11 surprising things about '21 leaderboards

September 23rd, 2021

In about 10 days, MLB’s regular-season leaderboards are going to lock in place, and an active, living, breathing document will be frozen in amber forever. We’ll look back at the 2021 season with pleasure, I bet, with the relief that, after the 2020 chaos, we got a full season of baseball played start to finish with minimal interruption. The leaderboards will be palpable, important documents.

And you can learn so much from them already. With less than two weeks remaining in the season, I took a deep dive into the MLB leaderboards to unearth some fascinating nuggets you might not have known about, players who might have busted out and stars showing more than you might have expected. And they reveal stories to be told. There’s a lot to uncover in the caves of these leaderboards. Let’s go spelunking.

1) Only two players have played in every one of their team’s games this year
We’re obviously a long way from the days of Cal Ripken Jr., but still, even in the age of load management, it’s surprising that there are only two everyday players. They are: of the Royals and AL MVP candidate of the Blue Jays. They both make a habit of this sort of thing: Semien missed seven games last year, but he played 162 in 2019; Merrifield hasn’t missed a game since 2018.

2) Three of the five top-scoring players are Blue Jays
There are two teams, the Astros and the Rays, that have scored more runs than the Blue Jays. But Toronto certainly is top heavy: (first), (third) and Semien (fifth) all sit comfortably in the top five. The other two, if you’re curious: the Braves’ Freddie Freeman and the Astros’ Jose Altuve.

3) You will never guess who is leading each league in doubles
When you think of doubles, you think of guys like George Brett, Carl Yastrzemski and even Albert Pujols (who, after all, is fifth all time). It is fair to say your doubles leaders are not cut from that cloth. In the American League, it’s Detroit’s with 41. In the National League? The Cardinals’ with 41 as well, perhaps the fourth or fifth player in that lineup you’d imagine hitting a lot of doubles. Edman does have one clear advantage: He leads the NL in at-bats.

4) is doing his triples thing again
Peralta is not an unusually fast player -- he has 32 career steals in 865 career games -- and he’s hardly ever among the leaderboards in hard-hit balls. But he is unusually good at hitting triples. He led the NL in triples with 10 in 2015, when he was 27 years old. He’s now 34 and not exactly burning up the basepaths, but he’s still hitting triples, leading the Majors with eight. That’s almost as many as the Mariners, who have 10. Peralta will likely be the first person to lead the Majors in triples with fewer than 10 -- not including last year of course -- since Charlie Gould had eight in the National Association in 1872.

5) , quiet leaderboard master
The top 10 list of home run hitters in baseball includes many of the usual suspects: Vlad Jr., Shohei Ohtani, Fernando Tatis Jr., Aaron Judge and José Ramírez. But look at Duvall, the oldest player in the top 10 at 33 years old. Duvall has 37 homers this season (second only to Tatis in the NL), and he has upped his pace since coming over to Atlanta at the Trade Deadline, mashing 15 in 46 games after hitting 21 homers in 91 games with Miami. But it’s the RBI leaderboard where his name pops out so prominently: His 109 lead the NL, six more than Nolan Arenado of the Cardinals.

6) The RBI leaderboard has some wild names
In the top 10 of their respective leagues: the aforementioned Duvall, Teoscar Hernández, Austin Meadows, Kyle Seager, Ozzie Albies and Jesús Aguilar.

7) still walkin’
Santana is having a rough year (by his standards) for Kansas City. He has only 34 extra-base hits in 619 plate appearances, and he’s hitting .213. But pitchers still aren’t making him hit. The famously patient Santana is somehow tied for sixth in the Majors in walks, right there with Bryce Harper, Vlad Jr., Yoán Moncada, Matt Olson and Shohei Ohtani. Special shoutout to the Tigers’ Robbie Grossman, who is hitting only slightly better, but he's still third in walks with 90.

8) still has a chance to set the all-time strikeout record
He’s leading the Majors with 200 K's, and while he’s still behind his personal record (207 in 2018, 10th most in a single season), he has a non-zero chance of breaking Mark Reynolds’ record of 223 in 2009. (A record that, in this era, has lasted a lot longer than you might have thought it would.) The Yankees have nine games left. Gallo needs 24 strikeouts to break the record. That’s 2.67 strikeouts a game. It’s within reach.

9) There might be three 40-home run hitters in the top 10 in stolen bases
Ohtani (23 SB, in ninth) got there first (45 HRs), and was joined by Tatis (25 SB, seventh) on Wednesday night. If J-Ram (24 SB, eighth) can get five more dingers, it will be the first time this has happened.

10) is still doing plenty right
Nola has been frustrating for the Phillies faithful this year, not quite rising to the level of ace like they’d been hoping, but he sure can still strike guys out: He’s tied for seventh in the Majors in strikeouts with 211 and will likely set a career high, despite that 4.48 ERA. He’s one of two pitchers in the top 10 in K’s with ERAs over 4.00: White Sox righty Dylan Cease (212 K’s) is the other.

11) The old guys give you innings
Of the top 20 pitchers in innings pitched, close to half (nine) are older than 30. (And a 10th, Robbie Ray, will turn 30 on Oct. 1.) Two of them -- (18th with 170) and (second, with 196 1/3) -- are over 37. There is only one pitcher at the age of 25 or younger in the top 20: the Dodgers’ Julio Urías with 174 1/3 in 10th place. (Urías also has a chance to be the first 20-game winner in the NL since Max Scherzer in 2016.)