Records only part of story; 2016 could be legendary

Ortiz leaving with bang; homers on rise; Britton historically stingy

September 20th, 2016

Sure, we're all caught up in the records -- the win-loss ledgers that are going to determine the October dance cards and seeding.

But don't lose sight of the records -- the history at stake in these last two weeks of the 2016 season.

Here are five trends worth tracking:

: A grand goodbye

As is especially evident in an election year, it's hard to find widespread agreement on anything in this world and, yes, in this game. But if you're not already on board with the idea that Ortiz has treated us to the Greatest Final Season (By a Hitter) in History, suffice to say you're in the minority.

Ortiz has already hit the most doubles (47) of any player in his final season. His next home run will break Dave Kingman's record (35) for home runs in a final season. And Ortiz is also on pace to become the first player in his final year to:

• Lead the Majors in slugging (.630).

• Lead the Majors in OPS (1.034).

• Lead the Majors in extra-base hits (83).

So Big Papi is definitely going out on a high note at an old age. Speaking of which, Ortiz's home run Monday night gave him the most a player in his age-40-or-older season (breaking a tie with Darrell Evans' 34 in 1987), and he already holds the records for most doubles and RBIs (116) for a player that old.

MLB: Homer history

Ortiz has contributed to a league-wide trend in which the long ball is back with a vengeance. In just two years' time, the average number of home runs per game has climbed by nearly one-third, and there is a very real chance that this 2016 season will deliver more home runs than any other year in Major League history.

The record currently belongs to 2000, when 5,693 homers were hit at a pace of 1.172 per game. This year's rate, entering Tuesday, was 1.166, so it's going to take a late rally. But this year's average of a home run every 29.26 at-bats is the lowest in history (it was 29.39 in '00).

The power surge is not a product of several players eclipsing 50 (very likely, nobody will) but of guys reaching double digits. In fact, the 1999 record of 103 players with 20 or more homers is about to be shattered. Entering Tuesday, 97 players had already reached the 20-homer mark, and 19 others had between 17 and 19.

Of course, with all those homers comes a more dubious run at a record: The Reds' pitching staff set a record on Monday night for most home runs allowed in a single season: 242. The 2006 Tigers previously held the record of 241.

Zach Britton: Lowest relief ERA in history (minimum 50 innings)

Not everybody is serving up home runs -- or any runs, for that matter. Britton is providing particularly sweet relief in Baltimore.

One would assume that if Britton has any chance of climbing a historical hurdle and winning the AL Cy Young Award as a reliever, he needs to break this particular record. Actually, that didn't even work for , who set the mark at 0.60 in 2012 with the Rays, but Rodney had stiff AL Cy Young Award competition on his own club and in general, as teammate and the Tigers' both finished with ERAs well south of 3.00 in more than 200 innings (Price won the award).

This year, the AL field isn't quite as imposing, and Britton entered Tuesday with a 0.59 mark that barely bests that of Rodney, who himself bested Dennis Eckersley's mark of 0.61 in 1990.

What is enchanting about this chase is Britton's lack of margin for error. If he gives up just one run, it's over.

: Most homers for a second baseman

In the not-so-small sample that was the first two full months of this 2016 season, Dozier hit just five home runs with a measly .329 slugging percentage. So the fact that we're talking about him breaking any power record whatsoever is a testament to just how much his season turned a corner when the summer months arrived.

Of Dozier's 41 homers this season, 39 have come while manning second base (he hit a pair while DH'ing on July 31). That ties him with Alfonso Soriano (2002) for the AL record at that position, and Dozier is still within striking distance of Davey Johnson's Major League mark of 43 with the Braves in 1973.

Texas Rangers: Best one-run record ever

Jeff Banister's club has only the third-best run differential in its own division -- and the Rangers (plus-9) are nowhere near the Astros (plus-45) and Mariners (plus-51) in that stat. Yet they've run away with the AL West -- and significantly outperformed their Pythagorean win expectation -- because of how they've fared in one-run tilts. Monday's win gave the Rangers a .778 winning percentage (35-10) in one-run games and puts them on pace to break the 2012 Orioles' record of .763 -- and in a larger sample, no less (the O's were 29-9).

What's really interesting about this record run is that the Rangers have done it with a bullpen whose 4.71 ERA rates as one of the worst in MLB, while the 2012 O's relief unit (3.00) rated as one of the best.