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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Triple Play

My column this week titled "A Triple Redux" on BP focuses on the relationship between triples and body mass index (BMI) over the history of baseball. The topic was suggested to me by several readers who noted that in the my analysis of triples titled "Baseball's Trifecta" published back in September I looked at several of the theories that may be responsible for the decline in triples including more highly skilled and athletic outfielders, park configurations, risk aversion in a changing run environment, and the aging of the player population.

Several readers pointed out that I didn't look at the changing bulk of players over time as a possible explanation. The long and the short of it is that controlling for the distribution of the changing BMI in the player population does not substantially lessen the steep curve that tracks the decline of triples. Bigger players hit fewer triples and from the 1980s through 2006 the percentage of players with higher BMIs has risen substantially (weight training and the spectre of steroids), but simply not enough to offset the background decline in the triple rate.

What were left with then, is the likelihood that declining triples is a consequence of both the standardization of the game and baseball's ever-increasing level of play.

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