I’m a stat junkie. Way back in the pre-internet days when I was just a little Magoo, I would run outside first thing in the morning to grab the daily paper so I could immediately check out the previous night’s box scores. There’s Tony Gwynn leading the league in batting average yet again. A slam and legs (before I even knew what that was) by that Bonds fellow. The Big Unit piled up another dozen Ks. Another high scoring game in Colorado. What’s the deal with that place anyway?
This fascination with statistics has led to the fantasy baseball obsession that I’m burdened with today. Only now, with all of the advanced statistics and metrics that are available at the click of a button, the obsession is worse than ever. Fortunately for you, all of the man hours that I’ve wasted poring over stats this offseason has allowed me to discover some interesting nuggets of information that I think are fantasy-relevant for the upcoming season, and I’d like to share some of them with you today. At least, I find them to be interesting and potentially useful for fantasy purposes, and I hope that you will too.
From here on out, I’ll be listing various statistics with little to no analysis so that you can be the judge of how relevant each statistic and/or trend is in regards to the 2016 season. This article focuses on hitters only, and the stats that will be highlighted range from the basic (home runs, stolen bases, batting average, counting stats) to the slightly more advanced (plate discipline, batted ball profile).
And now, without further ado, here are some interesting stats and trends to consider for the 2016 fantasy baseball season:
• Abreu has a .303 batting average across those two seasons. Bautista and Ortiz have each hit .268 over the same time period.
• Ortiz is 40 years old. Bautista is 35. Abreu turns 29 at the end of January.
• Edwin Encarnacion has hit at least 34 home runs in four consecutive seasons. Ortiz is the only other player to manage at least 30 in each of the last three seasons.
• Ortiz is the only player to go 30/100 in three straight seasons. Encarnacion was 2 RBI shy (98 RBI in 2014) of being the only player to go 30/100 for four straight years.
• Chris Davis led MLB in home runs in two out of the last three seasons (2013 & 2015). He also leads MLB in homers over the last four seasons with 159.
• Over those four seasons (2012-15), Davis hit 24 more home runs than the player with the 3rd highest total over that span, Nelson Cruz (135 HR). That difference is greater than the home run totals produced by Andrew McCutchen, Miguel Cabrera, Troy Tulowitzki, and Mark Trumbo, respectively, during the 2015 season.
• Speaking of Cruz, he is the only MLB player to hit at least 40 homers in each of the past two seasons (40 in 2014; 44 in 2015). Carlos Gonzalez set a career high by smashing 40 homers in 2015. They were two of just nine players to hit the 40 HR mark last season.
• Cruz and CarGo are the only two MLB players since Richie Sexson in 2003 to hit 40 homers in a season with a GB% over 45%. In fact, just two other players have managed to hit more than 34 HR in a single season since 2005 with a ground ball rate that high – Joey Votto in 2010 and Abreu in 2014.
• In 2015, Cruz was the first qualified hitter to produce a home run to fly ball ratio of at least 30% over a full season since Ryan Howard in 2008.
• Cruz has a career HR/FB of 18.8% and hadn’t exceeded 21.3% in a season prior to last year.
• Bryce Harper’s 19.0% BB% last season is the 2nd highest walk rate in MLB history among single-season qualified hitters aged 22 or younger. Ted Williams posted a 24.3% BB% as a 22 year old in 1941.
• Harper’s impressive walk rate was still just the 2nd highest in MLB last season. Votto led the way with a 20.6% BB%, which is the highest rate since Jack Cust (20.7%) and Barry Bonds (27.7%) in 2007.
• Harper did manage to edge out Votto in the OBP category – .460 to .459. Those are the highest single season on-base percentages (min 300 PA) since… Votto himself in 2012 (.474 OBP).
• Votto is one of just six players (min 300 PA) to produce a BB/K ratio of greater than 1 (aka players who walked more than they struck out) in 2015 – Buster Posey, Jose Bautista, Michael Brantley, Ben Zobrist, and Nori Aoki are the others. Bautista is the only player to accomplish this feat in two consecutive seasons, as he and Victor Martinez were the only players to qualify in 2014.
• Andrew McCutchen is the only MLB player to produce at least a .290 batting average with 20 homers and 10 steals in four consecutive seasons. Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt, and Ryan Braun are the only other players to even average those numbers on a per-season basis since 2012.
• Speaking of Trout, he has increased his HR totals for two straight seasons (27 to 36 to 41) while seeing a decline in steals for three straight years (49 to 33 to 16 to 11).
• Despite his gradual decline in stolen bases, Trout is just one of three players to hit at least .300 with 15 homers and 30 steals in a single season over the last three years – Trout (2013), A.J. Pollock (2015), and Jose Altuve (2015).
• Gordon (122 SBs) and Hamilton (113 SBs) are the only two players who have stolen at least 100 bases over the past two seasons. Altuve (94 SBs) is the only other player to steal more than 80 bases over that span.
• Altuve is the only player who has stolen at least 30 bases in four consecutive seasons. Rajai Davis had a streak of six consecutive 30 steal seasons (2009-14) end last season.
• Speaking of Davis, players aged 32 and older have stolen 25+ bases in a single season just four times since 2013 – Davis (2013-14), Jimmy Rollins (2014), and Alex Rios (2013). No such players accomplished that feat in 2015.
• 34 year old Brandon Phillips proved that a late career SB resurgence isn’t impossible, however. He stole 23 bases in 2015, which exceeded his combined SB total from 2012-14 (22 SBs). It marked the first time that he stole at least 20 bases in a single season since the 2009 campaign.
• SAGNOF extraordinaire Billy Burns stole 26 bases for the A’s last season, good for the 10th highest mark in MLB. He also produced a .294 batting average, which was 40 points above the MLB league average (.254) in that category. However, among players with a minimum of 300 PA, he posted the 3rd highest infield fly ball percentage (20.7%) as well as the highest soft hit percentage (30.5%) in all of baseball.
• Über-prospect Miguel Sano was at the other end of the quality of contact spectrum during his rookie season, with a a 43.2% hard hit percentage that was 2nd to only Giancarlo Stanton in MLB last season (min 300 PA).
• Sano’s elite hard contact rate went hand-in-hand with his .262 ISO, which was the 2nd highest among rookies (min 300 PA) to Randal Grichuk’s .272 mark, and the 14th highest ISO in MLB in 2015.
• Sano’s first MLB season was historical in other ways as well. His 15.8% BB% was the highest for a rookie (min 300 PA, naturally) since Randy Milligan in 1989.
• On the flip side, Sano’s 35.5% K% marks one of only 14 times in MLB history (dating back to Candy Nelson in 1887) that a player has struck out at least 35% of the time in a single season.
• Finally, Sano’s rookie season of extremes carried over to the BABIP category as well. His .396 BABIP was 2nd to Chris Colabello’s .411 mark (min 300 PA) in 2015, but ranks as the 20th highest mark in MLB since 1937.
• The last stat I’ll leave you with concerns the Orioles’ 24 year old second baseman Jonathan Schoop. There have been 16 players in MLB history (dating back to Pud Galvin and Silver Flint in 1883) who have produced a BB% of less than 3% and a K% of more than 20% in a season (min 300 PA). 14 of these players have “qualified” for this list just once. Only two players have accomplished this feat multiple times – Miguel Olivo (4 times – 2006-08, 2012) and Schoop (2 times – 2014-15).