Major League Baseball is great for so many reasons. Among them is the unpredictability, both on a micro- and macro-level. That is, on any individual at-bat or even game, something unexpected can pretty easily happen. We can also see seasons that pop right up from out of nowhere.
One of the greatest examples of the latter is Davey Johnson’s 1973 home run total. He entered the season as an eight-year veteran with a career high of 18 homers in a season. It was his age-30 season. He hit 43 homers. He never again hit more than 15 in a season. That is just off-the-wall ridiculous. It’s certainly not bad. It’s great. Good for him. What a memorable year.
Through the lens of predictability, though, that’s pretty dumb. In a good way.
Sometimes the unexpected stats we find are positive. Some are negative. And we’ve grabbed two below that I consider neutral anomalies.
We’re going to attempt to find the 20 dumbest stats on an individual level so far this season. I’ll deal with team-oriented stats tomorrow.
Here’s what we won’t include. Breakout stars that were at least somewhat predictable ( Jackie Bradley Jr., Jose Ramirez , Jonathan Villar , etc.). An added skill-set that also wasn’t overly unpredictable (like the home runs for Marcus Semien and the great Jose Altuve ). A return to form ( Evan Longoria , Robinson Cano ). An age- ( Adam Wainwright , maybe) or injury-related decline.
Basically, think of Evan Gattis ‘ triples last season, when he had 11. He has zero so far in 2016, by the way, so that holds up. We’ll start with the neutral; because they are such oddities, it’s a fun warmup. Then the bad, because saving the best for last is the lane in which to live life.
[Players listed alphabetically within category]
Curtis Granderson ‘s HR/RBI split
Sure, he’s mostly hit leadoff, but Granderson’s 22 homers and 38 RBI this late in the season look ridiculous side by side. He had 26 homers and 70 RBI last year. Before we dive in, he’s got a partner of sorts.
Jedd Gyorko ‘s HR/RBI split
This isn’t nearly as bad, but Gyorko has 24 homers and 49 RBI.
In MLB history, there have only been 24 cases of a player with at least 22 homers and fewer than 55 RBI. I have a hunch Gyorko frees himself from this list, but where Granderson stands is a bit more interesting. If I drop the parameter down to 45 RBI with at least 22 homers, only 2014 Mark Reynolds and 2006 Chris Duncan have ever done this. They each hit 22 homers exactly, too, so if Granderson hits another home run and drives in fewer than seven the rest of the way, he’s all alone.
Chris Archer ‘s losses
The Tampa Bay Rays ‘ ace finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting last season. I know he plays on a bad team, but he’s also had a much worse year than expected, and those two factors have led to an MLB-worst 17 losses. He’s going to lose 20 games. Say what you will about that stat, but there’s no way we could have found a serious suitor in a bet if we said “I bet $100 Chris Archer does not lose 20 this year … anyone wanna prove me wrong?” in the spring.
Sonny Gray ‘s ERA
Last year’s AL Cy Young vote will be a common theme here. Hell, we could have also included something on David Price . Here, it’s the third-place finisher, Gray. He entered the season with a 2.88 career ERA in 491 innings pitched. This had happened over the course of three seasons. He was a proven ace entering his age-26 season. Instead, his ERA sits at 5.74.
Should he have been disqualified here since he’s currently injured? I hope so. We’ll find out moving forward.
Bryce Harper ‘s batting average
Harper’s numbers are down across the board (though coming up) from last season’s all-universe performance, but most are simply lagging down due to the average. He’s still drawing walks and hitting for power. He’s just hitting .252 after last season’s .330 effort. To reiterate, he’s already fixing this. It was .234 a month ago.
Jason Heyward ‘s slugging percentage
Even if you thought he was overpaid heading into the season, what Heyward’s done at the plate hasn’t even come close to his previously established value. He has come around the last several weeks, but overall it’s still terrible. Most noticeably is the .325 slugging percentage, thanks to a .232 average, 22 doubles, a triple and only six home runs. His career slugging before this season? .431, with an average of 26 doubles, four triples and 16 homers a season.
Dallas Keuchel ‘s ERA
What do you know, this time it’s the 2015 AL Cy Young winner. Keuchel proved his 2014 breakout season was no fluke by leading the AL in wins, shutouts, innings pitched, ERA+ and WHIP last season. His ERA was a tidy 2.48. This season? Through 26 starts, it’s 4.55. Yes, more than two runs worse.
Andrew McCutchen ‘s triple-slash line
Cutch was the only player in baseball to reach .300/.400/.500 in each season from 2012-14 (more info here from last year’s post on that very subject). He would miss last season, but still with a very nice .292/.401/.488 slash. His career line entering this season, in over 1,000 games, was .298/.388/.496. At age 29, he’s certainly not where one would expect age-related decline to set in. Instead …
Noah Syndergaard ‘s stolen bases allowed
Jimmy Nelson of the Milwaukee Brewers has seen opposing runners steal 26 bases while on the mound. I bring this up to illustrate the gap, because Nelson is second in baseball behind Syndergaard, who has allowed 45 steals. It’s an unbelievable gap. Sure, this is somewhat on the catcher, but why aren’t any other New York Mets pitchers above 20? Syndergaard is the hardest-throwing starting pitcher in baseball, too. He just has a huge leg kick, even with runners on.
This could be historic, too. The last time a pitcher allowed at least 45 steals was in 2001 (Hideo Nomo). Since 1901, it’s only happened 23 times. Only 10 have allowed at least 50. Fifty-five? Three. The record is 60 (Dwight Gooden, 1990).
Kyle Barraclough ‘s strikeouts
A lot of non-NL East fans just went “Who?” Barraclough — whose name is pronounced “bear claw” — has had an outstanding season for the Miami Marlins . He’s always had strikeout stuff going back to the lower levels of the minors, but it didn’t seem likely that he’d get enough work to be one of just three relievers with 100-plus strikeouts right now. The only other two are Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances .
Edwin Diaz ‘s strikeout rate
Betances, Miller, Barraclough and Craig Kimbrel have struck out more than 14 batters for every nine innings pitched this season. Seattle Mariners closer Edwin Diaz? How about 16.3. He has 70 strikeouts in just 38 2/3 innings since being called up. Before his call up? He had only 54 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings … in Double-A.
Jeanmar Gomez ‘s saves
Gomez, 28, entered this season with 185 career appearances and 424 innings pitched. He had but one save. He didn’t miss bats at a high rate but did walk too many guys and had, at times, been knocked around too often by his opponents. He’s ended up as the Philadelphia Phillies ‘ closer and has done a helluva job (well, until recently, but that doesn’t mean he’s lost from his save count). We’re into September and he’s in the top five in the NL with 34 saves.
J.A. Happ ‘s record
Look, we know win-loss record for pitchers is a pretty volatile stat for the most part and a lot of the time it’s part performance and part a function of teammates’ performance. Especially in single seasons and certainly in small samples during individual seasons. Still, I bet we’d be hard pressed to find even the biggest W-L dissenter at the start of the season who would have believed Happ would be 17-4 right now. He was 27-26 in his last three seasons combined.
Kyle Hendricks ‘ ERA
He was an eighth-rounder in 2011 who was never a highly-touted prospect. He did show some dominance in the lower levels of the minors, but his career ERA in 23 Triple-A starts is 3.28. Hendricks looked good after his initial call to The Show in 2014, but last season posted a 3.95 ERA. He was knocked around in two postseason starts, too (5.19 ERA). Through 159 innings this year? He leads the majors with a 2.09 ERA. He’s getting stronger, too, with a 1.27 ERA in his last 14 outings.
Brad Miller ‘s home runs
It’s not surprising that Miller has shown some power, but this type of home run power has certainly sneaked up, seemingly all of a sudden. Back in 2012, Miller hit 15 home runs in 137 games between high Class A and Double-A. Why do I bring that up? Because that was his previously career high for home runs in a professional year. He had 10 in the majors in 2014 and 11 last year. On Friday night, the Rays shortstop hit his 26th home run of 2016.
Daniel Murphy ‘s OPS
You could go with pretty much anything on Daniel Murphy. He’s shattered career highs on home runs and RBI already. He’ll set a career high in doubles and pretty much every rate stat, too. On the latter is where we’ll dig in, since I’m looking for one stat. Murphy’s previous high in a qualifying season (so no 2011 and obviously not 2008) was .770. Murphy right now sports a .983 OPS. Holy cow, that’s a bloodbath.
Yes, we saw the 2015 NL playoffs, but most people thought that was a fluke, especially after his down World Series. It turns out, the World Series performance was the small-sample fluke.
Seung-hwan Oh’s WHIP
The Final Boss is living up to his nickname in his first year stateside. The numbers across the board have been impressive and he’s been the most important St. Louis Cardinals relievers, but what stands out most to me is that he basically lets no one on base. His WHIP stands at 0.89. Last season in the Japan Central League, his WHIP was 1.15.
So through a ridiculously difficult transition — one that has ruined more than a handful of great players — and at age 33, he’s been significantly better this time around against what most agree is better competition.
Ricky Nolasco ‘s shutouts
OK, so that is misleading because Nolasco only has one shutout. Still, he hadn’t thrown one since 2012. In 2014-15, he posted a 5.64 ERA. There was no reason to believe he’d even be getting starts this season. Through his first 26 starts, Nolasco posted a 5.24 ERA. And he went out on Wednesday and threw a 94-pitch shutout. That’s worth mention.
Wilson Ramos ‘ batting average
Much like his teammate Murphy, Ramos is almost across-the-board turning heads. I’ll go with average, though, since Ramos hit .229 last season and entered 2016 a career .258 hitter. He’s at .314 right now. I wouldn’t argue with any of the rate stats, again, similarly to Murphy.
Mark Trumbo ‘s home runs
We know Trumbo has as much raw power as anyone, but he has never been hitting home runs at this frequency. The Baltimore Orioles slugger right now has 41 homers. He looks a good bet to hit 50 and if he gets really hot, he could even reach the mid-50s.
Trumbo’s career high in a season was previously 34 and that came back in 2013 in a full season. He only got 328 at-bats in 2014, but he still only hit 14 homers. Double that if you want and we’re at a massive shortfall. Last season he hit 22 in 508 homers.
Really, a reasonable projection for Trumbo’s home runs this season would have been in the 25-30 range. He’s going to double that.
So that’s my 20.
No, I didn’t “forget” anyone. I looked through every single qualifier in baseball. It was a subjective list, though, so who would you rather I have taken? We can build this into a huge list of dumb using the above in addition to the comments. The caveat is that the first simpleton to mention “steroids” or “PEDs” is fired from the internet and will serve an 80-day suspension. You’ll miss the playoffs. It’s not worth it, so don’t even think about it.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Archer’s losses, Trumbo’s homers and the 20 player stats that make the least sense