1 fact about every team to make you sound smart

April 7th, 2022

It’s Opening Day, with the excitement and promise of a new season radiating throughout the sport and beyond. It’s time to consume baseball in every form possible, including, of course, talking baseball. Whether it’s water-cooler discussions, Slacks from the home office, family dinners or group chats, you’re going to need some baseball topics at the ready. Everyone has a World Series pick, but not everyone is prepared with an A-plus Wander Franco nugget.

That’s where we come in. We don’t just want you talking baseball, we want to equip you to wow and amaze whomever you’re with. Here’s one fact per team to make you sound smart.


Blue Jays: Power, plate discipline combo

With sluggers like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Marcus Semien (now gone to Texas), Teoscar Hernández and Bo Bichette, the Jays led the Majors with 262 home runs in 2021. But the team also exhibited great plate discipline, led by Guerrero’s discerning eye. Toronto’s 1,218 strikeouts at the plate were the fewest in MLB. They became just the fifth team since 1900 to boast both the most homers and fewest K’s, along with Cleveland in 1995, the 1909 Giants and 1904-05 Giants. Even with Semien gone, expect this offense to be prolific – and appropriately stingy – yet again.

Orioles: New year, new dimensions

Camden Yards will look a bit different this year, with a left-field wall that’s 26 1/2 feet further back and almost six feet higher. There were 277 home runs there in 2021, tied for the fourth most in a season all-time, behind only 1999 Coors Field (303), Camden in ’19 (289) and Minute Maid Park in ’19 (282). To be clear, that’s combined homers at the venue by both the home team and visitors. MLB.com’s Mike Petriello took a look at the potential impact this could have and found that 196 home runs over the last four seasons at Camden Yards would have remained in the field of play under the 2022 dimensions. It’s important to remember they wouldn’t all necessarily be outs: Many could’ve been base hits instead. Now, let’s see how this plays out on the field.

Rays: Not all who Wander are lost

Wander Franco was a lightning rod for the Rays last year, tying a record held by Frank Robinson for the longest on-base streak for a player before turning 21. Oh yeah, he also hit .368 and slugged .789 in four postseason games before Tampa Bay was eliminated. What can he do for an encore? How about continue to not strike out? Franco struck out in just 12% of plate appearances last year – as a 20-year-old rookie, no less. It’s a small, self-selecting group, but there have been 44 players with at least 200 plate appearances in a season since 1980 in their age-20 season or younger. Of those, Franco’s strikeout rate was the second lowest, behind only 1989 Gary Sheffield (8.1%).

Red Sox: Devers’ daily doubles (and homers)

Third baseman Rafael Devers has been an extra-base-hit machine in his time with the Red Sox. He’s amassed 263 career extra-base hits so far, and he just turned 25 in October. That’s the second-most extra-base hits by a Red Sox player before turning 25, trailing only Ted Williams’ 314. He had 76 last year, and if he tacks on another 76 this year, he’d have 339, which would be by far the most by a Sox player before turning 26. The current record holder there is Mookie Betts, with 320 – since Williams went to serve in the military following the season in which he reached 314 XBH.

Yankees: That Judge and Stanton power

Two powerful sluggers by the names of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton play in the Bronx, and they’ll be swinging away yet again this season. In 2021, they ranked first and second in MLB in hard-hit rate – Judge at 58.4% and Stanton at 56.3% – among 207 batters with at least 250 batted balls. Why focus on how hard they hit it? Here’s why: In 2021, hard-hit batted balls led to a .500 batting average and 1.015 slugging percentage, league-wide. Those hit with an exit velocity of 94 mph or slower, not hard-hit? A .218 batting average, .256 slugging percentage. Let the kids mash.


Guardians: Youth is the name of the game

Take a look at the Opening Day roster and one thing stands out above all else: this Cleveland squad is young. There are just two players aged 30 or older: 31-year-old Anthony Gose and 34-year-old Bryan Shaw. They’re just the fifth team in the last 30 years to have as few as two players 30 or more years old on the date of their season opener, according to Elias. They join the 1997 Pirates (Dale Sveum, Kevin Elster), ’98 Marlins (Jim Eisenreich, John Cangelosi), ’99 Marlins (Dennis Springer, Kirt Ojala) and ’00 Marlins (Ricky Bones, Alex Fernandez).

Royals: Zack is back

A familiar face will take the mound for the Royals this season in Zack Greinke, but it’s been a minute. After Kansas City drafted him No. 6 overall in 2002, he debuted for the club in ’04 and pitched there through 2010 before a trade to the Brewers, winning the ’09 AL Cy Young along the way. He’ll be starting Opening Day for the Royals, 12 years after last doing so for the team in 2010. That’s the largest gap between a pitcher’s Opening Day starts for the same team, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, surpassing Bert Blyleven with the Twins (1976-87).

Tigers: Milestone Miggy

Miguel Cabrera is closing in on some extremely rare territory. As he approaches his 39th birthday on April 18, Miggy needs just 13 more hits to join the prestigious 3,000-hit club. He already is part of the 500-homer club. That would make him only the seventh player to reach both milestones, joining this list: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez.

Twins: All eyes on Buxton

Carlos Correa was a splashy addition for Minnesota, but the club’s season still will hinge in large part on whether center fielder Byron Buxton can stay on the field. If he can, he’s a potential MVP candidate, and the Twins look a lot more dangerous. Don’t believe us? Since 2019, Buxton has produced 9.6 WAR (per Baseball-Reference) in just over a full season’s worth of games (187). He’s achieved a rate of 9.1 WAR per 650 plate appearances. Only a select list of stars has racked up at least 9 position-player WAR in a season over the past 20 years: Adrián Beltré, Mookie Betts, Alex Bregman, Barry Bonds, Bryce Harper, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki, Mike Trout and Chase Utley. Seven of those 11 won an MVP Award at some point.

White Sox: Repeat the feat

The 2021 White Sox cruised to an AL Central title, topping Cleveland by 13 games in the standings. Chicago figures to face some stiffer competition this year, but if a stacked roster can manage another first-place finish, it would mark the first time in 122 years of franchise history that the club did so back to back. (That’s not counting 1993-94, given that the ’94 club was just one game ahead of Cleveland when the strike ended the season in August).


Angels: The Sho goes on

We saw last year that there’s very little Shohei Ohtani can’t do on a baseball field. He hit 25 homers with at least a 110 mph exit velocity, four more than anyone else. He also allowed just an .087 batting average in at-bats ending on his splitter, the lowest of any pitcher on any pitch type (minimum 120 plate appearances). We are so lucky to be on the edges of our seats, eager to see what he adds to the list in ’22.

Astros: Platoon-proof power

Carlos Correa is gone, but the Astros should remain a force, in part thanks to their tandem of young, left-handed sluggers. Last year, among lefty hitters to face southpaws at least 100 times, Kyle Tucker (.910 OPS) and Yordan Alvarez (.881) ranked fifth and seventh, respectively. In fact, Alvarez’s .945 career lefty-lefty OPS currently ranks behind only Barry Bonds since complete splits data began in 1974 (minimum 350 plate appearances).

A’s: A constant presence

There’s a lot of change in Oakland these days, with several key players and longtime manager Bob Melvin heading out the door this offseason. But if you’re looking for something that doesn’t change, try the front office. Billy Beane is now the longest-tenured GM or president of baseball operations in MLB -- edging out the Yankees’ Brian Cashman -- having been in charge since October 1997. That was before some of his current players (such as recent acquisition Cristian Pache) were even born.

Mariners: Reigning Cy joins the squad

Robbie Ray will lead the Mariners’ pitching staff in ’22 on the heels of a Cy Young Award-winning campaign with the Blue Jays last season. What should Mariners fans keep an eye out for? Try his four-seamer and his slider. He got 239 swinging strikes on the four-seamer and 237 on the slider. That was the second-most and fourth-most swinging strikes, respectively, by any pitcher on a single pitch type in 2021. And, you guessed it, he was the only pitcher to appear twice on that top-five list.

Rangers: The new middle infield

The Rangers signed Marcus Semien to a seven-year, $175 million contract and Corey Seager to a 10-year, $325 million pact in the offseason. With that, Texas became the first team to sign two players to deals of at least $175 million in the same offseason. Only one other team had ever even done this with the threshold lowered to $150 million: the Yankees entering 2009, with Mark Teixeira ($180 million) and CC Sabathia ($161 million).


Braves: Welcome home, Matt Olson

The newly acquired Olson is a Georgia native, and Braves fans should be excited to see his home cooking at the plate and at first. From 2020-21, he had the largest decreases in both strikeout rate (31.4% to 16.8%) and whiff rate (34.8% to 23.0%) among qualified players. He was one of six qualifiers who was in the 85th percentile or better in hard-hit rate and 75th percentile or better in strikeout rate last year, along with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Manny Machado, Juan Soto, Ketel Marte and Corey Seager.

Phillies: Ring the Bell

Expect homers galore at Citizens Bank Park and on the road for the Phillies this year. With Bryce Harper and new acquisitions Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber, the Phillies have three players who hit at least 30 home runs in 2021. The last time the Phillies had multiple players with at least 30 home runs in a season was in 2009, when they had a franchise-record four: Ryan Howard, Raúl Ibañez, Chase Utley and Jayson Werth. Overall, they’ve had at least three 30-homer hitters three other times: 2008 (Pat Burrell, Howard, Utley), ’07 (Burrell, Howard, Jimmy Rollins) and 1929 (Don Hurst, Chuck Klein, Lefty O’Doul).

Marlins: Get Jazzed

Miami’s young rotation may be its most exciting feature in 2022, but don’t forget about 24-year-old second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. He’s fast, flashy and full of potential. The best example? He and Boston’s Rafael Devers are the only players in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008) with multiple homers off pitches 100 mph or faster. And Chisholm is the only one to do that in a single season, having gone upper-deck off Jacob deGrom last April 10 before turning around some heat from Phillies lefty José Alvarado on May 18.

Mets: Polar Bear power

Pete Alonso is projected to hit 41 home runs in 2022, which would lead the NL, per ZiPS. Remember, Alonso led MLB outright in homers with 53 in 2019 as a rookie. No Mets player has ever led the NL in home runs multiple times or had multiple 40-plus homer seasons. The Polar Bear is already halfway to each of those feats and projected to make franchise history. Alonso has hit 106 career home runs, all since ’19, 11 more than any other player in that span.

Nationals: Here’s your Soto stat

Juan Soto, the 23-year-old superstar in the nation’s capital, is the best hitter in baseball. How does he do it? Glad you asked. The combination of his discerning eye and power play a big role. In 2021, he had a 35.0% swing rate, lowest in MLB (min. 1,750 pitches seen). Add to that a 12.2% chase rate, also the lowest (min. 750 out-of-zone pitches). But when he did swing, the results were powerful. 23.9% of his swings produced hard contact, the highest such rate (min. 250 batted balls). In other words: he doesn’t swing much, but he makes those swings count. Good luck, pitchers.


Brewers: Aces abound

The starting rotation -- led by its young arms -- figures to carry Milwaukee in 2022. It certainly did last year, when Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff became the first pair of qualifying pitchers under age 30 to post ERA+ figures of at least 165 since Luis Tiant and Sam McDowell for Cleveland in 1968. Add in Freddy Peralta and Adrian Houser, and the Brew Crew was the first squad since the 1907 Cubs to have four pitchers younger than 30 with 140-plus innings and at least a 130 ERA+.

Cardinals: Albert’s return

Future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols is back for one last hurrah with the Cardinals, a team he left in free agency after 2011. When Pujols plays his first regular-season game with the Cardinals on Opening Day, he will have gone 10 seasons between a World Series win (2011) and playing again for the club. That will be the most seasons in between a World Series win and a player's next game with a franchise, according to Elias.

Cubs: 2 strikes? 0 problem

Second baseman Nick Madrigal will be a player to watch for Cubs fans this year after he arrived in last summer’s Craig Kimbrel trade, though he didn't appear in a game for them due to a season-ending injury. Madrigal makes contact like few other hitters in today’s game, earning the nickname “Nicky Two-Strikes” during his tenure with the White Sox. From 2020-21, Madrigal’s .299 batting average in two-strike counts was far and away the best in the Majors, with only eight others (minimum 100 two-strike at-bats) even reaching the .250 mark. The MLB average was .167.

Pirates: Major Key

Even with just 96 games played in 2021 due to injury, young Ke’Bryan Hayes still made an impact, especially defensively. He had +13 Outs Above Average at third base, second most at the position behind only Matt Chapman (+17). The difference? Chapman played 150 games at third, while Hayes played just 95, and he still outpaced perennial Gold Glover Nolan Arenado, among others.

Reds: Votto still bangs

Social media’s latest star, Joey Votto, is also still a veritable power hitter. In fact, he made power even more a part of his game in 2021, sacrificing a few more swings and misses for a 53.2% hard-hit rate, by far his highest mark in any season tracked by Statcast (since 2015). He increased his hard-hit rate by 17.5 percentage points from 2020-21, by far the highest such increase of any qualifier – 4.5 percentage points ahead of the next-largest increase on the list (Tyler O’Neill). Prepare for more power from the elder statesman in ’22.


Dodgers: MVPs around the diamond ... again

Last year, the Dodgers became the fourth team to have four former MVPs appear for them in a season, with Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Clayton Kershaw and Albert Pujols. New season, new fourth MVP, with Freddie Freeman replacing Pujols on the list. The ’22 Dodgers will be the fifth team to have four former MVPs play for them in a season, joining the ’21 Dodgers, ’96 Red Sox, ’82 Angels and ’78 Reds.

D-backs: A rare combo

Defensive versatility is prized in today’s game, but even then, the type displayed by Arizona’s Daulton Varsho in 2021 was almost unheard of. Playing in his second MLB season at age 24, Varsho became only the third player in the previous 100 years to log at least 30 games apiece at catcher and in center field in the same season, joining the Cardinals’ Eli Marrero (2002) and the Astros’ Craig Biggio (1990). Varsho also spent time in both corner-outfield spots and continues to give D-backs manager Torey Lovullo lots of lineup options.

Giants: Spinning a Webb

Ace Logan Webb will make his first Opening Day start in 2022, after a 2021 breakout season that culminated in two stellar postseason starts. What to expect from him? Webb induced a 62.2% ground-ball rate last season, second-highest among all pitchers to allow at least 300 batted balls. That’s where Brandon Crawford’s Gold Glove-caliber defense comes in. But Webb also racks up strikeouts, including 10 K’s and no walks in his postseason debut in NLDS Game 1. The only other pitchers to do that: Jake Arrieta, Don Newcombe and Deacon Phillippe ... in the very first World Series game in 1903.

Padres: Waiting for El Niño

San Diego will have to get its season jumpstarted without the services of Fernando Tatis Jr., who is out with a broken left wrist until roughly midseason. The Padres have the talent to do just that, but his absence is still a big blow. In 2021, Tatis tied Alex Rodriguez’s 1998 record for home runs (42) by a shortstop age 22 or younger -- but did it in 208 fewer at-bats.

Rockies: A Mile High splash

When the offseason began, the Rockies weren’t necessarily an obvious destination for free agent Kris Bryant, the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year and ’16 NL MVP. But, after waiting through the lockout, Bryant wound up taking his talents to Coors Field on a seven-year, $182 million deal. Why is that number notable? It’s the largest free-agent contract ever awarded by the Rockies in franchise history.