Crazy 2020 stats at the quarter mark

August 12th, 2020

We’re roughly a quarter of the way through the season -- which seems hard to fathom when the season started just a few weeks ago. Usually, under normal circumstances, 25 percent of the season is when things start to settle down and you can really take stock of the numbers.

But these are not normal times. The season is shorter, the schedules are changed, teams aren't playing shared opponents and some teams have missed time because of COVID-19 protocols. That means the numbers are weird and wild and we're not quite sure what they could mean.

Perhaps some players are showing a breakout that will carry through the year, while others are having seasons they’ll wish they could forget. Or, these numbers could be a mirage and when the season is over, this article will be the only reminder that these stats ever existed at all.

Still, the numbers are there, so let's look at some of the strangest outliers so far.


Blue Jays: 4.05 BB/9 by Hyun Jin Ryu

That number is particularly strange considering that Ryu is usually one of the best control artists in the game. He led the Majors with a minuscule 1.2 BB/9 last season and it took him 17 starts to walk as many batters as he did in his first four this year.

Still, in his first start in his new ballpark of Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y., Ryu looked sharper -- walking only two in six innings -- so expect this number to drop.

Orioles: .395 batting average for José Iglesias

While Iglesias is one of the smoothest defenders in the game, with a penchant for making highlight reel gems more often than Nic Cage yells in his movies, he’s generally not known for his bat. Iglesias entered the year with a career .687 OPS and has been in the bottom 3 percent of the league in exit velocity each of the last five years.

Rays: 4 regulars hitting .200 or worse

While batting average doesn’t mean that much -- especially to a team like the Rays -- you still don’t want to have that many members of your starting lineup hitting below the Mendoza line.

Fortunately for the Rays, they're also walking at the Majors' third-best rate. That's been enough to keep them ahead of the Orioles for the second AL East postseason spot.

Red Sox: .128 SLG for Andrew Benintendi

With Mookie Betts in L.A. and a thin pitching staff, Benintendi and his luscious locks were going to a crucial part of the Red Sox season. Instead, Benintendi has really struggled, with only one extra-base hit and four hits in total to his name.

Fortunately for the Sox, Mitch Moreland has a 1.240 OPS, which would be the second-best mark in baseball if he had enough ABs to qualify.

Yankees: 121 mph exit velocity by Giancarlo Stanton

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the hardest-hit ball this year came from Giancarlo Stanton. After all, the outfielder owns the title for the hardest-hit ball ever since Statcast began in 2015. Unfortunately, Stanton is back on the IL with a hamstring injury, but Yankees fans can rest easy knowing that whenever he’s on the field, there’s literally no one stronger.

Oh yeah, this one also went 483 feet -- the longest this year, too.


Indians: 2.24 starters’ ERA

Sure, Cleveland no longer has Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Shane Bieber looks set to be a Cy Young Award candidate, Carlos Carrasco should easily win the Comeback Player of the Year Award after his battle with leukemia last season, Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac are striking out nearly 12 batters for each one they walk and Mike Clevinger’s 3.24 ERA -- good for a 135 ERA+ -- is the worst on the staff. Even Adam Plutko, who made his second start of the season on Tuesday, has a 2.45 ERA.

Cleveland is a starting pitching factory.

Royals: 270 total bases

You wouldn't think that the fifth-place Royals would lead the AL in total bases, and yet here we are. Led by Maikel Franco and his 11 extra-base hits, the Royals are ahead of teams like the Dodgers and Yankees despite ranking 13th in home runs.

Tigers: .733 SLG for JaCoby Jones

No team represents a more unexpected start to the 2020 season than the Tigers, who have gone from selecting first overall in the Draft a few months ago to currently holding the second-best record in the AL Central. You can pin a lot of that success on Jones.

Jones is third in the Majors with a .733 slugging percentage -- which is nearly the sum of his 2018 and 2019 slugging percentages added together -- and his five homers are almost halfway to his career high of 11 that he hit in each of the last two seasons. Jones has changed his batting stance this year, which could explain the hot start ... even if we shouldn't expect many more inside-the-park homers.

Twins: 0.90 ERA for Randy Dobnak

You probably know Dobnak's story by now: The Twins’ be-goggled, mustachioed pitcher went from driving an Uber last year to starting in the postseason. He may want to start making space on his mantle for some awards this year.

Dobnak has posted a 0.90 ERA through four starts this season and has yet to give up a home run. Even stranger in today’s strikeout-heavy game, Dobnak is K-ing only five batters per nine innings. That’s seventh-worst among qualified starters.

White Sox: .324 batting average for Tim Anderson

Anderson won the batting title last season after hitting .335, so you might think this number isn't surprising. But there were plenty of people unsure if he could duplicate that performance, as Anderson's averaged was buoyed in part by a .399 BABIP. That's usually considered an unsustainable level of luck.

All Anderson has done is replicate that in his first eight games -- and has even raised his OPS by 26 points. Activated from the IL for Tuesday's game against the Tigers, the must-watch infielder quickly picked up another hit and, perhaps more shocking, his second walk of the year.


Angels: 1.57 ERA for Dylan Bundy

Selected fourth overall in the 2011 Draft, Bundy has been a useful back-of-the-rotation starter for his big league career, if not the star that the O’s hoped for when they picked him.

Acquired this offseason by the Angels, Bundy has cut his fastball usage and upped the slider to great effect. Bundy has struck out 35 batters and walked only three in 28 2/3 IP. After striking out 10 batters in a complete game victory against the Mariners on Aug. 6, he followed that up with 10 more K's in seven shutout innings against the A's on Tuesday night.

Astros: 7 blown saves

Last year, the Astros blew just 20 games all year, en route to their third consecutive AL West title. And now, they’re on pace for 25 in a shortened season.

With Roberto Osuna injured and set to miss the rest of the year, the team will need someone new to step up, but presumed closer Ryan Pressly has a 9.82 ERA through five appearances.

A’s: 2.25 bullpen ERA

While the Astros bullpen has struggled, the A’s pen is one of the best with the third-best relief ERA in the game. Burch Smith -- a name you definitely know -- leads the bullpen with 10 1/3 IP and has yet to allow a run, while Joakim Soria, Jake Diekman and T.J. McFarland have all pitched at least 5 innings and have perfect ERAs.

Mariners: .973 OPS for Kyle Lewis

Mariners fans could be watching a breakout season for Lewis, who topped out as the game’s No. 29 prospect before the 2017 season. He’s smashing home runs, stealing home runs, and is putting himself in discussions for a batting title with a .357 average.

Could Lewis be the next Ichiro? The next Griffey? The next Ruppert Jones?!

Rangers: 1.16 ERA for Lance Lynn

Lynn was the Majors' third-best pitcher last year by FanGraphs WAR. It was a surprise to say the least, and no one was quite sure what to expect this year. So, naturally, Lynn is pitching even better this year. Through four starts, Lynn has given up just three runs and 10 hits as batters are hitting only .128 against him.

He must like the new powder blues:


Braves: .368/.421/.618 batting line for Braves catchers

Those would be good numbers for any position, but compare it to the average line for catchers last season:
.236/.308/.405. Yeah, it's pretty good to have the toughest position on the field hit like an MVP.

Even better: It’s not just one catcher doing it. Travis d’Arnaud has a 1.036 OPS in 37 PA, Tyler Flowers is at 1.233 in 18, and William Contreras -- called up to make his big league debut because of injuries -- went 4-for-10 with a double.

Marlins: 4 home runs for Jesús Aguilar

Two years ago, Aguilar hit 35 home runs and earned himself an All-Star appearance with the Brewers. Unfortunately, he struggled last year, was traded to the Rays and was then picked up off the waiver wire by the Marlins this winter.

It looks like he's enjoying the new digs. Aguilar is on pace for 22 home runs this season, and has a career-best .282/.333/.641 line through 11 games.

Mets: 98.5 average fastball velocity for Jacob deGrom

That's the best number among all pitchers in the big leagues that have thrown at least 250 pitches this year. It’s one reason why deGrom has won back-to-back Cy Young Awards and, with a 2.45 ERA this season, is in the discussion to win another.

It’s also an unprecedented uptick, leaping five mph since 2016. deGrom is just on another level, man.

Nationals: .364/.391/.773 batting line for Juan Soto

Soto won a World Series at 20 years old and could win an MVP at 21. Though he's only played six games after missing the start of the season because of COVID-19 protocols, he's not showing any rust. He made that clear when he launched this 463-foot moonshot against the Mets -- the longest of his big league career -- during a three-hit game on Monday:

Phillies: 10.19 relievers' ERA

Nothing upsets fans more than watching bullpens struggle, so, yeah, Phillies fans are not having a great time in 2020. If anything, it should be promising that the Phillies are still in the thick of the NL East race despite the 'pen's difficulties --- which is the worst mark in the Majors.

While things will surely get better soon, they didn't on Tuesday night. A dropped ball on the infield in the ninth and a missed catch leading to Austin Hays' inside-the-park home run in the 10th only made that ERA rise:


Brewers: .164 batting average for Christian Yelich

After two straight batting titles, an MVP Award and a second-place finish last year, Yelich stumbled out of the box this year and was hitting only .037 to start August.

Still, this is Yelich we're talking about, so that average shouldn't last for long. Yelich has hit three home runs and has an OPS over 1.200 since the start of August.

Cardinals: 2 home runs for Tyler O'Neill

This one is a little tough as the Cardinals have played only five games because of a COVID-19 outbreak. But the team should be pleased by Tyler O'Neill's start.

Handed the starting job at the beginning of the year, one of the buffest dudes in the sport cracked two home runs early in the season and could give Paul Goldschmidt some support in the lineup.

Cubs: 6 HBP for Anthony Rizzo

Rizzo’s always had a penchant for getting hit, having led the Majors three times in HBP. He’s taken it up a notch this year. Through the Cubs’ first 13 games, Rizzo’s been plunked six times. That would be a 69-plunk pace in a full season, which, yeah, would be a record. (Shockingly, though, it wouldn't be that much higher than Ron Hunt's current single season record of 50.)

Pirates: .273 team OBP

When a team has a worst-in-the-Majors 3-13 record, you don't expect the numbers to be great. Still, a .273 OBP is particularly tough.

If there's good news for the Pirates, it's that this number will almost certainly rise: The 1965 Mets are the only team after 1910 to post an OBP below .280.

Reds: 11/3 BB/K ratio for Joey Votto

While Votto hasn’t totally bounced back from a down year last season -- he’s hitting just .2020 to start the season -- he has bashed three home runs, collected the game-winning hit on Tuesday and is still showcasing his plate discipline of the gods.

A 3.6:1 BB:K ratio was last pulled off by Barry Bonds in 2004 -- and he had 120 intentional passes to help him out. Before Bonds, you have to go back to Wade Boggs in 1988. Given how dramatically the game has changed in just the last 20 years, that's practically an entire different style of baseball.


D-backs: 5.81 starters' ERA

While the D-backs starters have struggled this year with the worst ERA in the Majors, there's reason to be hopeful. Madison Bumgarner has gone on the IL with a back strain, so would hopefully pitch better than he has so far, and the staff as a whole is striking out over a batter per inning.

Unfortunately, they're also giving up way too many home runs. The starters have given up 27 home runs this year -- ten more than the Indians -- in 25 fewer innings.

Dodgers: 21 hits over 100 mph by Corey Seager

That number is tied for the most in the Majors and Seager has far fewer ABs than Jorge Soler and José Abreu, who join him at the top of the chart.

Seager led the National League with 44 doubles last year, too, so get ready for plenty of debates for the next decade over who is the best shortstop in the NL West.

Giants: .458/.476/.661 batting line for Donovan Solano

While many would have thought Solano's .330 average in part-time play last year was the result of a few lucky bounces, Solano’s start to this season might mean he figured something out at an age when other utility players are wrapping up their careers. Solano also leads the Majors with nine doubles, so he's not just been the recipient of a few lucky ground balls.

Padres: 8 home runs for Fernando Tatis Jr.

That number has Tatis just behind Aaron Judge (nine) for the MLB lead.  But whereas Judge is a man-mountain seemingly designed to crush home runs, Tatis is a 21-year-old shortstop with fewer than 100 career big league games to his credit.

He’s hit the seventh-most dingers in a player's first 100 games (and the only one on the list that's a shortstop), and he’s dominating the leaderboards in seemingly every category. He leads the Majors in FanGraphs WAR, is tied for first in stolen bases (and has an outside shot at a 20/20 season this year), has the third-most RBI, and entered Tuesday leading the league in average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage.

Rockies: 3.30 starters' ERA

Want an explanation for the Rockies’ hot start? Look no further than their starting pitching. After the team’s starting pitchers defied Coors Field in 2018, they struggled last season and posted a worst-in-the-Majors 5.87 mark.

Led by German Márquez and Kyle Freeland, they’re back this year and have lowered it by 2.5 runs this year, keeping them ahead of the Dodgers in a tight NL West.