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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

Nathan Bomey, author of Closer
13 mins ago - Economy & Business

Tesla delays Cybertruck until 2023

Tesla debuts the Cybertruck in Hawthorne, Calif., on Nov. 21, 2019. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Tesla is at risk of falling behind on one of the most critical products in the American auto industry: pickups.

Why it matters: Pickups are the most profitable segment in the business and account for the first, second and third best-selling vehicles in the country. Without a serious pickup strategy, Tesla could miss out on a huge source of future income.

Defense taking steps to mitigate civilian harm after botched airstrikes

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia on Sept. 1, 2021. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a directive Thursday to improve the U.S. military's approach to civilian harm mitigation and response, calling it a "strategic and a moral imperative."

Why it matters: The Pentagon has faced criticism for years for amassing civilian casualties in its missions, especially in the Middle East. New York Times investigations have found systemic failures in efforts to prevent civilian deaths, as well as a cover-up of a 2019 airstrike that killed dozens of women and children in Syria.

3 hours ago - World

Mapped: The world's most and least corrupt countries

Expand chart
Data: Transparency International; Map: Jared Whalen/Axios

The most corrupt governments in the world are in South Sudan, Syria and Somalia, according to Transparency International's annual index, while the "cleanest" are in Denmark, Finland and New Zealand.

  • Breaking it down: The U.S. is 27th, China 66th, India 85th, Brazil 96th and Russia 136th. Scroll over the map to see each country's ranking.