MLB .236 batting average though May lowest since 1968

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Chicago White Sox's Nick Madrigal strikes out swinging in the seventh inning of the second baseball game of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Cleveland. The Indians won 3-1. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

NEW YORK – The major league batting average rose slightly in May, though it remained at its lowest level in 53 years.

Hitters batted .239 in May, up from .232 in April and the lowest average for May since .237 in 1972, the Elias Sports Bureau said Tuesday.

The .236 average for the season through May 31 is the lowest since .229 in 1968 — the last season before the pitcher's mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10.

May's .315 on-base percentage was up from .309 in April but the lowest for May since .314 in 2015. The .312 through May 31 is the lowest since .309 in 1972.

In an era of dominance on home runs, slugging percentage did not decline as much. The .397 percentage in May was the lowest since .395 in 2014 and the .393 percentage for the season through May 31 was the lowest since .392 in 2014.

Strikeouts exceeded hits by 838 in May after topping them by 1,091 in April, Elias said. Strikeouts had never exceeded hits over a full calendar month before May 2018.

Strikeouts have averaged 8.99 per team per game, on pace to set a record for the 13th consecutive full season — up from 8.81 two years ago and nearly double the 4.77 in 1979. Strikeouts already are 1,929 ahead of hits, just three years after exceeding hits for the first time over a full season.

Hits have averaged 7.78 per team per game, the second-lowest behind 7.75 in 1908 during the dead-ball era.