Presenting the 2021 Statcast awards

December 1st, 2021

MLB's major awards season has wrapped up. The Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers have been handed out, the MVPs and Cy Young Award winners have been named, the All-MLB team has been announced.

But let's give out some Statcast awards, too.

Here are the players who stood out the most in different Statcast categories in 2021 -- hitting, pitching, running and fielding.

Statcast Player of the Year: Shohei Ohtani, Angels

Ohtani broke Statcast this season. There are a million Statcast stats that show why he's elite, but the coolest one is still that he started off his first two-way game of the year by throwing 100.6 mph and hitting a 115.2 mph home run in the same inning, making him the only player in the entire Statcast era to even throw a 100 mph pitch and hit a ball 110 mph in the same game.

Hitter of the Year: Bryce Harper, Phillies

Harper was the real-life National League MVP, and he'd be the NL Statcast MVP too. By Statcast's quality of contact metrics, Harper topped the league leaderboard. He had a .301 expected batting average, a .610 expected slugging percentage, and a .430 expected wOBA -- ranking No. 1 in the Majors in Statcast's overall offensive stat.

Pitcher of the Year: Corbin Burnes, Brewers

The real Cy Young and Statcast Cy Young also match up. Burnes won the MLB ERA crown this season with a 2.43 mark -- and his expected ERA, based on the quality of contact he allowed, was even lower. Burnes had an xERA of 2.00 in 2021, the lowest by far among qualified starters. (Jacob deGrom's was technically lower, but he faced fewer than half as many batters as the Brewers ace.)

Reliever of the Year: Blake Treinen, Dodgers

Statcast tracks a Run Value stat that takes the outcome of every pitch thrown -- ball, strike, strikeout, home run, etc. -- and measures how many runs a pitcher prevents for his team over the course of the season. The No. 1 reliever in baseball this season? Treinen, whose -32 Run Value means the Dodgers relief ace suppressed offense at a level alongside many of the league's best starters.

Most Improved Player: Joey Votto, Reds

Votto's resurgent year in 2021 showed up on the stat sheet and the Statcast sheet. Votto had the largest jump in exit velocity of any player, going from 87.4 mph in 2020 to 92.9 mph in '21 (+5.5 mph). He also had the most-improved hard-hit rate (35.7% to 53.2%, an increase of 17.5 percentage points), and one of the most improved barrel rates (9.1% to 17.2%, an increase of 8.1 points).

Hardest hitter: Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees

No surprise here. Stanton hit the ball harder than anyone once again in 2021. There were six balls hit 120 mph or harder in MLB this season. They were hit by … Stanton, Stanton, Stanton, Stanton, Stanton and Stanton. That includes a 121.1 mph walk-off single on Sept. 3 against the Orioles that was the hardest base hit of the year.

Long driver: Miguel Sanó, Twins

Sanó slugged the longest long ball of the year -- a 495-foot monster home run way out of Fenway Park on Aug. 25. That was Sanó's second career homer of 495-plus feet -- he hit one 496 feet two years earlier, on Sept. 17, 2019 at Target Field.

Longest HR of 2021

  1. Miguel Sanó (MIN): 495 feet, Aug. 25
  2. Tommy Pham (SD): 486 feet, Aug. 17
  3. Yermín Mercedes (CWS): 485 feet, April 8
  4. Adam Duvall (ATL): 483 feet, Sept. 20
  5. Ronald Acuña Jr. (ATL): 481 feet, April 27

Most disciplined: Juan Soto, Nationals

The 23-year-old Soto might be the most complete hitter in the game. In 2021, he drew an MLB-high 145 walks … with only 93 strikeouts. Soto almost never swings at a pitch outside the strike zone -- his 12.2% chase rate was easily the lowest in baseball.

Lowest chase rate in MLB, 2021
Of 206 hitters with 750+ out-of-zone pitches seen

  1. Juan Soto (WSH): 12.2%
  2. Robbie Grossman (DET): 15.6%
  3. Max Muncy (LAD): 15.7%
  4. (tie) Tommy Pham (SD): 16.1%
  5. (tie) Yasmani Grandal (CWS): 16.1%

Fastest man: Trea Turner, Dodgers

Turner led the National League with 32 stolen bases, and he was the fastest runner in baseball by Statcast's sprint speed metric. Turner averaged 30.7 feet per second for the season; anything 30 ft/sec or faster is elite speed. He also had 147 "Bolts" -- those are individual runs with an elite 30+ ft/sec sprint speed -- which was more than double anyone else (Amed Rosario and Garrett Hampson had 67).

Flamethrower: Emmanuel Clase, Guardians

Clase doesn't just throw the hardest cutter in history, his cutter was the fastest pitch in baseball in 2021. He also had 28 strikeouts on cutters with triple-digit velocity -- there have only been five others in the entire pitch-tracking era, which goes back to 2008.

Fastest pitch types in MLB, 2021

  1. Emmanuel Clase's cutter (CLE): 100.2 mph
  2. Brusdar Graterol's sinker (LAD): 100.0 mph
  3. José Alvarado's sinker (PHI): 99.4 mph
  4. (tie) Jacob deGrom's 4-seamer (NYM): 99.2 mph
  5. (tie) Jordan Hicks' sinker (STL): 99.2 mph

Soft tosser: Brock Holt, Rangers

Holt threw one of the most fun pitches of the year as a position player pitching -- he lobbed in a 31.1 mph eephus for a called strike against the A's Josh Harrison on Aug. 7. Honorable mention to Anthony Rizzo for striking out Freddie Freeman with a 61.4 mph "curveball."

Best pitch: Kevin Gausman, Giants -- Splitter

Gausman's splitter is the big reason why he just got a $110 million deal from the Blue Jays as a free agent. It was the best swing-and-miss and strikeout pitch in baseball in 2021. Gausman got 138 K's with his splitter, and 272 swinging strikes. Both of those were the most in MLB on any individual pitch type.

Most K's on an individual pitch type, 2021

  1. Kevin Gausman's splitter (SF): 138
  2. Tyler Mahle's 4-seamer (CIN): 134
  3. Charlie Morton's curveball (ATL): 127
  4. Robbie Ray's slider (TOR): 122
  5. Corbin Burnes' cutter (MIL): 117

Most unfair pitch: Jacob deGrom, Mets -- Slider

deGrom has the most dominant arsenal in baseball … and his slider is the most dominant pitch in that arsenal. Not only does deGrom throw his slider harder than a lot of pitchers throw their fastballs -- he averaged 91.6 mph in 2021, maxed out at 95 mph, and got a strikeout at 94.9 mph -- but his results are unmatched. He allowed a batting average of .096 against it, and for all the pitch types with 100-plus plate appearances decided on them in 2021, deGrom's slider generated the highest whiff rate (58.1%) and strikeout rate (59%).

Prettiest pitch: Charlie Morton, Braves -- Curveball

There's nothing like a perfectly executed curveball, and Morton's was always a beauty in 2021. On average, it dropped 52.5 inches and broke 16.6 inches, thanks to an elite 3,053 rpm spin rate. Between the regular season and the Braves' World Series run, Morton got 455 called and swinging strikes on his curve, and 138 strikeouts, both far and away the most of any pitcher.

Defensive Player of the Year: Nicky Lopez, Royals

Lopez was the best fielder in baseball at any position this season, going by Statcast's Outs Above Average, and by a pretty wide margin ahead of some big defensive names. The Royals shortstop was worth +25 OAA, which saved Kansas City a Major League-best 19 runs with his defense alone.

Best fielders by OAA, 2021

  1. Nicky Lopez (SS, Royals): +25
  2. Francisco Lindor (SS, Mets): +20
  3. Nick Ahmed (SS, D-backs): +19
  4. Matt Chapman (3B, A's): +18
  5. (tie) Andrelton Simmons (SS, Twins): +16
  6. (tie) Manuel Margot (OF, Rays): +16

Rangiest outfielder: Manuel Margot, Rays

Margot was MLB's best outfielder by all the big Statcast numbers. His +16 Outs Above Average led all outfielders, and he was the best at making the most difficult plays. Margot made 13 4- and 5-star catches this season -- those are plays with a catch probability of 50% or lower -- to lead the Majors. His four 5-star catches (25% catch probability or lower) and nine 4-star catches (26-50% catch probability) were individually both tied for the most of any outfielder.

Most combined 4- and 5-star catches, 2021

  1. Manuel Margot (TB): 13
  2. (tie) Kiké Hernández (BOS): 11
  3. (tie) Michael A. Taylor (KC): 11
  4. Harrison Bader (STL): 10
  5. (tie) Four players tied with 8

Strongest arm: Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres

Whether he's at shortstop or in the outfield, Tatis has elite arm strength and loves to show it. His average arm strength on max-effort throws in 2021 was 91.6 mph -- 90.1 mph as an infielder, and 97.4 mph as an outfielder. The Padres phenom made maybe the throw of the year on July 6 against the Nationals, a 95.8 mph relay to the plate from shortstop to nab Starlin Castro trying to score. Tatis got rid of that rocket throw in just 0.62 seconds. He also recorded a 97.0 mph assist to the plate as an outfielder … oh, and just for good measure, he had one 96.8 mph infield assist on a routine ground ball.

Catcher cannon: Jorge Alfaro, Marlins

What Tatis is to shortstops, Alfaro is to catchers. The Marlins backstop recorded three assists with a 90-plus mph arm strength this season, including a 90.5 mph caught stealing at the end of July that was the fastest of the year by any catcher. Alfaro nabbed the Yankees' Tyler Wade with an absolutely perfect throw, despite Wade's well-above-average 28.8 ft/sec sprint speed.