After an outstanding and exciting regular season, the postseason is next up. Before we turn the page to playoff baseball, we note which players led Major League Baseball, or their respective leagues, in notable statistical categories for the 2021 regular season -- from traditional stats to Statcast metrics.
Here's a look at the leaders in each category this season:
AL/MLB: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (TOR)
and Salvador Perez (KC), 48
Each of these home run co-champions made history. Guerrero launched a final dinger Sunday in the season finale to surpass Eddie Mathews (1953) for the most homers by any AL/NL player in his age-22 season or younger. At 22 years, 201 days of age, Guerrero is also the fourth-youngest player to finish with at least a share of a league home run title, doing so at an age older than Tony Conigliaro (1965), Sam Crawford (1901) and Mathews (‘53).
Perez set a record for the most single-season home runs by a primary catcher, surpassing Johnny Bench’s previous record of 45 set way back in 1970. He gives the Royals their second league homer king following Jorge Soler in 2019, after no Kansas City player had taken home that title across the franchise’s first 50 seasons.
NL: Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD), 42
At 22 years and 274 days old on Sunday, Tatis ranks just behind Guerrero as the fifth-youngest player to lead his league in homers. Tatis became the second player in Padres history to lead the NL in homers, joining Fred McGriff, who hit 35 in 1992.
AL: Yuli Gurriel (HOU), .319
Gurriel didn’t start the Astros’ season finale Sunday against the A’s, but he finished it with a flourish. He came off the bench and delivered a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth, raising his average one point to .319 and clinching the batting title in just about the best way imaginable. Houston fans have become accustomed to batting champs, of course, as Jose Altuve took home three crowns, in 2014, ’16 and ’17. But Gurriel, in his age-37 season, tied Barry Bonds (2002) as the oldest player to win his first league batting title. Gurriel also joined Tony Oliva as the second Cuban-born batting champion.
AL/MLB: Salvador Perez (KC), 121
With all those dingers come all those runs driven in. Kansas City’s homer co-champion is only the franchise’s second league RBI champ, joining Royals legend Hal McRae, who had 133 back in 1982. Perez finished four RBIs ahead of White Sox slugger José Abreu, who was seeking to become the AL’s second player to take home three straight RBI crowns (Cecil Fielder, 1990-92) since RBIs became an official statistic in 1920.
NL: Adam Duvall (ATL), 113
Duvall was among the several outfielders the Braves’ front office brought in as Trade Deadline reinforcements. Bringing back the outfielder who mashed for them in 2020 proved to be a shrewd idea: Duvall tallied 45 RBIs in 55 games for Atlanta after coming over on July 30. In yet another sign of MLB’s offensive evolution, Duvall hit .228 and still racked up those 113 RBIs -- the most tallied by any player who hit under .230 in a season in AL/NL history.
Duvall marks back-to-back NL RBI champions to wear a Braves uniform, following Marcell Ozuna in 2020. Teammates Austin Riley (107) and Ozzie Albies (106) gave Atlanta three 100-RBI bashers in '21.
MLB: Starling Marte (OAK), 47
“Hold on,” you might say. “Marte led the Majors in steals but isn’t a league stolen-base champ?”
That’s correct. Marte legitimately swiped more bags than any other player, but the way he split those thefts across teams kept him from leading either league. He stole 22 bases for the Marlins before Miami traded him to the A’s on July 28, and then he swiped 25 more bags in just 56 games for Oakland.
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Marte is the first player to finish within the top 10 on both the American and National League stolen base leaderboards in the same season. And Marte’s 47 steals are the most any player has recorded since 2017, when Dee Strange-Gordon stole 60 for the Marlins and Billy Hamilton grabbed 59 for the Reds.
AL: Whit Merrifield (KC), 40
Merrifield is 32, but he remains the AL’s dominant base thief. The Royals’ fan favorite took home his third AL steals crown following previous triumphs in 2017 and ’18, and Kansas City has been home to four of the AL’s past five steal champions. Adalberto Mondesi was the 2020 champ with 24.
Merrifield is the only player in Royals history with multiple AL steal crowns, and he is the league’s first three-time winner since Jacoby Ellsbury (2008-09, ’13) won three with the Red Sox.
NL: Trea Turner (LAD), 32
Turner, like Marte, spread his steals across two different clubs. He swiped 21 for the Nationals and then 11 more for the Dodgers after coming over with Max Scherzer in the July 30 blockbuster trade. Turner is the first player to win a league steals title while playing for multiple clubs since Eric Young Jr. (Rockies, Mets) took home the 2013 NL crown. Turner was also MLB’s runaway leader in bolts (runs of 30-plus feet per second on the basepaths) for the fourth consecutive season.
NL: Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD), 70
Tatis paced the NL for the most barrels -- batted balls hit with the ideal combination of exit velocity and launch angle that typically yield extra-base hits -- and remember, folks: He’s a shortstop. Tatis barreled a ball in 12.8% of his plate appearances, second only to Tampa Bay’s Mike Zunino among hitters with at least 300 plate appearances and the third-highest single-year barrel/PA rate in Statcast history on a list topped by Giancarlo Stanton’s 14.2% rate in 2015.
AL/MLB: Shohei Ohtani (LAA), 78
How important are barrels? Well, we may be looking at the two league MVP Award winners right here. Ohtani fell just shy of the home run crown, but his barrel title speaks to his ability to impact games with doubles and triples (he tied for the MLB lead with eight three-baggers) on top of all those homers. Ohtani also led all hitters with at least 150 batted balls with a 100.4 mph average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives, helping him put up the second-highest single-year barrel total across the first seven seasons of Statcast tracking, behind Aaron Judge’s 87 barrels in ’17.
AL: Gerrit Cole (NYY), 16
Cole is the first Yankees pitcher to lead the league in wins since CC Sabathia took home at least a share of the wins crown from 2009-10. He narrowly missed out on a wins title in 2019, when he was a 20-game winner for the Astros but teammate Justin Verlander won 21.
NL/MLB: Julio Urías (LAD), 20
Urías is the first Dodgers pitcher to lead the NL in wins since Clayton Kershaw in 2017 -- and the first with a 20-win season since Kershaw in '14. Urías' 20 wins were also three more than any other pitcher this season (Adam Wainwright, 17). The Dodgers left-hander took the last of his three losses on June 21, going 11-0 with a 2.03 ERA over his final 17 starts.
AL: Robbie Ray (TOR), 2.84
Ray follows Aaron Sanchez (2016) as the Blue Jays’ second league ERA champ of this century and finishes with an excellent résumé for the AL Cy Young Award. He is the sixth Toronto pitcher in club history to take home an ERA crown, joining Sanchez, Roger Clemens (1997-98), Juan Guzman (’96), Jimmy Key (’87) and Dave Stieb (’85).
NL/MLB: Corbin Burnes (MIL), 2.43
Burnes is the first Brewers pitcher to win an ERA title, holding off Max Scherzer (2.46), Walker Buehler (2.47) and Milwaukee teammate Brandon Woodruff (2.56). Burnes’ 2.43 ERA is also the second-lowest in franchise history, behind only Mike Caldwell’s 2.36 mark in 1978.
AL/MLB: Robbie Ray (TOR), 248
Ray is the third Blue Jays pitcher to claim an AL strikeout title, joining A.J. Burnett (2008) and Roger Clemens (1997 and ’98), but he's the first Toronto pitcher to lead the entire Majors in strikeouts. He edged out Cole by five K’s in a category that could loom large for Ray’s Cy Young Award hopes.
NL: Zack Wheeler (PHI), 247
Wheeler was slated to start the Phillies’ season finale on Sunday, and he would have needed only two strikeouts to claim the MLB crown. With the club eliminated from playoff contention, however, the Phillies opted to give Wheeler -- who pitched an MLB-most 213 1/3 innings -- the day off. Still, he paced the NL with 247 strikeouts, becoming the first Phillies pitcher to claim the strikeout crown since Curt Schilling did so in back-to-back seasons, 1997-98.
AL: Liam Hendriks (CWS), 38
Hendriks and bullpen mate Craig Kimbrel -- who was fifth in MLB in saves with the Cubs before the All-Star break -- give the White Sox 62 combined saves in the back of their venerable bullpen. Hendriks, who signed a three-year, $54 million deal with the South Siders in January, is the club’s first league saves champ since Bobby Thigpen saved a then-MLB record 57 games in 1990. The Australian is Chicago’s fourth saves champ overall, joining Thigpen, Goose Gossage (1975) and Terry Forster (’74), since the stat became official in 1969. Hendriks also paced all MLB relievers with 113 strikeouts.
NL/MLB: Mark Melancon (SD), 39
Melancon earned his final save in the Padres’ 10-inning victory over the Giants on Saturday to edge Dodgers veteran Kenley Jansen for the NL and MLB crowns. It’s the second Major League save title for Melancon, who racked up 51 with the Pirates to take home the title in 2015. Padres pitchers have claimed two of the past three MLB save titles, after Kirby Yates did so in ‘19.
Outs Above Average (outfielders)
AL: Manuel Margot (TB), +16 (entering Sunday)
Margot excelled at all three positions as the standout of MLB’s best defensive outfield, which included Kevin Kiermaier and Brett Phillips -- each of whom also finished among MLB’s top 10 outfielders by OAA. Margot entered Sunday leading all outfielders with four 5-star plays (those with catch probabilities of 25% or less) and 13 combined four- and five-star plays (catch probabilities of 50% or less).
NL: Harrison Bader (STL), +14 (entering Sunday)
Bader’s placement is no surprise to Cardinals fans who have seen his ascension in center field mirror the Redbirds’ overall improvement on defense over the past three seasons. Bader, one of MLB’s fastest players, with an average sprint speed of 29.5 feet per second, entered Sunday having completed 11 four- or five-star plays to rank third across the Majors. Bader’s 47 OAA accumulated since the start of his first full season in 2018 are the most of any big league outfielder.