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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 4 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Contact tracing fizzles across America — New clues emerge on long COVID — Omicron is finally burning out — It's very difficult to get access to antiviral COVID treatments — Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines —Alaska governor joins Texas lawsuit over National Guard vaccine mandate — Navy discharges 45 sailors for refusing vaccine — Spotify to remove Neil Young's music after his Joe Rogan ultimatum — White House: 60M households have ordered free COVID-19 rapid tests.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker
7 hours ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania.