11 crazy facts about the 2020 leaders

September 22nd, 2020

This season has blown by so quickly, in such a mad blur, that you almost forget that after Sunday, it is going to go down in the history books. It’ll be locked in black and red ink by then, your batting champions, your leaderboards, your career total. This season feels so different than any other, but it does in fact connect to every other season. This one has Top 10s just like every other one does.

So, today, with just a few days left in the season, we take a look at some of the more unusual and fascinating facts from your Major League Baseball leaderboards. This season might be weird. But it still very much counts.

1) Juan Soto is in Barry Bonds territory. This season has been a bust for the Nationals, but their young superstar just keeps getting better. Soto currently stands at a .477 on-base percentage, which isn’t just the highest in baseball this year and the highest of his career: If he can keep it up, it will be the highest OBP a batting title qualifier has put up in baseball since Barry Bonds’ .480 in 2007. Now, Bonds was a special case -- his OBP was .609 in 2004, which is cartoonish -- but the .477 is still higher than Bonds had in all but five of his seasons. In fact, when you take Bonds out of it, Soto’s OBP is the highest of any qualifier since Edgar Martinez in 1995 (.479).

2) Manny Machado is having an historic power season. For all the love (and money) for Machado, he has never been a particularly top-shelf power hitter. Even his biggest power year, 2018, when he hit 37 homers, he wasn’t in the top 10 in the category. But this year, he’s tied for third in the Majors in homers and fifth in RBIs. Maybe one should consider voting him for National League MVP!

3) He’s still not the top-slugging Padre. If I woke you up from a nap and screamed, “Tell me the name of the Padres’ highest slugging percentage”-- and I promise I will not do this -- you might groggily say “Manny Machado” or “Fernando Tatis Jr.” But the answer is “Wil Myers,” who is currently fifth in the Majors in slugging and second in the NL, behind Soto. In his eighth big league season, and after all the guff he’s gotten over his contract, Myers has put together by far the best year of his career. And he’s about to play in his first postseason game since his rookie year with the Rays.

4) Trevor Story, elite speedster. Story has established himself as a superstar the past couple of years, and he has always been able to steal bases; he was a 20-20 player in both 2018 and '19. But during a season when individual stolen base totals are down, Story has taken the next step forward. His 14 steals lead the NL, and he ranks second in baseball behind the Royals’ Adalberto Mondesi. Story is still delivering everything else, though: His slugging percentage is 229 points higher than Mondesi’s. Story isn’t just a five-tool player, he’s the second-best basestealer in baseball.

5) DJ LeMahieu is about to double up and make history. Two active players have led the Majors in batting average twice in their career: Jose Altuve and Miguel Cabrera. LeMahieu, who, remember, didn’t even have a position when the Yankees signed him, is about to become the third: He’s at .365, with only White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson in striking distance at .355. This has also been LeMahieu’s highest slugging season, by nearly 100 points.

6) Oh, and about that .400 season … Charlie Blackmon is now not even in the top 20 in batting average and is a minor slump away from falling under .300 for the year.

7) Some crazy names in the top 10 offensive categories. Here are some names of people who are in the top 10 in homers, RBIs or batting average in either league this year: Brian Anderson (Marlins), Kole Calhoun (D-backs), Travis d’Arnaud (Braves), Adam Duvall (Braves), Jeimer Candelario (Tigers), David Fletcher (Angels), Maikel Franco (Royals), Teoscar Hernández (Blue Jays), Dominic Smith (Mets), Donovan Solano (Giants), Kyle Tucker (Astros), Alex Verdugo (Red Sox). In case you were under the illusion that baseball was easy to prognosticate.

8) Mike Matheny keeps his bullpen busy. The two pitchers who lead in games pitched -- Scott Barlow and Greg Holland -- are both Royals. At 28 games apiece, they’re each on pace for 84 games pitched in a 162-game season … which would be the highest in baseball in nearly a decade.

9) Clayton Kershaw is immortal. The bounce-back nature of Kershaw’s season has been well-documented, but here’s a fun leaderboard fact: He is leading the Major Leagues in WHIP, at 0.75. This is the lowest WHIP of his entire career, and the third time he has led the Majors in the category. But this is the most fun part: Allowing for the fact that this is a shortened season -- and that’s a pretty big caveat -- Kershaw has the lowest season-long WHIP since Pedro Martínez's 0.74 (2000).

10) Madison Bumgarner is on the wrong top-five list. For the first time in his career, Bumgarner is in the top five in home runs allowed, with 13, particularly remarkable considering he has only made eight starts, with 36 2/3 innings. That’s actually more homers than he gave up in 2011, when he threw 204 2/3 innings.

11) Mike Trout is going to have the lowest spot on FanGraphs’ WAR leaderboard in his career. Yes, yes, WAR is a flawed statistic in a full season, let alone a 60-game season. But when it consistently has Trout as the best -- or one of the very best -- players in the sport, you can have a pretty good idea it knows what it’s doing.

So, Trout is currently ninth among all hitters on the fWAR leaderboard. Here is where he has been every year of his career:

2012: Second
2013: First
2014: First
2015: Second
2016: First
2017: Fourth (only played 114 games; still fourth)
2018: Second
2019: First

And this year: Ninth. What a slacker.