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Data: FanGraphs; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

MLB's league-wide batting average sat at a paltry .238 entering Thursday, the lowest mark since 1968 (.237) — a season so dominated by pitchers that the mound was lowered the very next year to even the playing field.

By the numbers: MLB's strikeout rate (23.4%) is on track to set a record for the 12th consecutive season, and the current walk rate (9.2%) would be the ninth-highest mark since 1950.

  • On top of that, BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is just .283 at the moment, which would be the lowest since 1989.
  • In conclusion, not many balls are being put in play, and the ones that are being put in play have resulted in outs at near-historic levels.

Between the lines: What's making life so difficult for hitters this year? And why is BABIP, specifically, so low? A few theories:

  • Limited spring training: "We've kicked around some ideas like hitters not getting looks at pitchers other than their own teammates in summer camp and how that might impair their readiness," one assistant GM told The Ringer.
  • Fewer repeat looks: Lighter workloads have deprived hitters of repeat looks at starting pitchers. With relievers eating more innings, only 8.3% of plate appearances have come when facing a pitcher for at least the third time, down from 13% last season.
  • Empty stadium effect: Fielders are making more plays in part because they can hear the crack of the bat. The fan-less backdrop may also help them see the ball more clearly.

Go deeper

Updated 7 mins ago - World

Mexican President López Obrador tests positive for coronavirus

Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador during a press conference at National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, on Wednesday. Photo: Ismael Rosas/Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Sunday evening that he's tested positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: López Obrador tweeted that he has mild symptoms and is receiving medical treatment. "As always, I am optimistic," he added. "We will all move forward."

Coronavirus has inflamed global inequality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

History will likely remember the pandemic as the "first time since records began that inequality rose in virtually every country on earth at the same time." That's the verdict from Oxfam's inequality report covering the year 2020 — a terrible year that hit the poorest, hardest across the planet.

Why it matters: The world's poorest were already in a race against time, facing down an existential risk in the form of global climate change. The coronavirus pandemic could set global poverty reduction back as much as a full decade, according to the World Bank.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Kevin McCarthy's rude awakening

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy is learning you can get torched when you try to make everyone happy, especially after an insurrection.

Why it matters: The House Republican leader had been hoping to use this year to build toward taking the majority in 2022, but his efforts to bridge intra-party divisiveness over the Capitol siege have him taking heat from every direction, eroding his stature both with the public and within his party.