22 biggest reasons baseball was the best in 2022
Baseball delivered in a big way in 2022 -- as it always does. It was a season that strengthened the resumes of stars and introduced impactful rookies who quickly joined those ranks. We marveled at milestone chases and witnessed historic firsts. The postseason was spectacular. In short, baseball was the best, yet again. Here are 22 of the biggest stories of the 2022 season.
Dusty Gets His Ring as Skipper
When Houston won the World Series, 73-year-old Dusty Baker, who was already the oldest manager to reach the Fall Classic, became the oldest to win it, too. He went 40 years in between World Series titles, after winning in 1981 as a player with the Dodgers. That’s the most years between any two World Series wins as a player (minimum one postseason game played) and/or manager, per Elias Sports Bureau research.
A World Series No-Hitter
The Astros no-hit the Phillies in World Series Game 4 for the third postseason no-hitter, joining Roy Halladay’s in the 2010 NLDS and Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series. Cristian Javier, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly combined for the Astros’ second combined no-hitter of ’22. Javier and Pressly became the first pitchers to be part of two combined no-nos in a career, let alone a season -- and they did it by starting and finishing the same two no-hitters.
Peña’s Time to Shine
Rookie Jeremy Peña hit .345 with a 1.005 OPS in the postseason, picking up both ALCS and World Series MVP honors along the way. He became the first rookie position player to win World Series MVP. Not covered by those awards was his ALDS Game 3 go-ahead homer in the 18th inning, making him the third rookie with an extra-inning postseason home run, joining Cleveland's Oscar Gonzalez in AL Wild Card Game 2 this year and Houston's Chris Burke in 2004 NLDS Game 4.
The Power of Yordan
With his ALDS Game 1 walk-off home run, ALDS Game 2 go-ahead drive and World Series Game 6 go-ahead homer, the latter two in the sixth inning, Yordan Alvarez entered a list of his own. The second homer on the list made him the only player in postseason history with multiple go-ahead home runs in the sixth or later with his team trailing. That’s for a career – and he ended up with three, all this past postseason.
Dancing on Their Own
The Phillies were 21-29 through 50 games and ultimately reached the World Series. That’s tied for the fourth-worst record through 50 decisions for any team to win a pennant, with the 2003 Marlins. Only the 2005 Astros (18-32), 2019 Nationals (19-31) and 1914 Braves (20-30) won pennants after worse 50-decision starts.
Albert Pujols entered 2022 with 679 career home runs, returning to St. Louis, where he played the first 11 years of his career, for one last hurrah. He didn’t just pass Alex Rodriguez’s 696 to claim fourth place on the all-time list, he surged to 703 career home runs. Pujols hit 16 homers from Aug. 14 onward, tied with Aaron Judge and Mike Trout (more on each of them later) for most in MLB in that span and setting a record for home runs in the final 45 games of a player’s career.
Speaking of Cardinals, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright added to their storied legacy in the backstop’s final season. On Sept. 14, the duo made its 325th start as a battery, passing Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan for the most common starting battery since 1900. The two ended ’22 with 328 total starts together – setting a high bar for any future pitcher/catcher duos that might dare challenge the St. Louis legends.
Aaron Judge’s milestone home run chase provided plenty of captivating moments, especially in the second half. The slugger finished with 62 homers on the season, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs from 1961, and doing so 61 years later. He totaled 11 multi-home run games, tied with Sammy Sosa in 1998 and Hank Greenberg in 1938 for the most in a single season. Three of his 62 long balls were of the walk-off variety, tying Mickey Mantle in 1959 for the most in a single season in Yankees history.
The Sho Goes On
In 2021, we were wowed by Shohei Ohtani’s two-way mastery. In 2022, he did it again – and then some. He hit 34 homers in 666 plate appearances (586 at-bats), slugging .519. He made 28 starts on the mound to the tune of a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts in 166 innings. Those at-bats and innings totals are there for a reason: He became the first player to qualify as both a pitcher and a hitter in the same season (based on current qualification rules).
In 2021, the Orioles went 52-110, but ’22 was a completely different story. Baltimore was one of 2022’s most energizing surprise teams, going 83-79. Those 83 wins were the third-most in a season after 110+ losses in the prior season, behind only the 1890 Louisville Colonels (88 wins) and 1899 St. Louis Perfectos (84).
Return of JV
After missing the entire 2021 season while recovering from an October 2020 Tommy John surgery, Justin Verlander was back and, by many statistical measures, better than ever. His 1.75 ERA led MLB and was the lowest of his storied career. He won the AL Cy Young Award unanimously, becoming the first pitcher to win after throwing zero MLB innings the year prior.
It Takes Two
Part of how a team wins 111 games like the Dodgers did is by having plenty of hits. Freddie Freeman (first in the Majors) and Trea Turner (second) became just the fourth pair of teammates to rank first and second outright in MLB in hits in a season since 1900. Freeman and Turner joined Robin Yount and Cecil Cooper for the 1982 Brewers, Pete Rose and Vada Pinson for the ’65 Reds and Ty Cobb and Bobby Veach for the 1919 Tigers.
The Mariners ended a 20-year postseason drought, the longest in pro sports entering 2022. In dramatic fashion, they clinched a playoff berth on a Cal Raleigh pinch-hit, walk-off home run. He became the 10th player to hit a walk-off homer on the day his team clinched a playoff spot. But wait, there’s more: Raleigh’s was the first of those to be off the bat of a pinch-hitter.
AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodríguez became the fastest player by games to 15 homers and 20 stolen bases, getting there in his first 81. The 21-year-old became the first player in baseball history to rack up at least 25 homers and 25 stolen bases in his first season in the Majors.
The Guardians were this season’s youngest team in baseball, weighted by plate appearances and batters faced. They became just the eighth team to make the postseason as MLB’s youngest team, joining the 1986 Mets, 1970 Reds, 1950 Phillies, 1949 Dodgers, 1947 Dodgers, 1944 Cardinals and 1943 Cardinals, per Elias Sports.
Leadoff Schwarbombs Abound
In his first season with the Phillies, Kyle Schwarber hit 46 home runs – 38 of them out of the leadoff spot. That tied Alfonso Soriano in 2002 for the third-most home runs out of the leadoff spot in a season, trailing only George Springer in 2019 and Soriano in 2006 (39 each). Schwarber's seven multi-HR games from the top of the batting order set a record for such games in a single season, passing Joc Pederson in 2019 and Francisco Lindor in 2018.
Sound the Trumpets
All season, the Mets were able to rely on Edwin Díaz, who struck out 50.2% of the batters he faced in ’22 -- that’s 118 of 235. He became one of just three pitchers to finish a season striking out more than half the batters he faced, minimum 40 innings pitched. He joined Aroldis Chapman from 2014 (52.5%) and Craig Kimbrel from 2012 (50.2%).
Doing Mike Trout Things
We got only 119 games of Mike Trout mastery this year, but boy, did he make them count. Trout hit 40 homers and slugged .630. He became just the fourth player to hit 40 or more homers in a season while playing fewer than 120 games. And he capped it off with a 490-foot home run for No. 40, his longest tracked by Statcast (since 2015).
Beast of the NL East
The Mets and Braves finished with identical 101-61 records, marking the sixth time in the divisional era (since 1969) multiple teams from the same division reached the century mark in the same year. This year’s race culminated in a Braves division title, after the Mets led by 10 1/2 games through June 1. New York became just the fourth team to lead a division or league, pre-1969, by at least 10 1/2 games and not win it.
Braves’ Rookie Class
Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider became the eighth set of teammates to finish first and second in Rookie of the Year voting, but the first of those eight to be on the reigning World Series champion. It wasn’t just the two of them – rookies Vaughn Grissom, Dylan Lee and Bryce Elder made their marks, too. Atlanta became just the fourth team in the divisional era to lead the Majors in WAR, per FanGraphs, from both rookie pitchers and rookie hitters.
The Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara had a dominant season, posting a 2.28 ERA over 228 2/3 innings en route to a unanimous NL Cy Young Award. He threw six complete games, including a shutout. Alcantara led MLB in innings by 23 2/3, the largest difference between the top two pitchers in total innings in a season since 1979. That year, Phil Niekro led by 49 2/3 innings over J.R. Richard and Dennis Martinez.
Soto on the Move
It was quite the summer for Juan Soto. After becoming the second-youngest Home Run Derby champion, Soto was dealt to the Padres at the Trade Deadline. He became the first player, age 23 or younger, to be traded midseason the year he was an All-Star. In addition, Soto was the first to make multiple All-Star teams and change teams all before turning 24.