Baseball season is finally here, and if there is one guarantee, it’s that the sport will continue to surprise and astound us.
That could be even more true over the course of a 60-game schedule that figures to produce some truly extreme outcomes. But every season offers its share of incredible performances, from superstars and out-of-nowhere heroes alike.
Here is an amazing stat for each of the 30 teams heading into the 2020 campaign.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Last year’s club had nine players age 26 or younger reach double digits in home runs, smashing the previous single-season record of six. The group included 20-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (15 homers), 21-year-old Bo Bichette (11), 24-year-olds Rowdy Tellez (21), Cavan Biggio (16), Danny Jansen (13) and Billy McKinney (12), 25-year-old Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (20), and 26-year-olds Teoscar Hernández (26) and Brandon Drury (15)
Orioles: Rookie left-hander John Means allowed opponents to make hard contact (an exit velocity of 95-plus mph) on only 29.8% of their batted balls over his 27 starts. That was the third-lowest hard-hit rate produced by any AL starter (minimum 150 batted balls) in 2019.
Rays: Acquired in a trade with the Marlins, 28-year-old rookie right-hander Nick Anderson made his Rays debut on Aug. 1. From that point on, he led the Majors (minimum 20 innings) in strikeout rate (52.6%), and ranked in the top 10 in walk rate (2.6%), strikeout-to-walk ratio (20.5-to-1), WHIP (0.66) and FIP (1.62). For good measure, Anderson struck out eight and walked none over 5 1/3 postseason innings.
Red Sox: At 22 last season, Rafael Devers became the second-youngest player to smack at least 54 doubles in a season, behind only Alex Rodriguez, who was 20 in 1996.
Yankees: Since Statcast tracking debuted in 2015, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have combined to hit 44 home runs that had an exit velocity of 115 mph or higher. That accounts for 42% of the Major League total. Judge or Stanton has hit each of the nine hardest homers in Statcast history.
Indians: Francisco Lindor’s 130 home runs through his age-25 season rank third all-time among shortstops, behind Alex Rodriguez and Cal Ripken Jr. Lindor’s 27.6 WAR, per Baseball-Reference, puts him tied for fifth in that same group, and third behind Rodriguez and Ripken over the past 50 years.
Royals: Of the four players who tied for the Major League lead with 10 triples last season, three were Royals: Hunter Dozier, Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi.
Tigers: Every team had at least three players with more than 15 home runs last year except the Tigers, who had zero. But free agent acquisitions C.J. Cron (25 homers in 2019) and Jonathan Schoop (23) should help in the power department.
Twins: Not only did Minnesota’s “Bomba Squad” set an MLB record with 307 homers, but the club more than doubled its total number of big flies from all but one season between 2005-14. The '19 team’s top three power producers (Nelson Cruz, Max Kepler, Miguel Sanó) combined for 111 roundtrippers by themselves -- more than the entire '11 Twins roster (103). Michael Cuddyer led that group with 20 homers, while last year's team had nearly an entire lineup -- eight players -- get to the 20 mark.
White Sox: In going from posting MLB’s highest ERA in 2018 (6.13) to finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young Award race last season, right-hander Lucas Giolito cut 2.72 runs off his ERA. That was the largest drop among any of the 121 pitchers who threw at least 75 innings in both seasons, with Giolito allowing 51 fewer earned runs in only 3 1/3 additional innings.
Angels: Mike Trout has posted a park-adjusted OPS+ of 168 or higher in each of his eight full MLB seasons. (A 100 OPS+ is league average). In that span, no other player has enjoyed more than two qualified seasons with at least a 165 OPS+, nor has anyone managed such a figure in consecutive years. In any given season, a player or two might hit as well as Trout, but nobody comes close to matching his consistent greatness.
Astros: Opponents batted just .172 against AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander last season, tied for the fourth-lowest mark by a qualified pitcher in the Modern Era (since 1900). Verlander’s 0.803 WHIP ranked third since 1900 and trailed only Pedro Martínez’s 0.737 mark in 2000 since the end of the Dead Ball Era.
Athletics: Between shortstop Marcus Semien (8.9 WAR, per Baseball-Reference) and third baseman Matt Chapman (8.3), the A’s became the first team in Major League history to have both players on the left side of its infield reach 8 WAR in the same season. The last team to have any two position players crack that plateau was the 2004 Cardinals (Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen).
Mariners: Seattle used a mind-blowing 42 different pitchers last season, breaking the single-season Major League record (40) that its 2017 club shared with the '14 Rangers. (That includes two position players who took the mound: Dylan Moore and Tom Murphy). Eleven of those pitchers made no more than five appearances, 14 were in their first Major League season and 19 had rookie eligibility.
Rangers: Talk about a matching pair of aces. Lance Lynn and Mike Minor finished with the exact same inning total (208 1/3) and nearly identical ERAs in 2019 (3.59 for Minor, 3.67 for Lynn). They also became the first AL rotation mates to cross the 7-WAR mark in the same season (per Baseball-Reference’s calculation) since Chuck Finley and Mark Langston did it for the 1993 Angels.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Sure, Ronald Acuña Jr. fell a bit shy of the hallowed 40-40 combo last season. But with 41 home runs and 37 stolen bases, the 21-year-old became the youngest player in history to go 35-35 and the second youngest to go 30-30, behind only Mike Trout (20 in 2012).
Marlins: Last year, right-hander Sandy Alcantara became the only NL pitcher since 2017 to throw multiple shutouts in a season, blanking the Mets on May 19 and the Royals on Sept. 8, both at Marlins Park. Alcantara was the first NL rookie to accomplish the feat since the Phillies’ J.A. Happ in 2009.
Mets: In addition to setting the rookie home run record (53), Pete Alonso was responsible for two of the four homers hit at 117 mph or harder across the Majors last season. His 118.3-mph shot at Atlanta last April 11 was tied for the hardest of the season with Cincinnati’s Aristides Aquino, with only Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton eclipsing that exit velocity on a homer since Statcast began tracking in 2015.
Nationals: Washington became the first team in Major League history to win the World Series after beginning the season by losing as many as 31 of its first 50 games. At that point, the Nats were eight games out of a playoff spot, with the NL’s second-worst record. In fact, they had the same 50-game record as the Tigers, who went on to lose 114 games.
Phillies: Why exactly did teams keep running on J.T. Realmuto last season? MLB’s leader in fastest average pop time and caught-stealing rate (46.7%) threw out a whopping 43 runners attempting to steal -- 16 more than any other catcher. To put that number into perspective, no catcher notched more than 32 caught-stealing plays in 2017 or '18, either.
Brewers: By hitting .326 in 2018 and .329 in '19, Christian Yelich became the first player to claim back-to-back NL batting titles since Colorado’s Larry Walker in 1998-99. But more surprising is the way his power has exploded in Milwaukee. Yelich has hit 21 more home runs as a Brewer (80) than as a Marlin (59), in only 44% of the plate appearances.
Cardinals: Over his final 16 starts of 2019, Jack Flaherty allowed more than one run only three times, while holding opponents to a .139/.203/.217 line -- besting even Flaherty’s impressive season-long batting line of .185/.211/.241. The right-hander’s 0.91 ERA after the All-Star break was the second lowest by any pitcher in a second half (minimum 12 starts) since the end of the Dead Ball Era, behind Jake Arrieta's 0.79 second-half ERA in 2015.
Cubs: Right-hander Yu Darvish locked in his control midway through the season, walking only seven batters (while striking out 118) in 81 2/3 innings over 13 starts after the All-Star break. That yielded a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 16.9, the highest any pitcher has produced in either the first or second half of a season (minimum 12 starts).
Pirates: Only Pete Alonso hit more home runs with a projected distance of at least 450 feet in 2019 than Josh Bell (six), who also joined Nomar Mazara as the only players with multiple big flies of 470 feet or longer. In addition, Bell was the only big leaguer to have a game with more than one homer hit at least 110 mph and at least 440 feet, doing so on May 14 at Arizona.
Reds: Eugenio Suárez’s 49 home runs last season tied Harmon Killebrew (1969) for the second most hit by any primary third baseman in a single season, trailing only Alex Rodriguez (54 in 2007). Suárez’s 29 big flies in the second half set a record for players at the hot corner.
D-backs: Outfielder Tim Locastro was hit by the fourth-most pitches (22) in the Majors last year, despite getting only 250 plate appearances. Previously, no player in MLB history had racked up more than 16 HBP in a season with so few PA. The only player to surpass Locastro’s 8.8% HBP rate (minimum 100 PA) was Brandon Guyer (9.0%) in 2016.
Dodgers: While their quest for a World Series championship continues, the Dodgers’ streak of seven consecutive division titles shouldn’t be underrated. They joined the 1998-2006 Yankees and 1991-2005 Braves as the only franchises to accomplish that feat. Over the past seven seasons, the Dodgers’ 671 wins are 33 more than any other team, their plus-984 run differential is 219 runs better, and they have allowed 259 fewer runs than the next-stingiest club.
Giants: Last May 6 at Cincinnati, Pablo Sandoval started at third base, reached on an error, stole third, launched a three-run homer, then went to the mound and faced the minimum in the bottom of the eighth inning of a blowout loss. In doing so, he joined a long-ago Giants legend, Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson (1905), as the only players in modern history (since 1900) to hit a homer, steal a base and have a scoreless pitching performance in the same game
Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr.’s .317/.379/.590 slash line was good for a park-adjusted 153 OPS+, the eighth-highest ever produced in a single season by a player 20 or younger (minimum 350 plate appearances). It also set a record for a rookie shortstop in the Modern Era (since 1900).
Rockies: Nolan Arenado has been a remarkably consistent producer over the past five seasons. In each of those, he has finished with between 155-160 games, 175-187 hits, 37-42 homers, a 124-133 OPS+ and 5.9-6.6 WAR, per Baseball-Reference. He also has been an All-Star, won a Gold Glove Award and finished in the top eight in MVP voting each time. Arenado is only the third primary third baseman in MLB history with at least five total seasons of 37-plus homers, joining Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt (seven) and Eddie Mathews (six).