10 moments from the 2015 MLB season that will still be remembered in 2050
The 2015 season is (almost) over. Long live the 2015 season. While we wait to dive headfirst into the endless pathos and drama of the postseason, let's take a moment to look back at some of the best of the last six months. It happened, and it was beautiful. But what will we still talk about for years to come?
All stats as of Sept. 30
10. The Milestones
Because we have ten fingers and use the base-10 counting system, those big numbers that end in a zero are very important to us.
Alex Rodriguez, in a surprising comeback season in which he led the Yankees in home runs and was second in OPS, followed Derek Jeter and homered to become the 29th member of the 3,000 hit club. Sadly, there was no ad that proclaimed in flashing lights "You're the 29th person to reach 3,000 hits! You've won a new laptop!"
David Ortiz made it to the 500 home run club while being weighed down by one serious piece of jewelry.
Of course, not all milestones are numerically focused. After teaming up on those legendary early-2000s Athletics teams, Barry Zito and Tim Hudson squared off for the first time in their careers, right before heading off to the baseball retirement village.
9. The Statcast™ revolution is here and it's beautiful
Admit it. In the days before Statcast™, you would lay in bed and wonder "Man, just how many miles per hour can Mike Trout add to a knuckleball when hitting a home run?"
Answer: 42.85 mph
Or maybe you asked if leaping off the mound would make your fastball appear faster to batters?
Answer: Yes. Thanks to his little hop, Carter Capps' perceived velocity is actually about 5 mph faster than the actual velocity on his fastball. So while the Statcast™ leaderboard for fastest pitches reads like Major League Baseball only has one pitcher, Capps actually has the title for fastest perceived pitch in 2015 at 105.92 mph. Because of that, batters often look like they're swinging at spectral pitches that don't actually exist on this plane.
This was the year that we entered a new era of information, and we're still only scraping the surface of what Statcast™ can offer us. Like with the discovery of water on Mars, we may marvel today that Garrett Richards' curveball has one of the highest average spin rates at 3,090. In the future, we may not only know what exactly that's worth, but how future players can improve their performance with it.
8. The Longest Dinger
We get it. The thing that makes you most excited about Statcast™ is knowing, with the most advanced baseball science that we have, how far dingers went. Far be it from us to argue with you -- dingers are great. All hail dingers. Dingers, dingers, dingers.
So now, without further ado, Kris Bryant's 495-foot dinger.
7. The rookies will devour the veterans
Of course, Bryant is a member of an extremely impressive collection of young ballplayers who don't even remember the glory of early "All That" episodes.
Bryant's teammate, Kyle Schwarber, burst on the scene with the kind of power and goatee that hasn't been seen since the late-90s. His 16 HRs all tend to look a little like this:
Though, sometimes, they look a little like this. Gravity's rough, man.
Meanwhile, Carlos Correa was called up in June and led all shortstops in HRs (21) and OPS (.853), while also playing stellar defense and seemingly carrying Houston's offense all by himself at times.
Second to Correa in OPS among shortstops is another rookie in Francisco Lindor. Known more for his glove, Lindor never posted an OPS higher than .787 in the Minors. Which of course means that Lindor hit .319/.356/.488 with 11 HRs in Cleveland to go along with his own talents in the field.
And I haven't even touched on Miguel Sano and his life-giving powers.
Or, there's Joc Pederson and his blend of Adam Dunn-like patience and power meeting superb outfield defense. And Jung Ho Kang, who turned into a hit machine for the Pirates in the second half.
And the pitchers! Lance McCullers stepped in to boost an Astros rotation led by Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh ; Taylor Jungmann let us make a number of Carl Jung references and Noah Syndergaard gave the Mets a three-headed Hydra of fastball-throwing demons (excuse the mixed metaphor) when he's not blasting dingers.
Will all of these players go on to Hall of Fame careers? Probably not! But maybe! And that's what's fun!
6. The Year of the Pitcher: Part, umm, what's French for six?
Since the pitcher started taking over in 2010, we've seen a number of great seasons from baseball's aces. But 2015 saw some truly remarkable performances.
Zack Greinke posted the fifth-best ERA since 1920 and had people dreaming of Bob Gibson in 1968. Doctors will likely begin prescribing 50 ccs of watching his changeup everyday to cure what ails you.
While Greinke was historically good, his teammate may have been even better. Clayton Kershaw posted a 2.16 ERA -- somehow his highest since 2012 -- while leading the league with 11.6 K/9. And really, that ERA is goosed by a deceptively poor start to the year. From June 1, Kershaw posted a 1.48 ERA in 163 2/3 IP.
If we want to talk about strikeouts, Chris Sale tied Pedro Martinez's mark of eight straight starts with double-digit strikeouts, en route to a career high in Ks with 267.
And let's not forget Jake Arrieta. The Cubs right-hander improved on a 2014 breakout by leading the league in wins (21), shoutouts (3), complete games (4) and hits per nine (6).
He also threw a no-hitter and celebrated with a mustache onesie. As we all do.
5. Pitcher dingers
While normal dingers are great, pitcher dingers are like when you get to a hotel, turn on the TV and find a marathon of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives - they take a good thing and make it so much better. .
If pitchers are still up there taking their hacks in 50 years, then you may want to thank Madison Bumgarner. The cowboy-turned-pitcher smacked five home runs in 2015, hitting the most since Carlos Zambrano in 2006.
Of course, Bumgarner wasn't the only pitcher to go deep. When Zack Greinke wasn't going 45 2/3 innings without allowing a run, he was hitting home runs -- and flipping his bat, which is only the second most fashionable thing about Greinke after his beautiful page boy haircut.
And then there's Arrieta. Not only did the Cubs pitcher give up only two home runs in the second half of the season, but he hit two of his own along the way. And he nearly hit two homers in one game against the Pirates ... while also allowing only one hit in 7 innings of work.
4. Bryce Harper is boss-level
When Bryce Harper and Mike Trout burst onto the scene together in 2012 (Trout debuted in '11, but didn't become the Fish God until the next year), there was, justifiably, plenty of hype around both players. While Trout went on to pick up two second-place MVP finishes before winning the award last year Harper remained a solidly above average player.
The Nationals star led the league in average (.334), on-base percentage (.466) and slugging (.654) for a kind of advanced triple crown. Add that with league leading 41 home runs and 117 runs and a slavish devotion to changing fashion, and you have all you need for absolute superstardom.
All those "Trout or Harper?" questions that seemed settled before this year? Time to re-open the debate.
At least we can experience life as Bryce in virtual reality, though.
3. Defense is plenty fun
Of course, you may think that our focus is solely on dingers. And I want to stand here and tell you that is simply not true. Dingers are about power, but defense is a ballet played on dirt and grass.
Once again, Andrelton Simmons looks like a good choice to star in "Black Swan 2." It hardly even feels like hyperbole to say we may one day consider him the best defensive shortstop to ever play the game.
Josh Donaldson may just take home AL MVP honors thanks to his 41 home runs and league leading 122 RBIs, but his best moment was when he tried valiantly to save Marco Estrada 's perfect game.
Though Estrada didn't finish off the perfecto, Donaldson's rocket booster leap into the stands will be on every highlight reel you see for the next 50 years.
Though Donaldson will have to fight for space with another acrobatic third baseman -- Nolan Arenado. Just watching Arenado field routine ground balls is like reading a Wordsworth poem about the beauty of nature. And watching him do things like this is like reading Jurassic Park as written by James Joyce. It's tense, action-packed and you can't believe what you're seeing.
2. The youth movements are underway
While we'll have to wait another month to see who Fate chooses to reward, there were three clubs that surprised the pundits and captured the hearts of baseball fans around the world while getting younger in the process.
While they're still in a fight to reach the postseason, the Astros' season has to be considered a success. Having not topped the .500 mark since 2008, the team began to see the fruits of their rebuilding efforts as the rookie Correa joined an offense loaded with talented and exciting position players like George Springer and Jose Altuve. The rotation was fronted by a groundball-inducing man with a nest of bees around his face in Dallas Keuchel.
Despite putting together an 11-game winning streak at the start of the season, few thought that the Mets would have the ability to win the NL East -- especially with a team that looked as strong on paper as the Washington Nationals standing in their way.
Instead, Jacob deGrom and Syndergaard emerged as the greatest long-haired duo since Hall and Oates joining Matt Harvey atop a dominant rotation. That's without even mentioning Steven Matz's 2.27 ERA in six starts or that Bartolo Colon provided plenty on the mound, in the field and, yes, even at the plate.
Of course, when Colon wasn't hitting, Lucas Duda and Curtis Granderson provided plenty of pop with 25 HRs a piece. Yoenis Cespedes and his parakeet-powered swing showed up at the Trade Deadline and made people wonder "Should we give him the MVP and/or a giant gold key to the city?"
While the Cubs haven't had to wait as long for a postseason appearance as the Blue Jays, they have been waiting for that World Series since 1908. While the team was expected to be good this year, no one was quite ready for what actually happened. After all, who could have predicted that Schwarber and Bryant would both hit like veterans in their prime, or that Arrieta would morph from a very good pitcher to a unreal Cy Young candidate? Or that acquisitions like Dexter Fowler, Chris Coghlan and Jon Lester would all pay off?
But then again, maybe the Cubs are the team of destiny. And just as we look forward to the days of 2050, Back to the Future pegged the Cubs as World Series champions in the year 2015. And who are we to argue with Marty McFly?
1. The Blue Jays are ready to win now
Scoring runs is something that came very easily to the Blue Jays this year. On the way to their first postseason trip since 1993, Toronto led the league with 857 runs -- 111 more than the second place Yankees and the most for a team since 2011 -- and 223 home runs. Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion all hit more than 30 home runs and Montreal-born jazz-fan Russell Martin added another 22 from behind the plate. It was the kind of offensive performance that felt like playing video games on Rookie.
Needing a pitcher, the team then added David Price at the Trade Deadline. Rehabbing rotation-mate/college student Marcus Stroman was impressed.
Of course, anything can happen in October, but when looking back on 2015, it'll be hard to forget how thrilling the Blue Jays have been.