Last season was 'The Year of the Rookie', but what will 2016 be remembered as 'The Year of'?
Baseball is cyclical. The offensive era of the '90s transitioned into the Year of the Pitcher in 2010. Last year, we had a season filled with amazing rookies. But this year, a group of veterans are bouncing back into our consciousness. Too many amazing feats are worthy of defining baseball in 2016. Help us decide what 2016 was "The Year of": The Major League record for most home runs in a season was set in 2000, when 5,693 long balls were smashed across the league. 11 teams topped 200 home runs, led by the Astros who knocked out 249. 2016 has a chance of topping that. With an average of 1.17 per game, the league is on pace for 5,686 -- just shy of the record. 15 teams have a chance of reaching the 200 homer mark by the end of the year, with the Orioles leading the way at 232. If you like dingers, this is the year for you.
But, even while homers are flying out at a rate we've only seen once before, strikeouts continue to rise. The Majors have seen more strikeouts every year since 2008, when teams struck out 6.77 times per game. That number is now up to 8.01. While there are no pitchers reaching the 300 strikeout mark like Clayton Kershaw accomplished last year, eight starters and 45 relievers are averaging over ten strikeouts per nine. José Fernández even has the highest K/9 rate since Randy Johnson in 2001.
With many teams emphasizing youth, letting their prospects play important roles on postseason contenders, the old guard re-established itself in 2016. In his final season, David Ortiz played like he took a time machine back to the middle-aughts, hitting 33 home runs, leading the league in OPS and even swiping some bases.
Justin Verlander turned back the clock by regaining his velocity and adding a new hard slider. It helped him reemerge as a top-10 starter and co-ace of the Tigers with rookie Michael Fulmer.
Meanwhile, Robinson Canó showed off mid-career form, Bartolo Colon continued to be an ageless wonder as he hit his first home run while remaining a vital cog in the Mets rotation, Adrián Beltré and Miguel Cabrera topped 30 homers -- again -- and Edwin Encarnacion needs just one more dinger to reach 40 for only the second time in his career. Overshadowed by the defensive wizardry of the men on their right, and without the power of the first basemen to their left, keystoners are kind of like the middle child of the infield. Not in 2016. Brian Dozier topped 40 home runs and has his sights set on breaking the all-time second base record of 43 held by Davey Johnson.
Daniel Murphy and José Altuve have shots at their respective NL and AL MVP Awards, each hitting over .340 with 20-plus home runs. Cano has tied his career-high in homers with 33 and Dustin Pedroia has basically replicated his 2008 MVP season, with a higher batting average and on-base percentage.
The powerful Ryan Schimpf even came out of nowhere to inspire Detlef Shrempf jokes and pick up extra bases on more than 70 percent of his hits. Even in their collectively strong season, second basemen didn't have a middle infield monopoly. That's because we are living in the greatest era of shortstops since those halcyon days when Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra were at the height of their games and taking shirtless photos. Corey Seager exploded as a possible Rookie of the Year and MVP candidate with 25 home runs and .905 OPS. That kind of production is why the Dodgers said no to every trade offer for him in the past.
Francisco Lindor improved on last year's breakout rookie performance and is showcasing a superb hit tool and power - and a seemingly magic glove that can reach anything.
Not only will Addison Russell, Carlos Correa and Xander Bogaerts probably finish with more than 20 home runs, but they'll likely top their age with dingers, too. So tell us, how should we remember the 2016 Regular Season?