. (ETA: Frank did hit 51 one year; I cut if off at 52 just because that was the number that got me to more than 50 men.)

Doubles are very, very strongly associated with the level of offense. When hitting goes up, doubles go up, and when it goes down, doubles go down. However, when you adjust for that, doubles are up just a little now; if you compare the last few years with seasons in the past with essentially equivalent levels of run scoring, doubles are higher now. It varies a lot in the past though. Doubles were very, very low in the 1950s.

As today's game as a historically normal, if not slightly higher, number of doubles, but historically low number of triples, I'm even more convinced it's a matter of defense and baserunning decisions.
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Last edited by RickJay; 05-28-2019 at 11:21 AM.
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Old 05-28-2019, 01:00 PM
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95.67%
Based on the quoted stats, triples declined by 30% in the same ballpark from 1940-1989 to 1990-2019 and according to https://www.baseball-reference.com/l.../MLB/bat.shtml, they declined 30% league wide over the same years.
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Old 05-28-2019, 01:44 PM
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Most likely geometry and risk aversion/different strategy. Is a triple really that much more valuable than a double in today's baseball?
According to the SABR guys a triple is currently worth about 1/4th of a run more than a double. 100 years ago the difference was closer to 1/3rd of a run, so triples are slightly less valuable than they were in the dead ball era.
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Old 05-28-2019, 01:50 PM
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does any stadium have a rule for a ground rule triple? Ground rule doubles happen when a ball bounces over the outfield fence as one example.
Back in the 90s when I went to Fenway a lot there was a rumor that if a ball struck the ladder on the Green Monster it was a ground rule triple. I'm pretty sure that was just an urban legend though made up by season ticket holders during lazy mid-summer games.
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Old 05-28-2019, 01:57 PM
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If it ever was, apparently not anymore; a ball hitting the ladder and then leaving play is a double.

https://www.mlb.com/redsox/ballpark/ground-rules
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Old 05-29-2019, 04:10 PM
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Based on the quoted stats, triples declined by 30% in the same ballpark from 1940-1989 to 1990-2019 and according to https://www.baseball-reference.com/l.../MLB/bat.shtml, they declined 30% league wide over the same years.
By my math, the average was 0.32 per game over 1942-1951 versus 0.18 for 2010 through 2018--a decline of 44%. So there is some room for dimensional effects, which makes sense--the loss of Forbes Field, the Polo Grounds, and even old Comiskey Park had to have an effect. In every era, there were more triples in those parks than the league average. So their closure had to be a factor; it just wasn't the dominant factor--since 1940.

What about further back in time? The Forties already represented a triple decline of about 40% from the Owen Wilson era. The problem is, as you go further back in time, it gets harder to find unchanged ballparks. Most of the old-time parks went through a lot of expansion and remodeling in the early decades. My guess is that if you could do the same kind of analysis for the earlier era you'd see the same combination of dimensional effects and game-strategy changes, but I can't prove it.
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Old 05-29-2019, 04:25 PM
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This is a fascinating question but really I think there's two main factors:

1. Outfield defense is better.

2. Runners are less aggressive in going to third.

There is very little doubt that the quality of fielding in the major leagues is far better than it used to be. You still have the odd terrible fielder but there used to be more of them.
Number 1 doesn't have to be the predicate for number 2. Once the parks reduced in size the number of triple attempts went down, and could have suppressed triple attempts across the leagues.

In times past there were some lame outfielders who were out there because they were great hitters. That's certainly rare now, and back then the worst outfielders would be stuck in right field if they were righties, and that's a great place to hit a triple to. The effect was still the time it took the fielder to get to the ball though, if the ball gets past them that is going to be much more time than the throw takes, and that applies to all fielders, the good ones just don't let the ball get past them as often.

So better fielding certainly is part of it, but the bigger parks gave more opportunities for a triple no matter how well the fielding was, and IMHO, as the number of those opportunities went away the number of attempts went down across the leagues. The reduction of the overall successful percentage in any category tends to reduce all attempts.

Or maybe I'm wrong, who knows, maybe triples just ain't as cool as they used to be.

Last edited by TriPolar; 05-29-2019 at 04:26 PM.
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Old 05-29-2019, 05:08 PM
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When I started reading this thread, I was convinced that the difference was the geometry of the newer ballparks. But the stats of Wrigley and Fenway certainly shoot down that theory.

So now I think it’s the defense. I believe that outfielders, as a whole, are faster than they used to be, and, as has been mentioned, there are more with ‘cannon’ arms. But I also think there’s another factor: defensive placement. With the advent of advanced analytics, outfielders can be positioned for a particular batter in such a manner so as to prevent singles from turning into doubles and doubles from turning into triples. Much like an infield shift, moving an outfielder just a couple of steps deeper or one direction or the other can prevent a batted ball from plugging the gap and reaching the wall.
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Old 05-29-2019, 11:59 PM
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With the advent of advanced analytics, outfielders can be positioned for a particular batter in such a manner so as to prevent singles from turning into doubles and doubles from turning into triples.
I think that's a good point. We tend to fixate on infielders when talking about shifts, but obviously, outfield positioning has improved as well.
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Old 05-30-2019, 03:31 PM
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https://www.baseball-reference.com/l.../MLB/bat.shtml

The overall number of hits per game has been on a fairly steady decline since 1993. In fact, hits per game in 2018 and 2019 are the lowest it's been since 1972. What's way, way up are strikeouts and home runs. None of this is particularly surprising. But the obvious answer to why triples are down is that teams are willing to trade homers for strikeouts at the expense of non-homers.

If the answer was mostly related to defense and baserunning, wouldn't we expect doubles to be up? At least slightly. But really they've been pretty steady for a decade and down a bit from the mid-2000s.

What's interesting to me is if you look from 1918 to 1930, home runs increased five fold. But strikeouts during that time were pretty steady, actually deceasing for the most part until 1930.
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Old 05-30-2019, 03:37 PM
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https://www.baseball-reference.com/l.../MLB/bat.shtml

The overall number of hits per game has been on a fairly steady decline since 1993. In fact, hits per game in 2018 and 2019 are the lowest it's been since 1972. What's way, way up are strikeouts and home runs. None of this is particularly surprising. But the obvious answer to why triples are down is that teams are willing to trade homers for strikeouts at the expense of non-homers.

If the answer was mostly related to defense and baserunning, wouldn't we expect doubles to be up? At least slightly. But really they've been pretty steady for a decade and down a bit from the mid-2000s.

What's interesting to me is if you look from 1918 to 1930, home runs increased five fold. But strikeouts during that time were pretty steady, actually deceasing for the most part until 1930.
My WAG is that between 1918-1930 there was an improvement in hitting technique that was taught and led to an overall increase in the number of home runs people were able to achieve, without sacrificing your overall success at the plate.

Lately people just swing for the fences because SABR suggests that is the better way to score. That means you’ll strike out more because you’re going all-or-nothing. You’re not hitting better overall, you’re just emphasizing the slugging aspect.

Again, just my WAG.
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Old 05-31-2019, 06:21 PM
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Lately people just swing for the fences because SABR suggests that is the better way to score.
I am pretty sure MLB batters don't take hitting advice from anyone at SABR. They have professional hitting coaches, actually.
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Old 05-31-2019, 10:18 PM
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My WAG is that between 1918-1930 there was an improvement in hitting technique that was taught and led to an overall increase in the number of home runs people were able to achieve, without sacrificing your overall success at the plate.
That period coincides with the end of the "dead-ball era" (which is generally considered to end in 1919, with the emergence of Babe Ruth as a home run hitter).

There are a number of theories as to why home runs suddenly skyrocketed over the 1920s including:
- Ruth's success as a power hitter led others to pursue power-hitting, and trying for home runs, as a technique.
- After Roy Chapman was killed by a pitch in 1920, the rules were changed to make sure that baseballs were replaced when they became dirty. This meant that balls were more likely to be easier to see, as well as being firmer.
- Spitballs were outlawed in 1920 (though established spitball pitchers were allowed to continue to use the pitch).
- Smaller ballparks, with fences closer to home plate.
- and other theories, as well.

I suspect that it was a confluence of multiple factors leading to the home run explosion in those years.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 05-31-2019 at 10:19 PM.
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Old 06-02-2019, 07:57 PM
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The turf in general is in better shape than it was a century ago. A ball is much less likely to hit the outfield grass and take a strange bounce away from an outfielder. Same thing with outfield fences.

Unless you already have two outs, a triple doesn't have a lot more strategic value than a double (aside from a wild patch.) Why risk getting thrown out trying to stretch an extra base.
Beg to disagree. It is with fewer than 2 outs that a triple has a big advantage over a double. With 2 out you are are usually going to need a hit to score and that will usually score a runner from second.
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Old 06-05-2019, 06:47 AM
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I am pretty sure MLB batters don't take hitting advice from anyone at SABR. They have professional hitting coaches, actually.
Unless hitting coaches completely ignore analytics, your snark isn't warranted.
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