If runs, wins and losses were all we tracked, if the only numbers associated with baseball were the numbers of balls, strikes, outs and innings and the only “stats” we absorbed were winning percentages in the standings, it would still be a beautiful sport.
But Major League Baseball is best enjoyed with a steady helping of stats. And when we’re able to put those stats into some kind of historical context -- occasionally leading us to obscure references to the 1884 Wilmington Quicksteps -- well, that’s all the better.
So let’s take a look at just some of the amazing, historically relevant and extremely bonkers stats this 2023 season has uncovered. (Alas, we didn’t find any connections to the Quicksteps. This time.)
*All stats are through Sunday’s play.
1. Atlanta’s amazing .501 SLG
It’s hard to even know where to begin with the bonkers Braves stats this season. Their offense is one of the best in history, and references to it could take up this entire column.
Let’s just run through a handful here before getting to .501 …
- As you probably know, Ronald Acuña Jr. is closing in on the first 40-homer, 70-steal season in MLB history … after already amassing the first 30- (and 40-) homer, 60-steal season in history.
- The Braves are the second team ever (joining the 2019 Twins) to have five guys with 30-plus dingers and have an outside shot at becoming the first ever to have nine guys with 20-plus.
- With 299 home runs, the Braves lead the Majors … by 59 (over the Dodgers’ 240)! You could take Matt Olson's MLB-leading 53 homers off the books, and they’d still be in the lead. According to MLB.com researcher Sarah Langs, the only three home-run-leading teams to finish the season with a greater differential over second place were the 1884 White Stockings (102 more than the second-place Cleveland Buckeyes … and 140 more than our friends the Quicksteps) and 1947 Giants (65 more than the Pirates).
- With those 299 home runs, the Braves are not only closing in on the 2019 Twins’ single-season record (307) but will become the first team in history with 300 homers and 100 steals (they already have 124).
- Oh, and Atlanta’s 124 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) is just one point shy of the all-time single-season mark set by the 1927 Yankees. Ever heard of ‘em?
But because more fans are familiar with slugging percentage, let’s just go with that for our main bonkers number. The Braves’ .501 mark would be the greatest of all time … by six points (2019 Astros, .495). As of this writing, there are only 19 qualifying players in MLB with a slugging percentage as high as the Braves’ team mark. And of course, five of those 19 -- Olson (.606), Acuña (.595), Marcell Ozuna (.533), Austin Riley (.516) and Ozzie Albies (.504) -- are on the Braves.
2. Rookies with 9 triples
Carroll became the first AL/NL rookie ever with at least 20 homers and 50 steals. And both of these guys have at least 25 homers and 25 doubles, which is obviously impressive. But for those who believe the triple is the most exciting play in baseball, these kids are coming through. They both have nine on the year, giving Henderson a share of the lead in the AL with the Royals' Bobby Witt Jr. and Carroll a share of the NL lead with teammate Ketel Marte.
How rare would it be for rookies to have at least a share of the league lead in triples in both the AL and NL? Well, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s happened only once -- in 1904! That year, the Washington Senators’ Joe Cassidy led the AL with 19, and Harry Lumley of the Brooklyn Superbas led the NL with 18.
3. Royce Lewis's 4 grand slams
The Twins' third baseman somehow has four grand slams this season, giving him five for his career -- a career in which he has played only 70 games! You probably don’t need us to tell you that Lewis is the fastest ever to five career grand slams.
But just to put his achievement in proper perspective, the recently injured Lewis has his four grannies this year in only 217 at-bats. No one had ever had that many grand slams in a season in fewer than 450 at-bats.
Lewis hit his four grand slams in an 18-game span. According to Langs, the previous smallest span of games in which a player hit four grand slams was 39 for Don Mattingly with the 1987 Yankees.
4. Home teams winning at a measly .521 clip
This is the winning percentage of home teams leaguewide. OK, so they have a winning record (yay, home teams!). But if that winning percentage looks low to you, it should. It would be the lowest mark in a full season since 1999.
LOWEST MLB LEAGUEWIDE HOME WINNING PERCENTAGES
.509: 1923 and 1948
.521: 1981^, 1999, 2023
One team notably dragging this percentage down is the confounding Astros, who were struggling so much at home that they painted part of the Minute Maid Park batter’s eye after their hitters voiced concerns. The Astros are desperately vying for first place in the AL West with a .481 winning percentage at home. The only team to win its division with a home winning percentage lower than .518 in a full season was the 2001 Braves (.494).
5. The Padres are 0-12 in extra innings
Why have the pumped-up preseason pick Padres been such a disappointment this season? Several reasons, of course, but their record would look a heck of a lot different had they won even a handful of their extra-inning games.
Instead, they’ve gone 0-12. That puts San Diego in a tie for the most extra-inning games without a win all time, knotted with the expansion 1969 Montreal Expos (0-12).
6. Trea Turner's 29 flawless stolen base attempts
The Phillies' shortstop has stolen 29 bases this year without being caught. At MLB.com, we covered this one at length recently, and of course it’s partially a product of the new rules environment. But it’s still pretty cool that if Turner can close out this final week without getting nabbed, he’ll set the record for most steals in a season without getting thrown out. The current record is held by another Phillie -- Chase Utley (23-for-23) in 2009.
7. Kyle Schwarber is hitting .197 and still making a big impact
While on the subject of the Phillies, let’s talk about Schwarber’s batting average ... in a season in which he has hit 45 home runs. The current record for most home runs by a player with a batting average of .200 or worse was 38 by Joey Gallo (Rangers and Yankees) in 2021, when he hit .199.
What makes Schwarber’s season doubly bonkers is he has served as the Phillies’ leadoff hitter since early June. In 483 plate appearances as a leadoff man, Schwarber has hit .206. According to Baseball-Reference’s Stathead tool, the only player with that many leadoff plate appearances and a lower average was Dick Schofield (.199 in 483 plate appearances) of the Pirates/Giants in 1965.
But wait, there’s more! Schwarber gets on base at a reasonable .345 clip. So how many other players, with a minimum of 300 plate appearances in the leadoff spot, have hit below .210 as a leadoff man but have put up at least a .340 OBP? Just two -- Goat Anderson of the 1907 Pirates (.204 average, .350 OBP) and Floyd Baker of the 1948 White Sox (.206 average, .362 OBP). In those two seasons, those two combined for just one home run (by our guy Goat). Not the 32 Schwarber has hit as a leadoff guy.
8. Clayton Kershaw's team-leading 126 1/3 IP
We’ve grown accustomed to lower workloads from this probable Hall of Famer, but what makes this year bonkers is that Kershaw is going to lead L.A. in innings pitched. He’ll finish with the lowest innings total ever for a leader on a division winner. According to Langs, the previous low was 153 1/3 innings for Mike Fiers on the 2017 Astros.
9. Shohei Ohtani's injury-plagued 10.0 WAR
Even though he’s done for the season, you know we couldn’t pen this piece without reference to Ohtani. This is his Wins Above Replacement mark, as calculated by Baseball-Reference. In only 135 games played. That’s now the fewest games played in a 10-WAR season in AL/NL history, excluding full-time pitchers. The previous low was Mookie Betts' 136 games played in a 10.7-WAR season for the Red Sox in 2018.
Ohtani is highly likely to win the AL MVP despite missing his team’s final 25 games. If so, that would be the most games missed by an MVP at the end of the season, according to Langs. Ohtani’s teammate Mike Trout missed the final 19 games in his 2019 MVP season.
10. The return of the 20-20 player (17 and counting)
As of this writing, there are 17 players with at least 20 homers and 20 steals. That’s just two shy of the record set in 1999. And entering the final week, there are enough players near those parameters (the Astros' Chas McCormick is one stolen base away, the Padres' Xander Bogaerts is a homer and two steals away, the Rays' Josh Lowe and Brewers' Christian Yelich are both one homer away) to lead us to believe this record could be broken.
Again, a product of the new rules environment (last year, there were only 24 players with 20 steals, whereas this year there are already 49) … but still bonkers!